Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I caught only the tail end of the clash of the titans in the Budget Committee session. What little I saw of the Koizumi-Maehara showdown was a childish free-for-all.

I had been half hoping for Maehara to come out with an apology, killing the email controversy before it swallowed him. He seems a decent enough fellow, with a reasonable head on his shoulders. Someone--the dim-witted rank-and-file, the duplicitous party elders--forced him to continue flogging this dead horse, however.

Still oddly missing from the scene: Nagata Hisayasu, the idiot-savant whose intemperate introduction of the bogus Horie email into Diet interpellation last Thursday initiated this whole mess. No one has seen hide or hair of him since Saturday (The rumor that Nagata's suit jacket was found, complete with a large hamachi stuffed inside, on the grand staircase at Roppongi Hills, is just that--a rumor).

Maehara and his cohorts have made a valiant effort of obsfucation. They bluster and pose, demanding that Takebe have his second son come forth with his bank account records.

In response, LDP opponents have maintained an icy cool. They have stayed consistently on message: as it is the Democrats who are making the charges, it is up to the Democrats to provide evidence that their charges stand up to scrutiny.

Were I running the LDP message shop, I would have the LDP talking heads top off their arguments with defenses of a right-to-privacy and a presumption-of-innocence. I think younger Japanese would then grasp the importance of keeping Takebe's son's accounts secret. Right now, the television personalities are pontificating, "If there is no crime, why doesn't Takebe's son just come forth with his bank records?"--without anyone calling them out on the tatami and suggesting that they show their bank records to their adoring audiences.

Without the appeal to a greater good such as privacy or a presumption of innocence, the LDP's toying with the wounded Democrats looks just like that--toying. Reaction to the suspension of the Diet's normal business over the Horie email has not been positive. The LDP leadership group of course wants either Nagata or Maehara to abase himself and beg for forgiveness. Such status and debasement games are the cat's meow to the denizens of Nagata-cho. It seems a dangerous game indeed to bewilder and upset the public, though.

Stepping back, the Horie email brouhaha is but the latest chapter in the seemingly neverending story of Koizumi's infernal luck. Time and time again, when it has looked like Koizumi has been boxed, an accuser/opponent implodes. Nagata, and unless he hits the ripcord soon Maehara, are just the latest victims of the Koizumi monoimi: Tsujimoto got caught with her hands in the cookie jar; Kan discovered his social security record was out of order; Hashimoto's memory of his meeting with dentists was full of holes; the postal privatization rebels missed the demographic shift to the cities; Okada convinced himself that an aura of obvious unhappiness and a promise of further economic hard times were electoral magic.

The Curse even extends to Koizumi opponents who are still relative nobodies.

Kawamura Takashi, one of the princes of the Democratic Party, put on a deranged performance on this morning's TBS newscast. He harangued everyone, muttering while others spoke, jumping up to argue before any of the other guests could finish a sentence. He carried out lengthy shouting matches not only with LDP members opposite him but with a veteran journalist seated next to the host. He also kept interrupting Socialist Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, his ally in this fight. Kawamura's interruptions of Fukushima so offended fellow guest Aisawa Ichiro, the LDP's kanjichodairi, that he ordered Kawamura to shut up and let Fukushima talk.

The normally blank-faced peanut gallery/Greek chorus in the background--newsreader girl, the feature story girl and the weather girl--all burst out in grins at Aizawa's crossing-party lines gallantry--before resuming their stoic demeanors.

Hard as the weather girl tried, however, she could not suppress at look of alarm every time Kawamura opened his slavering jaws.

With leadership hopefuls like these...

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