The interesting thing I find in Pilling’s article is the little glimmers of a genuine personality that appear. While that is basically the point of Pilling’s interview — the awkward fit of Akie into the role of political wife and first lady — she evidently obliged: “Just then, Akie’s stomach rumbles loudly. To her credit, Akie acknowledges the gurgling and bursts into laughter. She does not cover her mouth with her hand.”
But there are only traces of the prime minister himself in the interview. “One problem, she says, is that her husband became prime minister earlier than expected. ‘He did not have to fight for this position, to struggle for it. He felt he lacked the preparation to be prime minister.'”
I guess there is something to be said for the old LDP way of choosing its leaders. At least they had to serve time as the head of a ministry or two, learning about how policy is made. To be a wunderkind one actually has to be impressive.
Abe’s rise suggests that Japan may not be immune from the dynamic that is making the 2008 crop of candidates for the US presidency one of the least experienced ever, as argued by Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine. After considering that perhaps less experience could make for a better leader, Bai comes down on the side of experience:
Experience is what prepares presidents to stand by their convictions even when experts urge them not to, like Johnson’s signing the Voting Rights Act, or Harry Truman’s integrating the Armed Services. It is also what enables presidents to recognize when compromise — even odious compromise — is the last, best option, as Bill Clinton did on welfare reform. Lacking that kind of expertise, George W. Bush never did seem to master the balance between principle and pragmatism, the veteran politician’s art of when to build bridges and when to burn them. Whoever gets the nominations next year will want to study Bush’s experience closely — if only because they may not be able to count on their own.