Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mr. Sasagawa’s Did He Really Say That Moment

According to LDP By-Laws, “The General Council deliberates and decides all important matters concerning the management and Diet activities of the [LDP].” As powerful as its mandate looks on paper, though, in fact the General Council is sen as something of a rubber-stamp institution. Thus, its Chairman is considered the least powerful of the Big Three (the other two being the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Policy Research Council), and LDP Presidents/Prime Ministers (usually) have at times used the appointment to reward hardworking if not quite stellar denizens of the party sub-leadership. In fact, when Yasuo Fukuda tried to put faction leader Makoto Koga there, Mr. Koga thought so little of the post that he refused to take it and instead requested and got the Head of the Election Strategy Headquarters, elevating it to Big Four status in the process. In August, then Prime Minister Fukuda elevated Takashi Sasagawa to the GC Chairmanship, likely as a sop to the Tsushima faction. Prime Minister Aso decided to keep him on.

Mr. Sasagawa seems to be just the kind of inoffensive, long-serving chap that you want for the GC Chair. A septuagenarian like Mr. Fukuda, he is something of a social progressive; he favors allowing both spouses to keep their pre-marriage surnames and generally supports legislation upholding women's rights. He also thinks teenagers should be allowed to ride motorcycles. He also favors normalization of relations with North Korea, a dead giveaway of a liberal outlook on foreign policy. His permissiveness extends to grown-up men, where he was instrumental in bringing back 11 penitent Post Office privatization rebels back into the LDP fold. (Note that 10 of the 11 Lower House members were men.) So all this meant that the following thought of his on the collapse of the financial bailout bill in the U.S. Congress came as a great surprise to this blog:
”The House Speaker is a woman. I think it’s a little different than a man, her leadership. That’s why it fell apart.”
In his defense, he does not spare himself, for the richest member of the Diet—we know that because disclosure rules allow us to satisfy our curiosity—went on to say:
”We should make it tax-free when young people buy stocks. It is not appropriate to make it tax-free in the case of old people who have money.”
It’s been an eventful day for me already, and I have many more things to think over, find workarounds, etc. before I can go to what I believe to be my just, heavenly, reward—dinner with an American friend that I haven’t seen for years and her colleague. In the meantime, in this the most cloudy of days, I shall enjoy the little ray of sunshine that Mr. Sasagawa has interjected. Thank you, Mr. Sasagawa.


Janne Morén said...

Hard to believe I'm defending this, but:

He's in his 70's with a conservative outlook who has spent his life in a society where gender equality became an issue relatively late. It is quite likely that not only did he not mean any disrespect by his comment, but that he was never even aware of it being in some way connected to the issue.

We have to take people's views in context; we regularly do so in history (even great humanitarians and progressive champions saw nothing wrong with the view of Africans as intellectually inferior to Europeans) but to some degree we do need to do so in situations like this as well.

When Yanagisawa referred to women as "birth-giving machines" I think the greater outrage really was his view of Japanese citizens in general - mindless cogs in the service of the state - than with the gender-related insult.

Jun said...

You have a point there, Janne. We should consider every view within its context (we do not always all agree on the proper context, hence history issues), and the media has for the most part content to leave the guy alone; there’s so much going on here and elsewhere that the media must be going into collective information overload. (It also helps that Mrs. Pelosi is not a Japanese politician.) It’s always a balance between the words and the context in its broadest sense.

Having said that, I cannot help but note that Mr. Sasagawa is a public figure, a long-time Diet member who has represented his constituency into the 21st Century. Thus, he is expected to conform to contemporary mores or suffer the consequences. Paid handsomely, Mr. Sasagawa is also expected to understand something about what is going on in the legislative body of Japan’s greatest ally on one of the most momentous events in recent years with global repercussions. I assume, as most people likely do, that the septuagenarian LDP leader was implying that Mrs. Pelosi, did not, to use an indelicate term, “have the balls” to herd the cats as it were. Now, Mrs. Pelosi has been blamed by Republicans for scuttling the deal on Monday. But it was not for lack of cojones. In fact, I had originally written some lines to the effect: Mr. Sasagawa may think that the deal failed for lack of “manly” leadership on the part of Mrs. Pelosi. But from what I’ve heard of Mrs. Pelosi, if anything she did hurt the deal,, it couldn’t have been because she needed a pair IYKWIAS. But I deleted them when I put the post online.

Anyway, no harm, no foul. The House Speaker has more important things to worry about than the speculations regarding her leadership qualities by the holder of a largely ceremonial LDP post.

Jun Okumura said...

Oops, I did it again. Side effect of my experimentation with the Chrome beta browser.