On Wednesday, Chairman of the Policy Research Council Tanigaki Sadakazu celebrated his 25th year in the Diet with a reception in--wait, can you guess? Oh you are too smart--yes, that's right, a Tokyo hotel.
The celebration of one's 25th year in the Diet supposed to be a grand affair. Diet members who have stuck it out for a quarter century get a raft of special privileges, including free use of an official car (Koizumi Jun'ichirō caused a historic stink by refusing the car--asking why the hell one gets the use of a car just for having sat around a long time). The silver anniversary is a supposed to be a big, big deal.
Despite Tanigaki's longevity, his current high position in the party hierarchy and his supposed status as a prime minister material, only "around 30" members of the Diet showed up for his reception.
True, it is summer and many Diet members are back in their home districts busting their tails trying to beat back the influence of Ozawa Ichirō's pander tours of the hinterlands.
But "around 30" -- that's half the size of the reconstituted Kōchikai faction!
Not even the newspapers, who have been running interference for Tanigaki for years, could cover up his staggering unpopularity:
The late former Prime Minister Miyazawa believed that (Tanigaki) was to be the future. At the time of the reunification of the Tanigaki Faction with the Koga Faction, riding as it were in the slipstream of the old Miyazawa Faction, Tanigaki was inaugurated as the faction's #2 leader. However, he has been unable to shake the evaluation that, as for the spark he would have to have to be presentable as a potential candidate for the next prime minister, "Its existence is decidedly thin."Of course they could have said, "He has the charisma of a laundry bag," and spared us the syntactical gymnastics.
I have far too much fun over the years dissing Tanigaki and dismissing his chances of becoming prime minister (just click on "Tanigaki Sadakazu" in the labels column to see a selection of my swipes--and not the worst ones either). I have also enjoyed the woozy surreality of all the articles and wire reports describing him as "one of the strongest candidates for a future prime minister" in any and all tongues. Such claims never made the least bit of sense to me, nor to anyone who had ever heard Tanigaki speaking in person.
But now that the press is willing to vouchsafe that Tanigaki is, indeed, a non-entity, I cannot help but feel a thin touch of sadness--like what you feel when you find a hole in the knee of a pair of pants that never looked very good on you but that you had just had dry cleaned.