Speaking of Hakuo Yanagisawa, the Health and Labor Minister, his gaffe is, policy-wise, far less serious than the Defense Minister's misstatements on the US bases in Okinawa and, of perhaps less import, expression of his opposition to the war on Iraq. After all, Mr. Yanagisawa's inopportune words will not affect what the Abe administration will or won't try to do on the demographic issues, whereas Mr. Kyuma has given resisters in Okinawa ammunition to further complicate the relocation of the bases, as well as cast doubt in the minds of the Bush administration about the seriousness of Japan's commitment on security issues.
But Mr. Yanagisawa managed to enrage half the eligible voters in the July Upper House elections, and seriously embarrassed the other half. Mr. Kyuma's thoughts also happen to reflect popular sentiment here, and the opposition parties have no quarrel there either.
As of this day, Mr. Yanagisawa is hanging on only because the Abe administration believes, with some justification, that it cannot jettison yet another cabinet member without possibly fatally depleting its rapidly dwindling political capital. The LDP itself seems to be divided, with the Upper House, half of them facing elections, demanding his head, while the Lower House is sitting on its hands.
This is a true dilemma for the Prime Minister Abe. Barring a clear victory for the LDP in the July election, it is now hard to see his legacy being anything other than one of a short-lived, not-ready-for-primetime administration.
This, according to the Jan. 31 Yomiuri, is what Mr. Yanagisawa said in Matsuyama, on the 27th:
"According to the science of demographics, in the case of women, the 15-50 age group (blog note: In Japan, a female cannot marry until she is 16, and the age of consent is 18. So, Mr. Yanagisawa, in speaking of a 15-50 age group, strictly speaking, is advocating something illegal.) are the people who will have babies(blog note: Mr. Yanagisawa uses a somewhat awkward honorific locution for "will have babies"). When you consider the people who will be 30 in 2030, they are 7, 8 years old now. They are already born. I shouldn't be using the term child-bearing machines, but the number of such devices is already determined. (blog note: One is left wondering what will have happened to the 15 (16? 18?)-30 year old crowd?) I'm truly sorry for saying machines. I apologize for saying machines. So these people, to whom the child-bearing role belongs, will have to exert themselves of us per head [by bearing a given number of children each]."
This is even worse than John Kerry's botched joke, where he managed to sleepwalk through the opening lines, looked at his cheat card, then flubbed the punch line. At least Mr. Kerry inadvertently told a larger, if partial, truth about war.