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Alaska Editorial: Alaskans mark passing of an old friend and ally

Posted: December 21, 2012 - 1:03am

This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died Monday at the age of 88, was a kindred spirit to Alaska’s late Sen. Ted Stevens — and one of the few members of the United States Senate who served longer than Stevens.

Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, was a senator for almost 50 years.

Like Stevens, Inouye showered hundreds of millions of federal dollars on his home state. The two men were solid allies in supporting one another’s programs and grants for their respective states. The senators from the most far-flung states were natural allies.

And natural friends. Both served in World War II, with Inouye’s service in the elite 442nd Regimental Combat Team part of American military lore. Inouye won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage in battle in Italy — valor that cost him his arm but struck a ringing blow for Japanese-Americans and the U.S. Constitution. At a time when the government herded Japanese-Americans into concentration camps, Inouye and his fellow soldiers in the “Go for Broke” outfit gave the lie to that ignoble act of fear — an act for which the United States apologized years later.

The experience of war and common cause was a stronger bond than party affiliation for Inouye and Stevens, and the Hawaiian had a similar relationship with Sen. Bob Dole, another permanently injured war veteran. These were men who understood one another and knew how to work together.

On Monday Inouye also was remembered for his grace under political pressure in his work on the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigative committees. His sense of calm and control kept tensions in check and hearings on track.

His staff reported that his last word was “Aloha,” and that he said his legacy was that he always tried to serve Hawaii and his country honestly, and that he “did OK.”

That is some standard for OK. Hawaii, Alaska and the rest of the country will miss him.

Alaskans pay respects to Sen. Daniel Inouye.

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