Mr. Aso throws down the gauntlet

Prime Minister Taro Aso’s first policy speech to the Diet on Monday was unusual. Aiming to win in the next Lower House election, Mr. Aso turned a considerable part of his speech into a challenge to the Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party. Mr. Aso’s target was DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa. He posed several questions to the party and called for answers. But his confrontational speech may have given the impression that he failed to disclose his in-depth views on pressing issues the nation faces.

Mr. Aso should be praised for speaking in his own words and not relying on the composition of bureaucrats. Knowing that the national mood is an important part of politics, he said: “I do not despair. I have never put a question mark to the potential power of Japan and the Japanese.” But the problem is that his speech fell short on concrete policy proposals for solutions to the problems. For example, he did not mention revenue sources for strengthening social welfare.

Criticizing the DPJ’s treatment of tax-related bills in the previous Diet session, Mr. Aso asked whether the DPJ is ready to establish a way for building consensus. But it should not be forgotten that it is also the ruling bloc’s responsibility to deepen and smoothen Diet deliberations.

Declaring the passing of the supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 a matter of great urgency, Mr. Aso called on the DPJ to put forward its own proposal if it opposes the budget. He then challenged the DPJ to show revenue sources to back up its proposal. He also asked whether the DPJ will support creation of a Consumer Agency and extension of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, and to which the DPJ gives priority, the Japan-U.S. alliance or the United Nations.

Mr. Aso seems to have forgotten his responsibility to detail his vision of the future Japan and his policy measures. He said he will reconstruct the economy in three stages. But his concrete proposal is the supplementary budget, whose outline was adopted by his predecessor Mr. Yasuo Fukuda’s administration.