Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ancient Culture, Short Memory

Now that Shinzo Abe has resigned as Prime Minister of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has to choose a new leader; and, because this party still controls the lower house of the Diet (but not the upper house), the party leader will de facto become the new Prime Minister. Under the headline of Abe being admitted to hospital to be "treated for a stomach complaint probably caused by extreme exhaustion and stress," the BBC has begun to survey the field of possible successors. The only declared candidate thus far is Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga; but the odds-on favorite seems to be the Party Secretary General, Taro Aso. This name may be familiar to those who closely follow the Chutzpah of the Week award. Mr. Aso beat out President Bush for an award last March for some remarks he made to the media that were nothing short of spectacular. Let me repeat the Reuters excerpt I quoted when Mr. Aso received his award:

Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can't be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their "yellow faces", Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.

"Japan is doing what Americans can't do," the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.

"Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it's probably no good," he said.

"Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces."

For those tracking the calendar, yes, Mr. Aso was, indeed, Mr. Abe's Foreign Minister; and this turned out to be one of the many episodes that made the Abe administration seem like a comedy of errors.

The new leader of the LDP will not be chosen until September 23; so, for now at least, the China Institute of City Competitiveness still has a firm hold on this week's award. One has to wonder, however, just how short memories are within the LDP leadership or how short they take the memories of the Japanese people to be. Perhaps the LDP is counting on that youth culture that no longer understands the significance of August 6, 1945; but that is still a solemn day in Hiroshima. Still, there is a lot of time for deliberation between now and September 23; so there is still hope that the LDP will manage not to follow one blunder with an even bigger blunder.

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