Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

One slip...and down the hall we fall
It seems to take...no time at all.

- Pink Floyd, "One Slip"

So Hachiro Yasuo has fallen on his sword for telling one truth (that the towns around the Fukushima are "dead cities") and one bad joke about passing on radioactivity to a reporter by brushing him/her with the sleeve of his public safety uniform (en). His replacement is former chief cabinet secretary Edano Yukio, whose retirement from the front ranks of politics has lasted less than two weeks (en).

The opposition has decried this appointment. That Edano is a a cool-headed, indefatigable, smart communicator and a bureaucrat wrangler with a deep knowledge of the issues facing the ministry is irrelevant to the opposition. For the purpose of wounding Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, Edano is being categorized as a central figure of "the failed Kan administration” – an opposition trope that makes not one bit of sense when you consider that Noda was the Finance Minister of the said failed administration -- and half the Cabinet had senior positions in that administration as well. Since the PM has already appointed Edano to replace Hachiro, the opposition has demanded that Edano prove that he has reflected deeply upon the “failure” of the Kan administration in which he served (ja).

Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko's appointment of Edano is a first false note (though Edano is an excellent singer) in what has been Noda's heretofore brilliant playing of the role of the reweaver of the frayed national fabric. The reaction of the opposition to the appointment was entirely predictable. What else would opposition do except put on a show of harrumphing irk at the appointment of the former chief cabinet secretary -- the chief operations officer, official face and tenacious defender of the previous "failed" administration -- to a high position in this supposedly new administration?

Second, the appointment of Edano violates Noda's avowed policy of inclusiveness. Hachiro was the cabinet representative of the former Socialist Party members of the Democratic Party of Japan (whether Noda promised the former Socialists he would appoint one of their members to lead a major ministry in advance of the leadership election is…something to think about). It flies in the face of reason that Noda should pick, with the same preposterous speed at which he chose the members of his cabinet, a replacement without connections to the former Socialists.

Third, Noda already had a replacement for Hachiro in his cabinet, waiting only for the nod to step into the open slot. That would be Renho, whom Noda had royally stiffed at the time of the parceling out of cabinet posts. She had worked hard for his election, becoming the public face of his support in the Diet. However, when it came time to hand out ministerial posts, he not only gave her a post that is not only sidetracked -- State Minister for Government Revitalization at a time when the government's stated policy stance is treating bureaucrats with greater sympathy and respect -- but is the same darned post she had under the Kan Administration. What a way to say, "Thank you!"

[That Renho was pissed off at Noda for being given the Government Revitalization posting was self-evident to anyone who saw the video of her storming into the Prime Minister's Residence on the day of the announcement of the cabinet selections.]

As the scourge of bureaucrats and their pet programs Renho would have been the perfect whip for a ministry that needs a proper disciplining. Instead METI will be led by a person without a fixed sense of what role he should be playing -- whether he should be the ministry's manager, reformer or defender.

So instead of solving the Hachiro problem, Noda has compounded it. Now he will have to defend not only his first choice for METI minister, but his second one as well.

1 comment:

Johntaro said...

I admittedly don’t really have any grasp of politics, Japanese or otherwise, but it seems like this momentary lapse of reason comes on top of a lapse of memory. First, I can’t imagine how hard those words, “dead cities,” must have fallen on the ears of those who used to call what we now know as the exclusion zone home. Yet, I also can’t help but wonder if much of the “public outrage” wasn’t just manufactured in some political machine. After all I don’t remember hearing a single objection when this past May, then Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Ritsuo Hosokawa used the exact same expression, “dead cities,” to describe an evacuated residential area near the leaking TEPCO nuclear power plant. I think he was even publicly lauded by at least one diet member for his straight talk about a catastrophe that has reduced so many Fukushima towns to ghosts of their former selves. In fact over the last six months more than half a dozen politicians have used those very same words in some public forum without any popular outcry. Given that past lack of public fury, I wonder if the Noda administration couldn't have done more to douse the flames of controversy now. It seems like it just lacked the will to save him. Following on the heels of Hachiro’s announcement to create more of a balance in a key ministry committee by adding more nuclear power opponents, I can’t help but feel the administration’s lack of will stems from Hachiro’s willingness to lend a more sympathetic ear to the nation’s anti-nuclear voices.