Asō Tarō was hired to lead his party into an election, not lead his country in a crisis.
He is a glib, cheerful, dapper fellow who has a hopeless, shallow infatuation with his country (when I read his 2007 book I could not stop repeating to myself, "This reads like a book written by a foreigner about Japan which was then translated into Japanese!"). No matter what the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal might pretend (Come on folks, nobody sane person believes he ever even read this op-ed, much less wrote it) he is no policy wonk. He talks without thinking, comfortable in the knowledge that no matter how far his tongue runs ahead of his brain, his money and his pedigree will leave him standing on his feet. He has no philosophy of governing, other than saying, "What do you do for a living? Great!"
He wants the country to feel better about itself, as if attitude were 100% of achievement.
His unbearable lightness of being would be less of a problem if he had surrounded himself with a team of competent political professionals. Unfortunately, certain that his Cabinet would be consigned to the rubbish heap within a few weeks after his election to the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party, he appointed his friends (where possible) and folks to whom he owed favors (where necessary). As the economy and the Cabinet support levels both headed south, this motley crew was asked to become policy makers, not placeholders.
Unsurprisingly, the metamorphosis has not been successful.
Rather than taking everyone on a beguiling adventure, he is stuck reliving the nightmares of his predecessors:
- sparring with an obstreperous and immovable Ozawa Ichiro on policy
- pushing off vital decisions to "the next parliamentary session, when X can be handled properly" (Remember Fukuda Yasuo's promise in April to honestly, truly enact the plan to have the road tax revenues shifted to the general fund during the fall extraordinary session? Hilarious!)
- examining whether to extend the Diet session so he can pass legislation via the Article 59 route
- facing a legislative train wreck in the new year due to DPJ intransigence
- chasing after international approval, in the hopes it will improve his standing on the domestic front
- begging for action on the Indian Ocean dispatch...
He was billed as an artificer, one who could magically make the citizenry not see the LDP for the tattered and battered shell it had become.
As the weeks drag on, however, the act has become less funny, the rents in the whole cloth he and his supporters sold to the LDP are less to easy ignore.