Saturday, September 05, 2009

Ozawa, for Better or Worse and Other Hatoyama Thoughts

The political world continues to revolve around Ichiro Ozawa as he is tapped by Yukio Hatoyama to take over the DPJ Secretary-General post. Several things indicate that Ozawa is not going to make it easy for anybody, including the Prime Minister in-waiting:
1) Hatoyama had planned to hit the ground running by pick the head of the National Strategy Bureau, the Finance and Foreign Ministers, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary as soon as the election was over, but quickly gave up the idea when allies SDP and PNP objected for fear of being marginalized in the policy formation process. Now, he has settled on a Chief Cabinet Secretary—close associate and reputed troubleshooter Hirofumi Hirano—as well a new Secretary-General, both decisions precipitated at the instigation of the Ozawa crowd if media reports are to be believed.

2) This slap in the face to incumbent Secretary-General Katsuya Okada undermines his authority just when he needs all the support that he can get from the party leadership in the ongoing negotiations with his SDP and PNP counterparts for a policy agreement as the prerequisite to a coalition government. From their point of view, why bother negotiation with a lame duck when the real power has shifted elsewhere—assuming that it had ever been otherwise?

3) Ozawa already held sway over much of the Diet rank-and-file through his domination of the election process from choosing and grooming candidates to managing their campaigns. As Secretary-General, he will hold the keys to the burgeoning party coffers—the DPJ’s government subsidy alone leaps from 11.832 billion yen (2009) to 17.32 billion yen (2010) while the LDP drops from 15.733 billion to 10.467 billion. Registers—as well as handle appointments to party positions. For most practical purposes, it’s his party now.

4) According to the Yomiuri,, on August 3, Ozawa arrived at party headquarters around 10:30PM to meet Hatoyama. He went into the party President’s room with a frown and came out with a smile because he had received a request—accepted—from Hatoyama to be the Secretary-General. As he is leaving the room, in full view of the press, he says to Hatoyama, “I was having dinner; so, I’m sorry I was late.” It may be nothing more than just another gauche moment for Ozawa; if this were a movie, it would be a classic “I made you, I can break you” putdown.
The Hatoyama-Ozawa storyline is a godsend for the post-election media, and Ozawa is not exactly starving the beast. Other incidents such as Hatoyama’s flip-flop over the impromptu, burasagari-clinger interviews, where the interviewee talks to the reporters in the corridors, in transit and his notorious ”anti-globalism screed*, not to mention the looming political financing prosecution of his ex-aide, suggest that Prime Minister Hatoyama, like his most recent predecessors, will be generating his due share of distractions.

* I am aware that there is a much longer text on his website, and that the condensed version distorts his views. Indeed, the original is prefaced by a lengthy explanation of the democratic impulses that gave rise to the concept yūai. However, I’m not sure that explaining yūai as a response to “totalitarianism, which tried to achieve equality at all costs, and capitalism, which had fallen into self-indulgence m which according to his people,” then depicting Japan as a nation “caught between the United States, which is fighting to retain its position as the world's dominant power, and China which is seeking ways to become one” is not overly impolitic. Note also that the original text repeatedly calls the United States a hegemon (覇権国家) and China as a nation seeking to become one. That is not the language of fraternité.


matt at said...

A lot of fascinating thinkers came from Austria during the early part of the 20th century. Two of my favorites Karl Popper and F.A. Hayek are from Austria at that time. Freud, of course, is from Austria. The famous philosopher, Wittgenstein ... many others. Given all this, and that Count Richard N. Coudenhove-Kalergi was not only from this environment but relevant to Japan, I wanted to read his book, _The Totalitarian State Against Man_. So I did. (I read the English edition.)

It does not methodically enumerate any clear or specific doctrines I think, but deals in big ideas. At times his ideas are almost so big that they unintentionally tend towards the vacuous. Sometimes I was left thinking, "what's he talking about?" Nevertheless, he was a very astute thinker, and a lot of what he says is downright prescient. He was clearly an Anglophile. It's not a bad book at all, and I enjoyed reading it. He notes Germany's National Socialism is *not* fascism as it's racially based. I've known this but his explanation is quite well done. He also notes fascism and nazi-ism were at least to some extent a reaction to fears of Russian style communism ... lots of neat political observations abound.

I feel fairly certain the Count would have seen through Hatoyama in about 5 seconds. At least I hope so.

Jun Okumura said...

Matt: If more journalists had half your drive to always go to the source—heck, I wish I did—instead of relying on conventional wisdom, anecdotes and a interview or two to cobble their reports together, the public would be better informed. After all, they’re getting paid to do it.

The slapdown of Hatoyama’s article in the Western media was near-unanimous, so I don’t think that he will be seeing revisiting the yūai scene any time soon. Beyond his essay, though, it’s important to keep in mind that, more broadly, blaming the U.S. for the financial and economic crisis and seeing Japan as a middle power trapped between two titans resonate through a wide ideological swathe of the Japanese public. They are not uniquely Japanese formulations; it’s the tightness of the bilateral relationship that gives them a peculiar piquancy that I do not understand well enough to explain less rhetorically.