Who’s sorry now?
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 5, 2011
HAS THERE ever been a sorrier crew to steer the ship of state than the Kan Cabinet? Besides the Hatoyama Cabinet, I mean.
Democratic Party Secretary-General Okada Katsuya has now been reduced to apologizing to the opposition for the behavior of Prime Minister Kan Naoto. Mr. Okada understands that’s a thankless task. He’s already said in public that Mr. Kan is “the most difficult man” he’s ever worked with.
He met yesterday with Ishihara Nobuteru and Inoue Yoshihisa, his counterparts in the LDP and New Komeito, and the Diet Affairs chairmen of all three parties. He told them he was sorry that the prime minister picked Hamada Kazuyuki, an obscure LDP upper house member, to serve as the internal affairs parliamentary secretary in charge of reconstruction. We’ve seen this several times before: It’s the sort of move Mr. Kan thinks is clever, but exasperates everyone else, including his own party.
Mr. Okada asked for their cooperation to resume normal debate in the Diet:
“It is regrettable that (this appointment) severely impaired the relationship of trust. I apologize from my heart.”
Specifically, he hopes to win their cooperation for passing the three bills Kan Naoto cites as his condition for resigning. Could it be that the prime minister has devised a new strategy for dealing with the legislature? Behave so obnoxiously the opposition will give you what you want just to be rid of you.
Speaking of the sorry and the obnoxious, Matsumoto Ryu, the recently appointed minister in charge of rebuilding the Tohoku region, visited the governors of Iwate and Miyagi on Sunday. In a post that same day, I described him as follows:
“…Matsumoto Ryu, a limousine leftist who has never demonstrated the ability to manage a shaved ice stand, much less a national effort that will require the coordination of several Cabinet ministries and the cooperation of the opposition.”
How’s that for cautious understatement? Mr. Matsumoto was unable to get off on the good foot with the governors because he stuck both of them in his mouth. At the same time. As far as they would go.
All that shoe leather must have made enunciation difficult, but everyone understood what he said to Iwate Gov. Tasso Takuya:
“Temporary housing is your job, and we will conceptualize the sort-of permanent housing to follow, so this will be a battle of wits. What sort of wisdom can you provide? We’ll help those who offer their wisdom, but we won’t help the ones who don’t offer any at all. That’s the sort of emotion you should have. That’s why I’m saying to you, don’t tell us you want this and that. Give us your wisdom.”
Nothing like that old “We’re all in this together” spirit to engender a sense of shared sacrifice and effort to recover from a national disaster, is there?
Mr. Matsumoto is also quite the charmer:
“I’m from Kyushu, so I don’t know what Tohoku city is in which prefecture.”
If someone were of a mind to make excuses for the DPJ, he might suggest that Mr. Matsumoto intended to tell a joke at his own expense to make the inakappei feel at ease in the presence of one of the Big Enchiladas from the national government. That would have to be someone from overseas making the excuses, however. Most of the Japanese have stopped trying.
You’ve heard of people with a tin ear? This guy’s got a tin tongue.
During his eventful Sunday, Mr. Matsumoto also called on Miyagi Gov. Murai Yoshihiro. Scenes of the meeting were broadcast on local television. The ratings must have been stunning. Here’s how the newscaster explained the footage to the viewers:
“You could sense a change in (Matsumoto’s) mood when Gov. Murai did not (immediately) come out to meet him. The governor emerged a few minutes later with a smile on his face, and offered to shake hands, but (Matsumoto) refused. There was tension in the room.”
Of course there was tension. Mr. Murai from the sticks made The Very Important Man From Tokyo wait for a few minutes. Before they started discussing other matters — such as the Tohoku cleanup — Mr. Matsumoto felt compelled to deliver a lecture on behavior:
“When a guest visits, you should call for them after you’re in the room. You were in the Self-Defense Forces, so you should already know this. Behave properly without being told. (To the media) This part is off the record. It will be the end for any company that prints this.” (書いた社はこれで終わりだから)
By the end, he presumably meant the end of access to him. At least I hope that’s what he meant.
His discussion of policy was just as enlightening and entertaining in Miyagi as it was in Iwate:
“You can take advantage of our kindness to the extent that it’s acceptable. We’ll be dumping off on you anything we can.”
On the idea in Miyagi to consolidate coastal fishing ports:
“Properly consolidate your ideas in the prefecture. If you don’t, we won’t do anything.”
After the meeting, he explained to the media the reason for his lesson in etiquette to the governor:
“After I was called and entered, he didn’t arrive for three or four minutes. In Kyushu, when a guest arrives, the host is already there. Whether it’s a matter of discourtesy (or not), one should have a clear understanding that the younger should give preference to the elder.”
The hicks in Miyagi weren’t impressed. The next day, the party caucuses in the Miyagi prefectural assembly held a conference. Shortly thereafter, the assembly passed a resolution formally complaining to the government about the minister’s behavior:
“Those statements applied a great deal of pressure, and he lacks the awareness (required of) someone in his position.”
They also reminded the government that they were not in a master-subordinate relationship with them.
But the minister didn’t understand what the fuss was about. He was asked at a news conference yesterday if he thought his behavior was a problem:
“I don’t think it was a problem. Look at the entire conversation from the time I sat down until the time it was over.”
At the same meeting during which Okada Katsuya apologized to the opposition for Mr. Kan’s Cabinet appointment (no, that was a different guy, remember), the opposition told Mr. Okada that they found Mr. Matsumoto’s behavior unacceptable. The DPJ secretary-general replied:
“I will caution Mr. Matsumoto, and also inform Prime Minister Kan.”
The media also asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio what he thought. He didn’t want any part of an answer:
“Mr. Matsumoto is working with a strong sense of responsibility and mission. It is not for me to confirm what he really meant.”
In other words, ask his boss, and that ain’t me.
They finally did ask his boss, of course, and that was the sorriest part of the entire episode. One reporter brought up the subject of Mr. Matsumoto with the prime minister at a news conference. Mr. Kan ignored the question.
This morning Matsumoto Ryu resigned after nine days on the job. It wasn’t because he realized he had done anything wrong, mind you. He merely said that his comments might cause difficulties in Diet negotiations.
When the Diet agreed to extend their session by 70 instead of 50 days, Mr. Kan excitedly told his aides that anything could happen in that time.
He was right.
Gov. Murai tried to be graceful about part of the situation. He said he thought the “off-record” comment was a joke. It might have been, but not in the sense that Mr. Murai meant it.
Jean Knight still understands BS when she sees it: