Hawaii offers warmer weather, yet less hot air

The Westin Maui might be a good place to unwind for politicians and airport executive types. Used to be, lots of Hill folks would have been there. This year, maybe not. Thanks, Jack Abramoff.
The Westin Maui might be a good place to unwind for politicians and airport executive types. Used to be, lots of Hill folks would have been there. This year, maybe not. Thanks, Jack Abramoff. (Westin Maui Resort And Spa)
By Al Kamen
Friday, January 8, 2010

Freezing cold driving you to distraction? Time to head to Hawaii for the annual American Association of Airport Executives conference for some intensive golf and beach time! The five-day conference, sponsored by the airlines, aerospace folks, lobbyists and other usual suspects, starts Sunday, so move quickly.

The "conference has served as the preeminent gathering of aviation professionals," the association says on its Web site, "bringing together top-level officials from government and all segments of the aviation industry." But it's not quite what it used to be.

Back in the good old pre-Abramoff days, eight or so lawmakers, dozens of Hill staffers and a contingent of administration officials would attend the conclave, which thoughtfully scheduled its "working" sessions to end before lunch to leave plenty of time for touring and for golf and sun at the spectacular Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

In recent years, very few government folks have showed up and some even paid for themselves -- at the government rate. A preliminary schedule, which no longer appears on the association Web site, listed no administration or congressional officials participating in the sessions, even the exceptionally timely one on airport security concerns.

Unclear how many, if any, Hill staffers will be there. Early indications are that Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who, after all, lives there, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who will be in Hawaii en route to his trip with Inouye to Japan, will attend. You might see Rep. John Mica, (R-Fla.) former chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, who has gone on his own dime in the past.

Also, the venue has changed to the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, but that appears to be an excellent place to ponder aviation issues, so the event retains its Loop Five-Star rating. Casual dress strongly recommended.

Still engaged

On the Mideast news front, Israeli media have been buzzing with reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently told the Israeli consul in Los Angeles that he was fed up with both Israel and the Palestinians.

Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, citing Army Radio, reported Wednesday that Emanuel told the consul he was sick of the Israelis, who adopt suitable ideas months too late, when they are no longer effective, and that he was equally sick of the Palestinians, who -- as former Israeli diplomat Abba Eban used to say -- never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Emanuel, according to the Israeli accounts, also said that without progress in the long-stalled peace process, the administration would reduce its involvement because it has other matters to deal with.

We were initially quite skeptical of the report. But Wednesday afternoon the Israeli Embassy here sent an e-mail saying the consul "expresses his deepest regrets for the distortions of Mr. Emanuel's views in this harmful article," and that, in the meeting, Emanuel had "reiterated his unflagging commitment to Israel's security and his devotion to the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace."

Ah, so it was true! (A White House official said that the notion that Emanuel threatened U.S. disengagement was "ridiculous," according to McClatchy Newspapers.)

Meanwhile, Arab newspaper Al-Manar -- not to be confused with Hezbollah TV of the same name -- reported last month, citing "knowledgeable sources" in Washington, that Mideast envoy George Mitchell recently told President Obama "of his wish to resign from his post" because it seemed an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians was not in the offing.

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