Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cracking up

In the illustrious history of Diet interpellation train wrecks, the performance of Senior Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Matsushima Midori (Liberal Democratic Party, House of Representatives, Tokyo #14 District) on Friday managed to transcend the once hilarious, now sadly Brechtian performances of the late MAFF Matsuoka Toshikatsu.

Matsushima is the representative for Arakawa and Sumida wards. She expresses a fervent belief that the 10 year, 59 trillion yen (I just love those numbers; I cannot stop writing them) road construction plan and the taxes to pay for it are the best thing since handmade soba noodles. According to her explanation, while she once decried the "waste" of road construction spending, she came to see the light at a special meeting of the mayors of the wards of inner Tokyo. In what can only be a coincidence, she managed to get herself appointed Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism following her conversion to the road construction creed.

Unfortunately, Matsushima is a rather recent convert and has not, until now, publicly renounced her earlier skepticism. Indeed, on her website, uncontested or altered, is her 2002 diatribe against the funding of useless road construction.

In interpellations in the House of Councillors Budget Committee Tsuda Yatarō, a mean, mean man of the Democratic Party, read her diatribe to her, then asked her about the contradictions between what she said then and what she is saying now.

Matsushima explained...and explained...and explained...and explained...and was about to explain some more when Budget Committee Chairman Kokoike Yoshitada -- a fellow LDP member -- told her to give cut the four part harmony and variations and give a succinct reply (簡潔な答弁) to the question.

Matsushima ignored the chairman's warning. She kept going and did not stop her verbal dance until, after full 5 minutes of pirouetting around, Kokoide erupted, shouting at her, "Cut it short! Cut it off!" (打ち切りなさい!).

Konoike became so enraged at her indiscipline that he threw the book at her (actually, paragraph 48 of the Diet Law). On his own authority, he banished her from the committee room for "contempt of the Diet."

Reporters and scribes went scrambling to find a like instance when a committee chairman, unprompted by an opposition protest, unilaterally banned a fellow party member from further participation in a Diet committee--or an instance when a political appointee to a ministry had ever been sanctioned in this way.

Morals of the Matsushima banishment:

1) prior to betraying your constituents, your supporters and yourself, practice your alibi in the elevator--otherwise maybe, just maybe, you will receive the public humiliation you richly deserve.

2) the lure of road construction funds makes fools of us all.


Jan Moren said...

In the end, of course, this gaffe is not going to matter one whit to her. Nobody is going to call her out on it during her reelection (how could they do so effectively, with the limited allowed means to discuss politics during campaigns?) and her bosses need her to fill her seat too much to make an issue of it.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

Probably--Tokyo #14 (Sumida-ku and Arakawa-ku) is a blue-collar conservative urban district.

Matsushima buried her main opponent, Inoue Kazuo, in the 2005race. In 2003, in a four way contest against Inoue, the incumbent Conservative Party candidate Nishikawa Taichirō and a Communist, she only squeaked out a victory (Inoue came in second by 3000 votes).

Matsushima is still stiffing her constituents, though. As a fully built-up area, Tokyo District #14 is unlikely to benefit from road tax receipts and budgets outlays in a manner commensurate with the taxes paid by residents of the district.

Matsushima finally cannot invoke the John Maynard Keynes exemption from consistency: the facts regarding road construction have not changed since Matsushima wrote her diatribe.