Maui, The GOP Debate, an Ex-President’s Arrest, Who Shall Lead America?

By Emil Guillermo

On a week that an ex-president is arrested and arraigned for an historic fourth time, one must wonder what kind of leader the American public really wants.

Especially when the four-time indicted ex-president is leading all Republicans to be our next president.

Here’s one measure. On Aug. 21, 1983, Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, the Philippine political activist in exile in the U.S., went home to win back freedom for Filipinos living under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Aquino never made it out of the airport, assassinated on the tarmac, apparently by a single gunman. After an investigation, his murder was pinned to 16 members of the Philippine Army loyal to Marcos.

Within 10 days of the assassination, I was in Manila at Santo Domingo Church reporting for the San Francisco NBC station from the funeral Mass, and then observing the procession to the Manila Memorial Park.

More than 2 million people were in the streets following the casket of Ninoy, their exiled leader. But they were also angered by the lost chance at real democracy.

That demonstration was the precursor to People Power, which would lift up Ninoy’s wife, Cory Aquino, and ultimately topple Marcos.

I have never seen 2 million people in one place, before or since.

That’s the spark missing in American politics. We just don’t have leaders who are beloved and respected as we’ve had in the past.

Instead, we have a personality cult that has a stranglehold on our politics.  And even after this week, some people still won’t quit the indicted one.

Think of the Philippines. Could we even see 2 million people on the streets for a real bi-partisan pro-democracy movement in the U.S. today?

Maui Disaster a Test in Leadership

President Joe Biden went to Maui on Monday, as he should. Last week, he announced $700 per household in cash aid to victims of the Maui wildfires. By Friday, FEMA pledged $5.6 million in assistance to nearly 2,000 families in Maui. But money isn’t everything. This will be the time for Uncle Joe to act like ohana (family).

We needed to see some compassion from Biden. And he delivered. He wasn’t like Trump who threw toilet paper at the Puerto Ricans in 2017 after Hurricane Maria.

In Maui, Biden stood by a surviving banyan tree, saw it as a symbol, and vowed that the whole country will be behind Maui. And then he said the government would be respectful of the traditions, and “rebuild the way that the people of Maui want.”

That was an important acknowledgment if you know Hawaiian history.

We need leaders to admit that Hawaii is ground zero for a form of economic imperialism. A reminder about how Hawaii did not come begging for statehood and how it was made a U.S. protectorate via a coup staged against her.

Those are the words of Marianne Williamson from her Substack article, “Hawaii’s Broken Heart.”

“Hawaii is deeply sacred land,” she wrote “And her heart has been wounded by the soulless economic overreach of everyone from Dole to Monsanto.”

Specifically, James Drummond Dole, who was known as “The Pineapple King.” Aided by exploited Filipino labor, he colonized the spiky fruit and sent it around the world.

He was inspired by his cousin Sanford Dole, a Republican appointed by the U.S. imperial president William McKinley as territorial governor. That wasn’t enough for Dole, who then led a coup against Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893 and became the first president of Hawaii.

Corruption, connections, and greed. This is how paradise has been co-opted in the past. In the modern day, it falls victim to the fury of climate change.

We’ve got to help Hawaii and make sure we don’t have another wildfire disaster that kills more than 100 people.

It can’t happen again.

“If this country cannot ramp down the fossil fuel extraction that is exacerbating these weather catastrophes, then the message is loud and clear that we are on the wrong road,” Williamson said last week.

Williamson is one of those candidates for president you don’t hear much about. She’s the other Democrat who is running, who speaks from the heart about people and government in a way that seems more honest and caring.

If more politicians talked like that, could we end our divides and work together? Or does the loving language of Williamson only deepen the divide?

It’s surely a moral rhetoric from left of center that exposes the right-wing theocracy and all its hypocrisies.

But few people talk about Marianne Williamson.

Maybe because she makes too much sense?

GOP’s Anti-Asian Hate and the Personal Debate of Tucker /Trump

You’re likely not going to hear much candor about Maui from Republicans at this week’s first GOP debate.

But there will be a debate, and Donald Trump won’t be there.

Trump will show his stranglehold on Republicans by refusing to debate the also-rans. Instead, at the same time, he’ll submit to an interview by the disgraced former Fox host Tucker Carlson, a noted Trump sycophant.

I will be watching the debates mostly because Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign has been exposed as adopting an anti-Asian, name-calling approach against Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman who’s quickly catching up to DeSantis.

There’s a reason to go after Ramaswamy — wanting to cancel the Juneteenth holiday is one.

But what we’re seeing is standard after conservatives won the Harvard affirmative action case.

White people going after affirmative action was a no go. The folks who led the Harvard case saw that. With a white plaintiff, they lost. With an Asian plaintiff, they won.

So, the model for conservative causes will be to lead with the Asian. Let the ‘model minority’ do it. It may even be the reason we see so many Asians in local races leading conservative recall efforts.

Vivek is a congenial panderer who will do anything for attention – even rap like Eminem last week at the Iowa State Fair.

He’s making headway by being the likeable non-white white.

It hasn’t worked that well in this campaign for Nikki Haley. But it may yet work for Tim Scott.

For now, Vivek is the dynamo among the also-rans and it’s getting to DeSantis. If you hear DeSantis say “Vivek the Fake,” you’ll know he is running out of gas.

Call it model minority politics, acceptable for white consumption. And after the conservative win over Harvard to defeat affirmative action, expect to see more of that in the future.

It’s fighting race with the non-white face.

You won’t get 2 million marching in the streets. But it gets a candidate what he needs in our polarized society, one more vote than the minority.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See his web talk show on

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