Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why One Can Admire This Man

Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has finished his two-day visit to Okinawa. He paid the obligatory visit to the Himeyuri Monument and also the War Dead memorial. He, however, had a private, informal dinner with the governor at the governor's residence, the sort of respectful yet warm and egalitarian gesture that escaped the grasp of his predecessors. In the formal meeting at the prefectural government offices the next day, the PM apologized profusely for the conduct of various officials and his party, putting the governor in the position of the superior. The governor reciprocated as good manners demanded, by saying a magnanimous, "No, no, no need to apologize."

It is both encouraging and sad to see Prime Minister Noda trying to make amends for the supercilious attitudes of his many predecessors. He had a tough message to transmit: that the move of Marine Corps elements from Futenma Airbase to a new base to be built at Henoko was the only possible solution to the danger posed by Futenma's continued operation. It is a deeply unpopular message, even on the mainland -- the Mainichi Shimbun (J) and Asazuba! newscast this morning castigating the PM for calling the move to Henoko the only effective solution (Henoko isetsu ga yu'itsu, koka na hoho). However, he delivered the message with such humility and reason that in a less enervated time, he might have pulled the Henoko rabbit out of his hat. As the atmosphere on the island is irrevocably poisoned -- that the PM must abnegate himself for a plan that the rival Liberal Democratic Party agreed to but never carried out -- is deflating.

Noda perseveres, putting his shoulder to wheel on issues like pension reform, raising of the consumption tax, closing down Futenma and building the Henoko Replacement Facility, watching his public popularity plummet despite his bringing responsibility and dignity to the office in which serves. That many of his efforts look Sysiphian, or destined to collapse into failure -- especially now that the near certain exoneration of Ozawa Ichiro and the now undeniable unconstitutionality of dissolving the Diet exposes him to a revolt from within this spring, elicits a sigh of pained resignation. Were it that Noda or his like in charge of the country a decade ago, these these many gestures, courtesies and displays of spine would have made a huge difference.

Now...so much is exhausted, broken and hobbled with cynicism.

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