Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ozawa Derangement Syndrome

What is it about Ozawa Ichiro that drives normally liberal and forgiving persons crazy? How can so many be assured of his guilt of political finance crimes, or of his being somehow being too unethical or too tainted for high party position or public office?

For the general populace, the wish to dismiss is relatively simple to explain: investigation for political crimes and arrest of subordinates carry a presumption of guilt. All this disturbance of good social order -- so distressing. Besides, all of the newspapers would not be lying to us, would they?

For elites who know better, the near-autonomic ostracism of Ozawa seems more of a lazy tribal marker, a means by which one can signal to one's peers that one is for all the good things and against all the bad things, without having to be too specific about what those good things are or how one came about determining their goodness.

Sure Ozawa has expressed some discomfiting ideas and shamelessly pandered to constituencies. However, proposing radical changes to national policies and pandering to powerful electoral blocs is in the nature of the business Ozawa is in, which is seizing power through the ballot box.

As for the purported campaign scandals, whatever happened to presumption of innocence and the importance of evidence? How is it that it is considered fair play to be calling for Ozawa's head, when the prosecutors have decided they have no case against him, and the prosecutors have heretofore only been pushed to act at the insistence of shadowy citizens groups?

It is confusing that Democrats -- the American kind (the folks ostensibly in charge of Washington) -- have not been especially wary of the "Dump Ozawa" juggernaut. The parallels between the current investigation and reinvestigation of Ozawa and the relentless investigation and reinvestigations of the Clinton White House should have by now stimulated some reflection as to validity of the conventional wisdom regarding Ozawa and his politics.


Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty simple. Ozawa's a power broker and a fixer. People don't feel like he represents the people, or anybody but himself. That doesn't make him a criminal, but nobody's going to shed a tear about him being indicted.

Jan Moren said...

Politics is a business of trust. You lose peoples' trust and you can't do your job, innocent or not. He has pretty much lost it by now.

And you need to put a lot more blame on Ozawa himself than you do now. He's had more than a year to come clean and publicly account for all the money movements, accounting irregularities, deliberate obfuscations and other mighty suspicious-seeming events (and before you say "but that's not illegal!", check that bit about trust I wrote at the top). He never did; instead he's been giving partial, contradictory accounts that just reinforces the quite reasonable suspicion that he has something nasty to hide.

He could have nipped all this in the bud last spring. He didn't. He should be savvy enough to know he should have, and that he never has is in itself rather suspicions.

LB said...

I think it is just that Ozawa is an all-too-visible throwback to the good ol' boys of the LDP. Sure, he walked out of the LDP years ago, but he practically exudes the stench of "LDP backroom dealmaker" from every pore. His career since then has basically been centered around "I'm Ichiro Ozawa, and I know what's best". He would make political parties and then break them when co-founders questioned his judgement. He'd merge a party with the LDP and then walk out again when they didn't give him what he felt was his proper due. I think the only thing that has kept him with the DPJ, and the DPJ with him, has been Hatoyama. Hatoyama is too wishy-washy to question when Ozawa declares thus-and-so is the "will of the people" (read: will of Ozawa and the people under his thumb), and thus too wishy-washy to actually "lead" - he needs Ozawa to "herd cats" within the DPJ, and Ozawa needs Hatoyama to sit in the top seat and give him freedom to move as he sees fit as well as a degree of plausible deniability. However I don't think too many people believe this last bit any more. Hatoyama is just too wishy-washy and has shown how quickly he can be made to change course - he just doesn't exude even an illusion of being the "top dog", so the Wizard isn't even hidden behind a curtain, he's standing front and center pulling the strings.

I am just perplexed why, given Ozawa's penchant for throwing hissy-fits, taking his ball and going home, why he hasn't done so this time. Perhaps he realizes if he quits this time it will actually be permanent, and there are no more chances?

Anonymous said...


Actually, it's because you understand less than you think Do a better read of the 1990s before accepting the narrative you've just laid out. You'll find much of it is wrong.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

I am not sure politics is a business of trust. It seems more a business of desperate acts of sweaty artifice.

Anonymous -

LB deserves some credit for laying out the classic hedger's argument, the view that "Ok, he may not be dirty in the traditional sense. However, he is a dinosaur and deserves extinction." It is a seductive and durable standpoint, one that posits as viable a sanitized form of Japanese politics.

LB said...

@anon - am I wrong?

Ozawa left the LDP as his mentor, Kanemaru, was indicted. Ozawa and Hata formed Shinseito, in part, to divert attention from the fact they were followers of a crook.

Ozawa then parlayed Shinseito into a coalition of Shakaito, Minshushakaito, Komeito and later Shinto Nihon and Sakigake. Then things blew up when Hosokawa also turned out to be playing fast and loose with campaign finances (but I won't be too hard on him - everyone plays fast and loose with campaign finances) and Ozawa kept insisting he knew best, pissing off everyone else in the coalition and opening the door for the return of the LDP.

You know a guy is an ass when he can convince the Socialists to dump him for the LDP, by the way.

In any event, Ozawa had already had enough of Shinseito and joined Kaifu and others in Shinshinto, tossing his old buddy Hata out the window along the way. After all, who better to lead the party than himself (Ozawa), right?

Except with Ozawa being his ever-heavy-handed self, Shinshinto died, leaving Ozawa to reform with a few True Believers into the Liberal Party. The Liberals entered a coalition with the LDP, lord knows why as there was no way the LDP was going to let Ozawa do anything important. Naturally he figured this out and bolted, again, this time to the DPJ, which for some insane reason decided to let him run things.

By my count, that is three now-defunct parties that owe their demise to either Ozawa picking up his ball and storming off or Ozawa picking up the ball and keeping it (not letting others have any say whatsoever). The DPJ only just came to power, thanks IMHO far more to the electorate being fed up with the LDP than to anything Ozawa engineered, and already the original Finance Minister has quit after it was made clear to him who was going to be deciding things regarding finances (and it wasn't going to be the Finance Minister), and we're on Round 2 of Ozawa's shady finance troubles, which he won't discuss other than to blame others for and let them cool their heels in a holding cell.

It is going to be an interesting 2010!

Anonymous said...

@ LB,

You are offering an interpretation of events that attributes motives to Ozawa, the Socialits, and others, without a scintilla of evidence to back up your claims. How do you know Ozawa left the LDP to "divert attention from the fact they were followers of a crook"? The answer is you do not. It is an extraordinary claim I have never seen any evidence in support of. This leads me to conclude that you are presenting guesswork as fact.

You state that "You know a guy is an ass when he can convince the Socialists to dump him for the LDP." This is a misreading of the Socialists, who were complicit in the long-term LDP rule. Indeed they did not run enough candidates to for government for decades.

Your assessment of the death of the Shinshinto, which you attribute to Ozawa, is demonstrably wrong. Look at the behavior of the Komei within the Shinshinto. Your answer is there. Your interpretation of the decision to leave the coalition with the LDP is also at odds with the facts. As a political decision, I might add, it was also vindicated given that the New Conservatives were decimated at the following election, while the Liberals won 10% of the PR vote and increased their vote share.

On the recent financial problems, read this:

None of which is to say that Ozawa is an angel. Rather it is simply to point out that your guesswork and use of colorful metaphor do not substitute for a convincing argument.