In soccer, "supersub" refers to a substitute player who can act as an ace in the hole. They are thrown on in the middle of a game in the hope that they will score and turn the tide.
If a "supersub" were immediately to get a red card, the manager would turn pale and the fans would groan. After only nine days in office, Reconstruction minister Ryu Matsumoto, whose appointment was pivotal for the Kan Cabinet, quit.
The reconstruction minister is responsible for the most important task facing Japan today. I hear Matsumoto was reluctant to accept the post, but that the prime minister had gone out of his way to politely ask him to take it. It made no difference.
Matsumoto threw his weight around as state minister and adopted an arrogant attitude toward the local governments in the quake zone, as if they were indebted to him for accepting the post. With such an attitude, there was no way he could win the people's hearts and minds.
Matsumoto apparently did not think he had said or done anything wrong after returning from Tohoku to Tokyo. When reporters told him that the Miyagi governor was displeased, Matsumoto said: "Wow! He is a heck of a governor." Once he realized the odds were against him, he defended himself by saying, "Since I am from Kyushu, my speech is coarse." He also tried, "Because my blood type is B, I tend to be simplistic." They sound like the excuses of a spoiled man and a little girl combined.
Matsumoto should have been speeding up reconstruction, not his own resignation. I cannot think of another case of a Cabinet minister being forced to resign after talking in such an abusive way that even fellow politicians thought that his remarks merited his resignation and felt that they could not defend the behavior. The senryu column of The Asahi Shimbun ran a poem asking: "Could he be an assassin aimed at overthrowing the administration?" It is not an unreasonable suspicion.
Confucius said: "If the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state." The aphorism hits the mark. Many politicians make it their motto. This brouhaha will weaken the faith of people in the stricken areas in the central government. I doubt whether the Kan administration can make up what it has lost in this scandal.
The opposition parties' response to the scandal was unexpectedly quiet. Apparently, even his opponents were dejected at the outgoing minister's woeful performance.
Both ruling and opposition parties are breaking into a nervous sweat as they look in the mirror at the miserable state of political life in this country. Unlike the legendary "gama no abura" (frog oil), which is sold as an ointment to cure wounds, I don't think their sweat is good for anything.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 6
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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