Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Q&A on DPM Aso’s Gaffe

…did it free of charge, so I might as well blog it…

“ come no one in the Diet or the media seems to have taken on Aso for what seems like a big gaffe to me...”

Beats me. It's not just the media. Michael Cucek, who usually jumps all over Aso on something like this, merely links to my blog on the subject. Have we become so jaded about Aso's chronic foot-in-mouthia gravis?

I see a few  plausible explanations, conjectures if you will. First, Aso is popular with the press as an accessible, quotable straight-shooter (although he's prone to pointing his gun the wrong way), like Junichiro Koizumi and the opposite of someone like Ichiro Ozawa. Reporters are human, too; Muskie is a jerk so he's a crybaby (this was when men were men and weren't allowed to be "sensitive"), Gore is a stiff so  he "invented" the internet. Same thing happens with Ozawa. Aso is getting the Koizumi (JFK?) treatment.

Second, the opposition is not ready to fight so it's not being quotable. With no one to quote, the reporting fizzles out. Specifically, the DPJ appears to have made a more general decision that it will act responsibly, to fight the fight on substance and not try to trip up cabinet members for isolated incident of verbal gaffes. The JRP and the LDP are feeling each other out, while Hashimoto had an ongoing mini-crisis in Osaka. Yoshimi Watanabe at the Your Party is usually good for a quote, but  YP is a small-government, neoliberal group and is most likely sympathetic to finding ways to minimize late-term safety net costs, barring the way to indignant "how dare he disrespect the elderly" kind of quotes. And 
the Social Democrats are no longer relevant and the Communists are a media allergen historically, to be taken only conjointly with other political parties. (Perhaps Asahi has never forgiven them for splitting the progressive vote under the original 1955 regime.)

Third, the dominant political narrative colors reporting of individual events. The Abe administration comes in, scoring major points on his economic policy and continues to rack up victories against the BOJ. This helps mask individual misdeeds by members in his fold. Think, role players thriving on the San Antonio Spurs.

Fourth, the public has become immunized against Aso. He is what he is, and he keeps coming back, and we've gotten used to that. Familiarity breeds contentment, or at least tolerance.

I repeat, these are all post-facto conjectures, only somewhat more probable than right-wing conspiracy theories.

I changed one word after I rethought the utility of my conjectures.

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