Fukuda the prevaricator

Fukuda Yasuo, done playing the (overly) generous host in Toyako, is back in Tokyo to face his ever growing pile of problems.

First on the agenda is, of course, the question of whether he should reshuffle his cabinet before going into the autumn extraordinary session.

After meeting with Ibuki Bunmei, LDP secretary-general, at the Kantei on Thursday, Mr. Fukuda’s perspective on a cabinet shuffle was unchanged from before the G8 summit: “a completely blank paper.” He is giving no sign that he is leaning one way or another, although the very act of delaying and remaining noncommital could be a sign of his intention to keep his cabinet unchanged. Given the intra-LDP wrangling that will necessarily accompany a reshuffle, he will have to make a decision to proceed soon if he is going to have a new lineup ready by early August.

A possible sign that there will be no reshuffle can be found in an interview Mori Yoshiro gave to Mainichi. Asked about the reshuffle, Mr. Mori said that his previous argument was a “general argument.” He was making no hints about Mr. Fukuda’s intentions. He explained that his thinking on a reshuffle rests largely in concerns that the cabinet is Mr. Abe’s, not Mr. Fukuda’s, a situation that should be corrected. And he acknowledged that there is a “linkage problem” between a reshuffle and a possible lower house dissolution.

That, ladies and gentlemen, may be the sound of the bursting of the reshuffle bubble.

The prime minister is better off spending his time figuring out how to outmaneuver or neutralize LDP opponents to his initiatives and craft an agenda for the autumn session that will put the DPJ on the defensive. He should put an end to reshuffle speculation now and stop speaking about his “blank paper.”

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