Whirlwind Hawaii visit a prelude to 2-week Asia tour
By THE HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER Published: November 4, 2017
President Donald Trump tossed flowers into the water at the USS Arizona Memorial on Friday, part of a whirlwind afternoon that included a briefing from the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump also laid a wreath at the simple yet stark shrine to the 1,177 crewmen who died during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
The pair stood for about a minute in front of the white marble wall etched with the names of the fallen during a wreath-laying ceremony. The first couple adjusted the wreath slightly before two soldiers placed it near the wall.
The Trumps then threw white plumeria into the water where the remains of more than 900 Arizona crewmen rest.
Earlier, Trump used his ubiquitous Twitter account to thank Hawaii for showing him aloha.
"Thank you for such a beautiful welcome Hawaii. My great honor to visit @PacificCommand upon arrival. Heading to Pearl Harbor w/ @FLOTUS now," he tweeted, using the abbreviation for "first lady of the United States." The tweet included a video of his arrival in the early afternoon at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
On the eve of his first trip to Asia as president, the Trumps arrived in Hawaii just before 1 p.m. aboard Air Force One with White House chief of staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top aides. The Trumps held hands as they stepped off the plane.
They were met by Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific; his wife, Bruni Bradley; and Gov. David Ige and his wife, Dawn Amano-Ige.
Nine-year-old Mikayla Webb, a fourth-grader at Waialua Elementary School, gave the couple maile and pikake lei and received a hug from Melania Trump. The girl's father is an Army major who works at the Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith.
"They said, 'Thank you, it's a very special day,'" Mikayla said. "It was very exciting."
Ige said, "I just welcomed him to Hawaii. ... The people of island nations always have unique and different challenges, and we definitely would look forward to the opportunity to talk to people about that."
The Trumps are scheduled to leave Hawaii this morning for Tokyo.
Likely high on his agenda are security issues as North Korea works to develop a fleet of nuclear-tipped, long-range missiles and China expands its military presence, creating artificial islands in the South China Sea. Trump is also expected to address what he sees as an unfair U.S. trade imbalance in the region.
As the Trumps arrived, they shook hands with many of the 150 people who turned out to greet them, including several who wore red "Make America Great" ball caps.
The crowd included uniformed members from various military branches and local Republican officials, including former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, state Reps. Gene Ward and Andria Tupola, and state Republican Party Chairwoman Shirlene Ostrov.
It was the first visit to Hawaii for Trump as president. In 1998 he presided over the Miss Universe Pageant, broadcast around the world from the University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center.
On Friday, as Trump worked the crowd, the Iges had a long conversation with Kelly, a retired Marine general.
Ige said he and his wife talked to Kelly about "our commitment to keeping our community safe," adding, "He's in a new job, so certainly talking about the challenges of being chief of staff, I certainly can relate to that. He's really looking forward to the Asia trip. He really believes it's fundamentally important. The president is working to establish a stronger relationship, especially with our allies in Japan, South Korea, China. Improving the China relationship is fundamentally important."
It was the second time Ige met Trump and Kelly, following the governor's trip to Washington, D.C., in February for the National Governors Association's winter meeting.
The Trumps' arrival brought the usual traffic gridlock, particularly in both directions of the H-1 freeway when the motorcade was on the move, but also on feeder streets.
The president arrived at Camp Smith at 1:43 p.m. Reporters were brought into his meeting for about a minute. He greeted the military officials and acknowledged reporters.
"I love you people," he said. "I tell you, this is very special, being in Hawaii."
After the briefing, which included the commanders of Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Army Pacific, Marine Forces Pacific and other brass, Trump's 17-vehicle motorcade rolled into Waikiki just before 3 p.m., where police had blocked off entire streets in the interest of security and traffic management. Two emergency vehicles and a helicopter accompanied the executive cars as they proceeded down Kuhio Avenue. Barricades and Honolulu bike patrol officers flanked the thoroughfare.
Scores of tourists and residents, including protesters and supporters, turned out to greet the procession. Some boos could be heard as the president's vehicle entered Waikiki; however, there were also friendly faces in the crowd. Others turned out just for the excitement.
"I like watching all of the hoopla," said Wendy Russell, a Waikiki resident who lives just a few buildings down from the Ritz-Carlton Residences, where the first couple is staying. "There was a police car on my street all night. How many opportunities do people get to see something like this? It's worth waiting."
Kelly Pepper, a visitor from Napa Valley, Calif., gave up part of a vacation day to wave a "No Aloha 4U Here" sign. "I know he probably won't see my sign, but it makes me feel so good," Pepper said.
Waikiki resident Lorraine Ortega said she shared the sentiments of the protesters, who gathered Friday at the state Capitol, but traffic influenced her decision to sign-wave in her neighborhood instead.
"He needs to show his tax returns," Ortega said. "I feel like Russia is in the White House and he's sold our country to the highest bidder. I'm not alone. When I came out of my building waving my sign, people were like, 'Thank you.'"
On the other hand, Trump found his fair share of supporters. One carried a sign saying, "Aloha Potus and Flotus" another waved a poster boasting, "Trump 2020."
"I just wanted to see our president," said Lee Cole, a visitor from Atlanta. "I know Hawaii is a huge Democratic state. I know you had Barack Obama here, and that's OK. I waved at him. But I sure support Donald Trump."
Ron and Kathleen Mousolf, visitors from the 300-person town of Port Hope, Mich., said they were delighted for the "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to see a U.S. president.
"He's the change people in our country were hoping for," Ron Mousolf said. "We 100 percent support him, and this is probably as close as we'll ever get."
In the evening Trump received a second private military briefing from Pacific Command leaders and briefly attended a reception at Harris' quarters at Pearl Harbor. At the social, the president and first lady visited with Pacific Command staff and listened to the Marine band, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The couple then motored back to Waikiki, arriving at 7:33 p.m.
The excitement drew a small contingent of the curious. Meandering tourists seemed mildly interested by the security blockade but did not linger.
Cayle Littlechief, a 42-year-old Uber/Lyft driver, said his passengers have been talking a lot about the visit. He took the night off to see whether he could get a glimpse of the president, whom he considers irrelevant beyond his ability to focus public attention.
"What he's been doing is a form of chaos that creates confusion and contention, which people track day after day instead of focusing on larger forces behind the scenes – like the banking industry, the military industrial complex or large corporations," he said. "There are people who disagree with the way things are, and I'm just here to represent that in a peaceful way. I have children, and I'm concerned for their future as Americans."
Trump is visiting Tokyo on Sunday, followed by South Korea, Beijing, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Trump, who earlier Friday extended his Asia trip by one day, told reporters on Air Force One that he had initially intended to spend that day in Hawaii again on his way back to Washington. But he canceled that plan to instead stay longer at the East Asian Summit in the Philippines, which follows the APEC conference in Vietnam, according to the White House pool report.
Weekend motorists can expect more delays this morning as the motorcade travels from Waikiki to Hickam.
Star-Advertiser reporters Dan Nakaso, Allison Schaefers and Michael Tsai, and White House media pool reporter Mike Bender of the Wall Street Journal contributed to this report.
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U.S. Pacific Command Senior Enlisted Leader Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. Spadaro greets President Donald Trump during an honors ceremony at USPACOM headquarters in Hawaii on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.
ROBIN W. PEAK/U.S. NAVY