"Jack, nothing tricky now. You know I'm on top of you! DO NOT attempt to grow a brain!"
After what Minister for National Policy Maehara Seiji said to reporters today, I can imagine the normally imperturbable prime minister Noda Yoshihiko screaming into a phone to Maehara:
"At what point, since you graduated from pre-school, did you think you had GROWN A BRAIN?"
Maehara is, like the prime minister, a graduate of the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management. He should ostensibly be of somewhat better than average intelligence and education.
Nevertheless he manages to get into scrapes that leave one wondering, "What was he thinking?" -- which one then immediately repunctuates, "What? Was he thinking?" or even "What? Was he...thinking?"
Prime Minister and Democratic Party of Japan leader Noda Yoshihiko was coming off a very successful Friday meeting with Liberal Democratic Party President Abe Shinzo and New Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo -- successful in that despite the warnings put to DPJ Secretary-General Koshi'ishi Azuma throughout the week by his counterparts in the LDP and New Komeito that if Noda did not offer a date for a House of Representatives election in line with the promise the PM made to former LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu to have an election "soon" (chikai uchi ni) the Friday meeting would be pointless -- the PM, when pressed by Abe and Yamaguchi, told them, "Sorry, can't say when the election will be."
Asked about his promise to Tanigaki, Noda explained, "I have been focusing on taking responsibility for the weight of the words 'Putting matters to the voters soon.' However, for me to make that decision requires preparations of the environment in various ways. I have no intention to extend the life of this administration through dilly-dallying." (Link - J)
That dilly-dallying, stalling, procrastinating, whatever you many want to call it is exactly what the prime minister and the DPJ have been doing (Link) and want to continue doing is, of course, the whole point.
Abe and Yamaguchi stormed out of the meeting, furious at the PM for having the gall to desire a forestalling his own and his party's execution at the hands of the voters...
[A bit of anachronism, but this weekend's polls, partly due to the deeply embarrassing Tanaka Keishu Affair, have been an across-the-board disaster for the Cabinet and the DPJ. The Asahi Shinmbun poll shows Cabinet support diving to 18% and the LDP slaughtering the DPJ in the "Which party will you vote for in the party list half of the ballot?" question (Link - J)]
Harrumphed Abe and Yamaguchi, "We heard nothing from the PM about 'soon'!"
To which any jaded political observer would say, "Yes. Your point being...?"
All of the prime minister's carefully choreographed insouciance as regards the personal appeals of the leaders LDP and the New Komeito is in tatters, however, after Maehara's truly bizarre swerving off of the script on Sunday. In a discussion of the semantics of "soon" on a morning talking show, then an even clumsier attempt to make up for the earlier blunder by attempting to polish the prime minister's reputation, he detonated a landmine under the PM and the DPJ.
On Fuji Television's morning talk show, Maehara said, regarding the concept "soon":
"If I am to relate my own feelings, if the Diet is dissolved after the beginning of the New Year, that is not 'soon.'"
Ay Caramba, you maniac! Have you looked at calendar recently? Do you know what the date is today? Are you aware that under the election laws there have to be 12 days between the presentation of the list of the names of the candidates and the holding of an election? Have you forgotten also that the current electoral district boundaries are unconstitutional and that no real DPJ plan to rectify the unconstitutionality has yet seen the light of day? And that the DIET IS NOT IN SESSION YET?
But did Maehara stop there? No, he had to dig deeper. Way, way deeper.
Speaking to a reporters' gaggle after his startling Fuji Television performance, he said:
"One cannot say that having a dissolution of the Diet after New Years is 'soon' -right? I for one believe that the prime minister is the kind of person who keeps the faith taking responsibility for his own words."
(Link - J)
Hold it right there. Let me see if I have this straight. If there is no dissolution of the Diet by the end of the year, the prime minister, in your opinion, Mr. Maehara, is not "the kind of person who keeps the faith taking responsibility for his own words"?
Holy moly, one would hardly have thought it possible when this weekend began, but Maehara may be out of the Cabinet earlier than Tanaka Keishu.
In one of the most delicious of ironies, if one plugs Maehara's phrase for "keeps the faith" (shingi o mamoru) into Eijiro, the best regarded of the free online dictionaries, out pops the following quote from Chapter XVIII of Machiavelli's The Prince:
"Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer."
Read your damn Machiavelli, Maehara-san, whether or not you are still around a few hours from now. If you are not, then you will have plenty of free time to study of this the most basic text on political survival.
Keep the faith,