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Political theater: Criticism of our immature legislator was overblown

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Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013 12:00 am

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

We have this message to our Interior legislators: Focus on the real issues and not on inflated cheeks.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, was goofing around on the House floor during a Monday night session by puffing out his cheeks and sticking out his tongue during remarks by House Speaker Mike Chenault on the in-state natural gas pipeline bill. This isn’t kindergarten, and the veteran legislator ought to know better.

Rep. Kawasaki told a Daily News-Miner reporter Tuesday afternoon that his actions weren’t aimed at the speaker. Rather, he was texting with someone watching the debate on television and was making faces for that person’s benefit. Using the cellphone in the chamber, by the way, is a violation of House rules, so Rep. Kawasaki should be dinged not only for his immature behavior but also for violating the cellphone rule.

That should have been the end of it. Rep. Kawasaki isn’t the first legislator to misbehave in Juneau, nor the most irresponsible by far. Others have acted in poor form outside and inside the capital building walls. Some have ended up in jail.

But four Republican legislators from the Interior saw Rep. Kawasaki’s actions as the first indication that the end of the world was at hand.

Reps. Pete Higgins and Steve Thompson of Fairbanks and Tammie Wilson and Doug Isaacson of North Pole held a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to bash Rep. Kawasaki for his behavior, which they took to be directed at Speaker Chenault. Their terribly contrived concern was that Speaker Chenault will be so distraught over Rep. Kawasaki’s puffy cheeks and protruding tongue that he will punish the entire region of Interior Alaska by not allowing passage of the natural gas trucking bill that will help lower energy costs here.

We apparently think more highly of Speaker Chenault than these four members of the GOP caucus.

Reps. Thompson, Wilson, Higgins and Isaacson could have spared us the embarrassment of their news conference had they actually asked Rep. Kawasaki to explain himself. Rep. Isaacson gave away the fact the group hadn’t bothered to inquire. “I wouldn’t mind if he had a chance to speak his mind and to explain perhaps what he was doing,” Rep. Isaacson said at the news conference.

Yes, but to have offered Rep. Kawasaki that chance in advance would have deprived these four legislators of the opportunity to try to score some political points over something that was, at its worst, a violation of decorum.

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