Saturday, January 12, 2008

In the news today, oh boy

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo pulled a Wen Jiabao this morning, dropping in at a Social Insurance Agency branch office in Setagaya, asking citizens seeking help in sorting out their pensions about the service they are receiving.

Courtesy: Tokyo Shimbun

Somebody in the Kantei has finally remembered a politician's first duty is to appear compassionate and engaged--even when he cannot do anything specific in the near term. If the PM can find the time for a few more such visits and gives up prevaricating in the Diet about Abe's promise to fix everything by March 31, then he might pull himself and his party out of the morass.

An aside, but I am puzzled why in the midst of all this no one brings up the reason Fukuda felt he had to resign as Chief Cabinet Minister back in May 2004. It would seem a natural to quip that "poor Fukuda never seems to be able to put his pension problems behind him." *

While the PM seems to be finding his feet public relations-wise, Ozawa Ichirō managed to hand to his enemies an astounding "What Was He Thinking?" moment on Friday. By absenting himself from the House of Representatives revote on the New Special Measures Law, Ozawa opened himself up to criticism that he has no sense of political responsibility. Remember, it was Ozawa's actions as regards the dispatch renewal that triggered the toppling of a prime minister, forced a double extension of the extraordinary Diet session, resulted in a botched negotiation of a new political compact in order to move legislation through the Diet and in general wasted the last five months of the Diet's time. That he should suddenly feel that the Osaka gubernatorial election takes precedence over his day job boggles many an imagination.

The Sankei Shimbun, always an Ozawa friend, decided to give the story "War Declared!" level coverage on its front page:

Courtesy: Sankei Shimbun

I am sure the brouhaha will all die down soon enough--there are enough real problems in the country to soon push Ozawa's being or not being somewhere off the front pages.

But still...what was Ozawa thinking?


* Then again, no one took advantage of coincidental link this week between Friday's override and the last time such a parliamentary maneuver was used back in 1951: in order to legalize betting on motorboat races. No "Once Again, It's Gambling With Boats" headlines...nothing.

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