Monday, April 21, 2008

At Least He Didn’t Blow Us off Like Mr. Rudd. But No Lee Myung-bak Bump, or for That Matter…

The new South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak visits Prime Minister Fukuda on his way to meet President Bush. My favorite quote from this AP report:

Fukuda thanked Lee for choosing Japan as one of the two destinations of his first presidential trip abroad.

"That shows President Lee's policy to prioritize his country's relations with Japan," Fukuda said.

I’m giving a qualified yes to his sentiments. But, when you have to be thankful that your next-door head of state who was born in your apartment and still lives next door drops by on his way to his first real outing, you are in trouble. Mr. Fukuda’s gracefulness still has not completely lost its uses in his current job, but, untempered by any show of the iron fist in the glove, is now mostly raising his wimp quotient. It’s hard to see Mr. Fukuda gaining a diplomacy bump from visiting President Putin during Golden Week, welcoming Chinese President Hu Jintao to Tokyo next month, or hosting the Hokkaidō Summit in July. Japan is not going to get the Siberian oil pipeline spur any time soon, China is not going to budge on the East China Sea gas fields, and the real world ikmpact, if any, from the talks in and around the G-8 on global warming will be minimal. North Korea doesn’t look like a winner for him either. And we still don’t know the extent of the global fallout from the financial difficulties touched off by the collapse of the subprime loans market.

Things do not look too bright for the beleaguered Prime Minister. But there’s a silver lining for Mr. Fukuda. Ichirō Ozawa, the DPJ leader, is even less popular, with a 28% positive rating to Mr. Fukuda’s 32%. And mind you, that is coming from an Asahi telephone poll. ...Oh, a telephone poll... The DPJ has gained in support, up to 22% from 20% in the last poll, but still trails the LDP, at 26%, down from 31%. (Coalition at 28%, down from 34”) But None of the Above consolidated its formidable lead, at 41%, up from 39%.*

There’s clearly a huge overhang of the undecided that injects an enormous measure of uncertainty into the next House of Representatives election. It’s like tinderbox, waiting for something not necessarily policy-specific to touch it off. It is no wonder, then, that there is talk within the LDP and DPJ, as well as the ever-eager media, of abdication, and regicide, before the next House of Representatives election. I don’t yet have a firm take on it. Let me sleep on it.

* All this talk ignores the fact that most of these figures come within the margin of error. So don’t take it too-too seriously. Still…

Off topic: I’ve seen this guy on the New York subway. Have you?

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