Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thanks for the pointer, Mr. N

If I am this damn astute at 88 years of age, I will cease cursing God for shackling me to this aging carcass of mine:

Shinzo Abe at a crossroads
Special to The Japan Times

With media polls showing approval ratings for the Cabinet falling from over 70 percent upon its inauguration four months ago to the lower 40 percent level, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be at a crossroads.

The plummeting popularity may be ascribed largely to failures in Abe's selection of Cabinet ministers and party executives. He appointed a number of his longtime friends as well as those who had contributed materially to his election as president of the Liberal Democratic Party. The prime minister's office and the Cabinet are packed with some of "the best students in class" who enjoy Abe's favor. There are no politicians in the true sense of the word....
Read the whole thing. Soon. The gang at The Japan Times puts material behind a wall too damn fast for their own good.

What I found particularly instructive was this passage:

The previous administration, which derived its strength largely from the personality of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, pushed reforms in specific areas, such as the privatization of the postal services and the Japan Highway Public Corp. Koizumi practiced "theatrical politics," using grandiose political methods that appealed to popular sentiment.

By contrast, the Abe administration signifies a return to mainstream conservative politics, as shown by his unambiguous commitment to constitutional revision and education reform. Abe practices the "politics of the parliamentary Cabinet," centered on coordination and cooperation with the governing LDP.

Thus there are distinctive differences between Koizumi and Abe. If Koizumi was a presidential-type prime minister, Abe is a parliamentary Cabinet-type leader.
Presented this way (and I must commend the former Prime Minister, for it is a very artful presentation) Abe is merely choosing a style. Indeed, he is choosing an orthodox style. The operative word, with its powerful resonance even in English, is "mainstream"--the sense that Koizumi was not just different, but deviant.

This lulls the reader into accepting Nakasone's radical thesis--that the orthodoxy of Abe is a return to a comfortable and comforting normalcy--a normal ("Cabinet-type") administration for more normal times.

Unfortunately, outside the boundaries of Nakasone's reasonable presentation, is the uncomfortable and undeniable reality that "mainstream conservative politics" is what the people loathe. It is what they reject and been rejecting since 1993. There is little taste for such politics now, even for (especially for?) the reactionary side of the political spectrum.

Democrats, thank the Prime Minister for the pointer.

1 comment:

Jun Okumura said...

Two comments:

First: Prime Minster Yasuhiro Nakasone led the charge for the first far-reaching fiscal and administrative reform of the post-WW II era. Ryutaro Hashimoto was the next reformist prime minister. Koizumi Junichiro arguably followed in this tradition in substance, if not style.

Second: Mr. Nakasone has been a life-long advocate of a presidential prime ministership, to be elected directly by the electorate, like the Jewish prime minister.

So, is he feeling his 88 years, as MTC suggests? Maybe. But I prefer to think that it is his pure, well-documented, animosity towards Mr. Koizumi for forcing him to retire as Diet member, rather than his diminished combover, that has driven him to write this piece.

If I'm right, that's one less thing you have to worry about, MTC.