Friday, December 18, 2009

Why Some Asahi Shimbun Editorials Should be Classified as Toxic Waste

From the editorial on December 17, 2009, purportedly on the subject the Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro's rubbishing of the protests of Imperial Household Agency chief Haketa Shingo against the acceptance of the Chinese government's request for Li Xinping Xi Jinping's audience with the Emperor, in defiance of IHA protocols.




The DPJ is seeking a revision of the law that would forbid the director-general of the Cabinet Legislative Bureau -- the office of the government that has come to be the source of interpretations of the Constitution -- from giving testimony in the Diet. It seems they have a notion that it is up to the politicians to interpret the Constitution and for bureaucrats to just follow in line.

The Imperial Household Agency and the Cabinet Legislative Bureau are the specialists in determining whether laws are in compliance with the Constitution or not. It is a matter of course that their opinions be listened to first of all in a spirit of humility and cool-headedness.

Leadership of politicians does not mean that one can just interpret the Constitution any way one wants to, ignoring accumulated precedents. It is even worse to use high-pressure language in attempt to cower bureaucrats and silence them. One cannot fall into this error.

Now I have a whole lot of problems with this editorial (that "It seems they have a notion that" strawman, for example) but none greater than with the "It is a matter of course" (tozen da) exhortation.

Your see there is the little matter of the Constitution of Japan itself, which states:

第81条 最高裁判所は、一切の法律、命令、規則又は処分が憲法に適合するかしないかを決定する権限を有する終審裁判所である。

Article 81: The Supreme Court is the court of last resort with power to determine the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation or official act.

That under the five decades of LDP rule the Supreme Court exercised its right to declare laws unconstitutional a pitiful number of times does not mean that the Supreme Court will forever fail to carry out its role under the separation of powers. Only that during the last five decades the Court felt cowed by the LDP and the bureaucracy.

And that, me hearties, strikes me as unhealthy.

As for the humbling authority the Asahi attributes to the CLB and the IHA "as a matter of course," it seems Richard Samuels' question still applies.

Evidently, the revolution underway in Japan has not yet extended its reach to the editorial offices of the nation's media giants, not even its purportedly most liberal ones.


Anonymous said... "Li Xinping" you mean "Xi Jinping," right?

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Thank you. T'is fixed now.