Way back in the distant past -- three days ago -- Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko was scheduled to pay a formal visit to Washington in early January, sometime prior to his policy speech opening the regular Diet session. Then came word yesterday that the prime minister's visit would be postponed (E), something of a pattern for this prime minister all of a sudden (E). Now we have word that Kurt Campbell in Washington has hopes the PM will come in April, during the time the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin are blooming, in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Japan's donation of the trees -- and expressed this desire to, of all people, the visiting Ishihara Nobuteru (J), the Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, who wants to shut down the government, force the downfall of Noda and the calling of elections in March (J).
Well, we can dispense with the official explanation of the postponement of the Washington visit -- that the two sides could not find a way to mesh the schedules of the two leaders. After all, the Noda government had been planning on the trip, at least until two days ago -- so something had been in the works for a long time.
Let us try to imagine, however, how a conversation would have gone between the two leaders, had the meeting taken place in early January.
O – "So now that the cameras are out of the room, what's going on with Futenma?"
No – "Wow, you just jump right into things, don't you? Can't we start on something simpler, like playful banter on which city is colder right now, Tokyo or Washington?"
O – "No."
No – "Oh."
O – "Seriously, what progress has been made?"
No – "Progress? Well, I can honestly report that to my knowledge, no one in the Defense Ministry has behaved as stupidly as Tanaka Satoshi or Minister Ishikawa did in the closing weeks of the Diet's extraordinary session (E)."
O- "And that's progress?"
No – "Given that Tanaka has been dismissed and Ishikawa has been censured by the House of Councillors, yes."
O – "OK, how about something simpler. Tell me about the progress made on the beef importation issue."
No – "Progress…well that is tricky. You see…in Japan…we have…what is the phrase I am searching for…it's two adjectives, an adjectival infinitive and a noun…"
O – "Xenophobic, paranoid, science-hating idiots?"
No – "Precisely the phrase I was searching for! How do you know about such things?"
O -– "You're kidding, right?"
No – "Oh, sorry. I forgot for a moment to which country's president I was speaking. Anyway, I would not be hoping for any movement on that issue in the immediate future. You see, I have a minister of consumer affairs who has absolutely zero credibility as a consumer advocate (E)."
O – "So get rid of him…or her."
No – "It's him. And I can't because I have an Ozawa problem."
O – "What does that mean?"
No – "Well, it's like your conservative majority on the Supreme Court problem. One gets to thinking sometimes that nothing is going to really change until someone is…I believe you say, 'Caught in flagrante delicto' or 'Sent to the hoosegow.' Not that I would ever dream of wishing such things on a person, of course. I cannot speak for other members of my party, however."
O – "I think I get it. Nice use of the vernacular idiom, by the way."
No – “"Not at all. I am famous for both my silver tongue and my humble, down-to-earth style."
O – "Let's try something even simpler. What do want to do about the TPP?"
No – "I want you to have your staff to quote me completely and without error. No deletions or paraphrases based on a compilation of public statements I may have made about the TPP. That is for starters."
O – "Oh, forget about the TPP. Since your government came in so late, you haven't an icicle's chance in hell of getting in on the rule making phase of the process anyway."
No – "Icicles? Does this mean we will be having our playful banter about the weather after all?"
O – "No."
No – "Oh."
O – "Tell me, because for some reason I am more patient than a lump of granite, what progress your government has made in loosening of its export rules on military technology our two countries have co-developed, so that the resulting technology may be sold to U.S. allies."
No – "None."
O – "None?"
No – "Mr. President, Japan is a peace-loving country. The renunciation of war and the promotion of peace are written into our constitution. If we were to allow the sale of these systems to other countries, they might actually be used. In war, you see."
O – "First, we are talking about sales of defensive systems. And second, from our intelligence community I know that the Nissan Pathfinder remains the transportation choice of half of the world's known terrorists*…and that from news photos half the Toyota trucks in Africa seem to have a machine gun bolted to the cargo bed."
No – "That is sooo unfair."
O – "This conversation is sooo over."
* Not an actual statistic. C'mon, this is satire.