The passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has evoked deserved praise for his service in WWII, in which his heroism earned him the Medal of Honor and cost him an arm.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, right, with fellow Hawaii Sen.Daniel K. Akaka in Feb. 2011. (Jamm Aquino Photo)

As the Daily Mail related, his story was the stuff of movies:

In 1943, Inouye volunteered for the Army and was assigned to the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which earned the nickname “Go For Broke” and was one of the most decorated units of the war. Inouye rose to the rank of captain and earned the Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Star. Many of the 22 veterans who received Medals of Honor in 2000 had been in the 442nd. . . .

Inouye’s dream of becoming a surgeon ended in the closing days of the war. On April 21, 1945, he was leading a charge on a machine gun nest in Italy’s Po Valley. He was shot in the abdomen, but kept inching toward the machine gun and managed to throw two grenades before his right arm was shattered by a German grenade. Even then, he continued to direct his platoon.

“By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance,” his Medal of Honor citation said.

He spent the next 20 months in military hospitals. During his convalescence, Inouye met Bob Dole, the future majority leader of the Senate and 1996 Republican presidential candidate, who also was recovering from severe war injuries. The two later served together in the Senate for decades.

To be frank, his Senate career was not terribly noteworthy save for his delivery of voluminous pork to his home state and his role in the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigations (which regrettably contributed to the criminalization of politics). Inouye was however a strong supporter for Israel (as most Democrats of his generation were). On his death, AIPAC issued a statement: ” AIPAC mourns the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye, an extraordinary American patriot and hero. Senator Inouye deeply understood the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure that America’s ally, Israel, had the necessary resources to defend her people. He will be missed by all who appreciated his many decades of leadership in strengthening the ties between America and Israel.” 

His passing is a reminder that the Senate is becoming more parochial in its vision, in part because of the absence of men and women who have served in the military and even fewer who have seen combat. It is, on the Democratic side of the aisle, frequently muted on issues of national security. When a Senate Democrat takes up national security it is with a few notable exceptions to urge that spending be cut. For those Democrats praising Inouye’s heroics it is more than a little ironic that they decline to lift a finger to prevent “devastating” cuts in today’s military. As for support for Israel, it is shocking that not a single pro-Israel Democrat has spoken out against the nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, whose record and rhetoric on Israel is praised by anti-Israel conspiratorialists and outfits like J Street that are antagonistic toward Israel.

In his tribute to Inouye, former senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) released a statement that read in part:

Losing men of Senator Inouye’s caliber should do two things: remind us of the greatness of giants like him and challenge this Congress to put its nation first, and its joint and singular ambitions far second. Never was it impossible for Senator Inouye and me to reach agreement on even the most divisive and difficult issues.

I urge everyone to read Senator Inouye’s biography and then ask, ‘what is so hard about facing the challenges of today, when he and his compatriots triumphed over much worse without complaint?’

In other words, why has the Senate become so small-minded, petty and inactive? Well, the voters send their picks there and reelect them again and again. We ultimately do get the government we deserve.