Thursday, April 19, 2012

Given 'Em The Axe, The Axe, The Axe

"Give 'em the axe, where?
Right in the neck, the neck, the neck!"

- The Stanford University Axe chant
Aside from the Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Minister Fujimura Osamu, Tanaka Naoki and Maeda Takeshi have been my favorite members of the current Cabinet. Given how much the latter two ministers have done to damage, sully or otherwise trash the reputation of the Noda Government and the Democratic Party of Japan, it is has only been natural to write about them (click on the labels below for earlier posts). I could have written so much more, too...

However, it seems these halcyon days are drawing to a close. Rather than play with Tanaka and Maeda as a cat would with mortally-injured-but-still-living mice, the opposition trio of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Your Party and the New Renaissance Party yesterday submitted motions of censure against both men to the president of the House of Councillors. The censure votes will come on Friday, with passage a seeming mathematical certainty. (E)

I heartily support the censure motions. If any pair of ministers has deserved the axe, this pair has.

I have two reservations tempering my glee, however.

First, Noda Yoshihiko should have fired both of these morons himself the moment each first cast doubts upon the ethical or intellectual standards of the Cabinet, rather than giving them time to add to their pewter reputations and besmirch his and the DPJ's rule.

Second, the LDP has debased the censure motion. It will be hard for the public and possibly historians to see a difference between the censures Tanaka and Maeda and those of Ichikawa Tatsuo and Yamaoka Kenji. These latter motions were passed on the last day of the last year's extraordinary session of the Diet in what looked like a fit of pique. Ichikawa started out as a defense idiot but grew into his job over the course of the Diet session. Yamaoka was censured not anything he had done as minister but for not renouncing his support from direct-marketers. Censuring Ichikawa and Yamaoka was done not for actions by the ministers but with the goal of sowing confusion within the DPJ, as both Ichikawa and Yamaoka were Ozawa Ichiro supporters, through and through.

Defenders of the LDP will point out that the DPJ, in its time in opposition, filed a blizzard of censure motions. While true, the claim elides over the crucial point that prior to the takeover of the government by the DPJ, only one cabinet minister had ever been forced to resign after being censured: Nukaga Fukushiro in 1998. Since the LDP-led opposition seized control of the House of Councillors in July 2010, however, it has used the censure motion to force the resignation of four cabinet ministers and is set to hack down two more.

Use of the censure motion when the opposition has the power to halt the progress of non-budget legislation carries with it the danger of censure becoming nothing more that a blunt instrument of political mischief-making, rather than a weapon of righteous anger or for shaking when political circumstances render the opposition impotent.

Later - The morning's NHK plain white rice news show Ohayo Nippon had person-on-the-street interviews regarding yesterday's submissions. Voters -- men and women, young and old -- all thought the opposition was abusing the power to censure.

Later still - The Asahi Shimbun offers its two yen's worth, not significantly different from my own. (E)


Joe said...

But will their replacements provide more entertainment value? I doubt it, unfortunately.

Great chant, though. I'll have to include it in my eikaiwa lessons.

The Chrysanthemum Sniffer said...

Censure motions should mean practically nothing, and it is a shame that the DPJ has given in to the LDP on this point in the past. In theory, a loyal opposition should be censuring all of the cabinet all of the time. Noda, Tanaka, and Maeda should take a page out of Fukuda Yasuo's book and just treat the whole spectacle with contempt.

MTC said...

The Chrysanthemum Sniffer -

Both Fukuda and Aso, who was also censured, sought a seal of approval on their continued service in an orchestratated House of Representatives rejection of a no-confidence motion. So contempt was not quite the reaction as much as rage.

A belief that the DPJ has given in to the LDP cuts too broad a swath. Fundamentally, it has been up to the individual prime ministers to choose to ignore or accept the judgment of the House of Councillors. In the case of Sengoku and Mabuchi, both had at best questionable loyalty to Kan, so getting rid of them was a personal plus for him. In the case of Ichikawa and Yamaoka, the price for their staying on was an oath of fealty from their sponsor Ozawa Ichiro. As there was no way Ozawa would ever stoops to Noda, the pair were gone. As for Tanaka and Maeda, they are just bad seeds who so thoroughly violate the DPJ creed that politicians and not bureaucrats should set policy that they have no business being in appointed government positions at any level.