Wednesday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fulfill the term of the late Daniel Inouye in the United States Senate.
These are impossible shoes to fill, but we hope that Schatz has a few attributes that are essential now for Hawaii - and for the country.
Hawaii is the lynchpin in the country's defense strategy for threats from the Far East. Sen. Inouye constantly reminded his colleagues of Hawaii's essential geographic position - and his status and seniority ensured the proper resources were always deployed here.
While Schatz is building his own credentials and seniority in the Senate, he needs to constantly invoke Inouye's mantra - Hawaii is the first line of defense against North Korea, China, et al.
In the Senate, Schatz should be competitive but collegial, assertive but willing to bargain and forge alliances. The new senator will have to convince colleagues of Hawaii's importance to the defense of the country. Even though it seems obvious that our geographical location is key, the Senate will have to be reminded time and again why defense dollars should be spent in Hawaii.
By dint of being appointed before the end of the current 112th Congress, Schatz will be the senior senator from Hawaii. He will be more senior than Mazie Hirono and the other freshman senators of the 113th Congress who will be sworn in on Jan. 3.
Inouye's replacement may well have to vote on a bill or bills this week related to averting the "fiscal cliff," so our new senator will have to hit the ground running.
Schatz is going to have the toughest job any Hawaii politician has ever faced. He has to replace a legend. And he starts that job with one arm tied behind his back in the Senate, seniority rules. He has none.
Strength of character is going to have to substitute for decades of seniority.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher