The banner headline in blue and white at the top of today’s Star-Advertiser front page seemed to tell the story: “Governor releases the names of judicial candidates.”

I hoped it meant that Gov. Abercrombie had gracefully eaten a bit of that crow he talks about, acknowledged the court order favoring disclosure in the sunshine lawsuit brought by the newspaper, and moved on with the least political damage.

Instead, just behind the headline, it was clear Neil chose to be recalcitrant and pissy to the end.


Here’s the meat of the S-A story on the release:

"With the release of the lists, Abercrombie effectively waived the state’s right to appeal Sakamoto’s decision. However, Attorney General David Louie, who handled the release on behalf of the governor, made it clear that Abercrombie still disagrees with the court decision.

"The governor has maintained that, per the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision in Pray v. Judicial Selection Committee, it is the sole discretion of the governor to decide whether to release such lists after receiving them and that if candidates were to be disclosed, they should be disclosed by the commission.

“The governor continues to maintain, pursuant to the Pray decision, that he has discretion with regard to prior lists provided to him, and disagrees with the recent ruling by a judge that he should disclose such lists,” Louie said. “However, in light of the changed circumstances with the Commission’s actions, judicial applicants will no longer have any expectation of confidentiality.”

Here’s what I took away from it.

1) The governor apparently released the names the day after Thanksgiving. This is a favorite tactic of business and political leaders trying to dull the impact of unpleasant news by making it public when it is expected to get the least attention.

2) No statement by the governor accompanied the release, no press release, or at least no press release showing anywhere on the governor’s highly-visible official website. So instead of a face-saving personal show of deference to the court’s decision, we’re left with the mental image of snarly Neil somewhere in the background hiding behind the Attorney General.

3) The Attorney General’s statement, which attempts to stand-in for a direct statement by the governor, doesn’t even give due deference to the court. Instead, he points to the independent decision by the Judicial Selection Commission as the factor that prompted the governor to make this late disclosure.

So Neil continues to say he’s opposed to transparency and hasn’t changed his view in that regard despite the disclosure of these judicial nominees.

Just think politics. Isn’t anyone on the 5th floor doing that these days? Who’s happy with Neil’s position? It certainly isn’t something that will turn Neil-bashers into fans. But it certainly has already undermined the enthusiasm of progressive Dems who have been Neil’s fans, and by stubbornly pushing on, the governor risks losing a significant chunk of his base.

Remember the last time a Democratic governor left a big chunk of the political base with a bitter aftertaste? It was the dynamic that opened the door for Linda Lingle to claim the governorship for the Republican Party for the first time in more than 40 years after Gov. Cayetano left former political allies feeling burned. With that big U.S. Senate seat up for grabs next year, the governor now needs to avoid unnecessary instances of “friendly fire.” This was an opportunity, and he’s blown it big time.

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