Of the four candidates present, Ishiba Shigeru seemed to be most confident. At the initial four-way handclasp, his was the broadest and most assured of the smiles. In his answers he was precise, eschewed generalities and tied current hot button issues to the underlying history of the policies involved.
A reputed wonk's wonk who actually is one, unlike the man he wants to succeed.
The only time he lost his cool was when one questioner (whom I respect immensely) asked the four candidates whether they will continue to follow the Tanigaki Line on the bond issuance bill -- i.e., the current Liberal Democratic Party strategy of refusing to approve of the issuance of new bonds to cover the costs of the budget, threatening the government with a shutdown as early as October.
One after the other, the four candidates repeated the party line that the Democratic Party of Japan-led government's budget was full of pork-barrel projects, so that the LDP was merely exercising a bit of ex post facto fiscal prudence. Furthermore, the survival of the current government was intolerable, so any act pressuring Noda into dissolving the Diet and calling elections was worth the risk.
After giving this stock response, Ishiba leaned away from the mike and grimaced.
At first I thought Ishiba was furious at the questioner. Upon reflection, he was more likely disgusted with himself. Back when his candidacy was just a notion, he was a thorn in the side of the Tanigaki-Ishihara leadership group. He would argue that the party leadership's policy of just saying "No" to everything, refusing to release the membership to vote for vital bills unless the prime minister promised to quit, was short-sighted, borderline unpatriotic and stupid.
Now that Ishiba was a candidate, however, he had had to tell a lie -- that he would continue the policy of pushing for elections, unconstitutional as he most likely knows they would be, even at the cost of the government of Japan's credibility.
Having to lie did not kill him...but it left him pretty darn ticked off.
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