Contrary to a heretofore unknown rule that cabinet members should not challenge the prime minister in party elections, Minister of (deep breath) the Environment, the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accident and Nuclear Power Policy and Administration (i.e. - the haaardest working man in the government), unfaithful husband and hot young hunk of political man meat Hosono Goshi is reportedly studying a run for the post of leader of the Democratic Party of Japan. It seems a host of front benchers from amongst the supporters of former Prime Minister Kan Naoto, Policy Research Coumcil Chairman Maehara Seiji and former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Kano Michihiko, want Hosono to become the DPJ's face, giving the party at least a chance at fighting the brainless default vote for the Liberal Democratic Party or much worse, the as-yet unnamed and unfounded national party of 42 year-old Osaka wunderkind Hashimoto Toru.
"Studying" (kento shite iru/kento ni haita) in a political context usually means quite the opposite of the usual meaning of the word. When a government official or a party official says, "We are studying the matter" what he/she is usually saying is, "You have asked an incredibly stupid question about a wild hypothetical. I have not the least intention of answering your question you rancid excuse for a journalist. Now sit down and shut up."
However, in this instance, Hosono, whom we know can sometimes put his brain in park, may indeed be studying a bid for the party leadership in the usual sense of the word "study."
Why will Hosono, after his brief period of study (he will be making an announcement today) likely not challenge incumbent prime minister Noda Yoshihiko, who otherwise would have a lock on the DPJ leader election?
Having a fourth DPJ prime minister since August 2009 makes the party look stupid - This was the reason Maehara gave to his supporters when he met them at lunch yesterday (J). Unfortunately, Maehara group members went to Hosono in the evening and before the cameras presented him with a written request to run. Hosono received the request, responding, "The election of a party leader is to be approached with trepidation. In that, my feeling has not changed." (J)
Seen another way, were Hosono to run and win, he would be the fifth party leader since 2009, an even further indication of party flightiness.
Putting a new bright face on the party does not work - The LDP tried to save the House of Councillors election of 2007 by naming the young Abe Shinzo, a man with a history of underachievement, as the party's fresh face. It then revved up the public relations machine (remember the egregious Newsweek Asia edition cover story comparing Abe Akie to Jacqueline Kennedy?).
The result was not quite as salubrious as planned. (E)
Then there was Fukuda Yasuo's surprise resignation in 2008 in order to open the way for the happy-go-lucky, Akihabara-loving Aso Taro to be the face of the party in a snap election in the fall.
That did not pan out, due to a little something referred to as the Lehman Brothers Crash.
Then there was Hatoyama Yukio's sudden resignation as prime minister in June 2010, simultaneously purging himself and the scandal-hobbled Ozawa Ichiro from the leadership, allowing Kan Naoto, Mr. Clean, to take over in time to save the DPJ from a loss of its majority in the July House of Councillors election.
That did not work out as planned, either. (E)
Policies and party image, it seems, matter.
Why take the hit when you can pick up the pieces? - With the DPJ likely to suffer a crushing losses in the next round of elections, the leader, whoever he is, will have to resign to take responsibility for the defeats.
Why be that leader? Why not bide one's time and run for the party leadership in the aftermath of the electoral debacle, taking up the role of the architect of the party's resurgence?
Later - The news media are reporting that Hosono, unlike that fateful night under street lamp with Yamamoto Mona, is doing the sensible thing and not succumbing to flattering attention. (J)