Confucius say: The Emperor’s words Are Like Sweat. An emperor’s words are by definition faultless; like sweat, once they leave the body of the emperor, they cannot be taken back, Pokari Sweat nothwithstanding. A few centuries later, a lesser figure during the Western Han Dynasty gave posterity yet another popular phrase: Order in the morning, amend in the evening. They both warn against the damage effects of the kind of waffling that Prime Minister Aso has done over the 2 trillion yen giveaway. The very same day that his deputy told the coalition worthies assembled around the Prime Minister that the rich could accept the 12,000 yen gifts in good conscience, indeed, it was their duty to do so, which thought prompted me to give Mr. Hosoda some spending tips, the Prime Minister had yet another change of heart and decided that it was okay after all (though he still isn’t telling up whether he’ll actually take the money himself). In fact, I suspect that Mr. Hosoda’s statement had been set up precisely with the objective of easing the way for the Prime Minister to back off his earlier stance.
This is the latest and most prominent example of the Mr. Aso’s unbearably light way with words, beginning in his administration with his dithering over the timing of the Lower House election. Indeed, the agonizing twists and turns that the giveaway has taken only shows us why it took long for him to arrive, only after the LDP had exhausted its other options. Yet, even as the Aso administration flounders, there is no one around for the other members of the ruling coalition to turn to, let alone able or willing to step up him/herself.
It is the little things as much as the story arc behind them—the waffling, in this case, as much as the 2 trillion—that has been so damaging to the Aso administration and the LDP. If the LDP has any hopes of coming out ahead in the next Lower House election, it will do its best to be decisive, to be firm and unwavering. With little to lose, I expect it to try just that; it will dig itself into the trenches, less outreach towards the opposition, more confrontational tactics.
Kazumori Ooshima, the veteran LDP Lower House whip, made it known today that the coalition would force the second supplementary budget and associated legislation through the Lower House on Friday. The coalition has opened fire. Or so I think. But even if my assessment of the LDP battle plans is correct, can the Prime Minister lead the charge? Stay tuned.