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    DPJ casts its lot with Maehara

    The Democratic Party of Japan has selected its new top four post-Okada leaders:

    The DPJ’s leader Seiji Maehara decided on 18 September to tap Yukio Hatoyama as Secretary General, Takeaki Matsumoto as chair of the Policy Research Committee, and Yoshihiko Noda as chair of the Diet Affairs Committee. He gathered his new top three men in the evening, planning to confer about responses to the special Diet session called for 21 September.

    Maehara is interesting. It appears that he may do the Clinton-in-1992 thing:

    Seiji Maehara, a young conservative, began reshaping the main opposition bloc on Sunday by appointing new officers and outlining plans for a stronger military and smaller spending in a vision that drew comparisons to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “third-way” government.

    Maehara, a 43-year-old defense expert who wants a more assertive role for Japan’s military overseas, was narrowly elected a day earlier to head the DPJ, edging aside staid party veteran and co-founder Naoto Kan.

    The new leader said Sunday he would re-examine his party’s close ties to labor unions, trim wasteful tax spending and push to amend Japan’s Constitution so the country’s Self Defense Forces would have greater freedom to fight overseas and support its allies. Maehara also wants spending cuts balanced by strong funding for education and other social welfare programs.

    Maehara is strong on defense and says Japan’s Constitution must clearly give the SDF the right to fight back if attacked and include a new article stipulating its role in aiding allies.

    Of course, Clinton wasn’t a defense expert. What I’m referring to is more the idea that Maehara is adopting some positions usually associated with those to his party’s right while sweetening them with talk about spending on social programs dear to those on his left. Maehara’s website has linked, among his writings, this magazine article from November 2001 about Japan’s close defense ties with the US, against the backdrop of 9/11. It’s lengthy, but one thing that stands out is that Maehara doesn’t–or didn’t then–see the Japan-US alliance as arising naturally from our similar societies as Koizumi does:

    [T]he value of offering visible aid, recognized by the American people, when our ally the US is suffering, does not stop at the psychological; rather, it is also necessary from the viewpoint of risk management regarding the allegiance itself.

    It is fine, I believe, for there to be thinking to the effect that we may want to dissolve our relationship as allies, when we take the long-term view. However, at this moment in time, for our allegiance with the US to change character suddenly would most assuredly not work in Japan’s national interest.

    That seems fair enough. Of course, maybe I’m biased in Maehara’s favor because–can I have failed to mention this?–the dude is hot. (He looks better talking than he does in the posed picture on his homepage, but the photo gives you the general idea.) In objective terms, he’s probably not too seriously dreamy, but given the milieu in which he operates, he is very easy on the eyes. The rule seems to be that you’re not allowed to be a middle-aged Japanese politician until you’ve survived a near-fatal whupping with the ugly stick. Right after the election, Gaijin Biker was all crowing about how the LDP had hot women and its opponents were guys who needed paper bags over their heads. Understandably, being hetero, he doesn’t seem to have noticed that all the guys on the LDP side were no better.

    Yes, I can shift in a paragraph from talking about the Japan-US defense partnership to making lustful comments about men. It’s a talent. If you’d like to see me do it in a single clause, I’m sure I can arrange that, too.

    Anyway, politics, blah, blah…Japundit thought, before the DPJ vote, that Maehara looks as if he needs more seasoning before he’s ready to be a serious competitor for Prime Minister:

    Maehara appears at first glance as if he will become a viable leader—in five or 10 years. He is obviously intelligent and talented, but still lacks the gravitas people expect from a prime minister. I got the impression that his candidacy was not for this particular election, but for the next one down the road. With his party in desperate straits, however, he might wind up getting chosen prematurely. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to go on the political version of life support.

    Reasonable enough. On the other hand, we’re all just guessing. Politics in this media age frequently thrusts people into situations that turn out to be trial by fire. We may find out relatively quickly whether Maehara can make his combination of hawkishness, support for increased social welfare spending, talk about small government, and near-unprecedented level of cuteness potentially media-friendly image connect with Japanese voters.

    One Response to “DPJ casts its lot with Maehara”

    1. The Asianist says:

      The Japanese Tony Blair

      As I wrote earlier (and as everyone now knows), Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) trounced the opposition, Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), in the last election.
      The DPJ had two choices in electing a new leader. In the end, it chose a B…

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