Tobias Harris has a good post about the pointlessness of Mr. Obama inviting Aso to the white house for a state visit, what with Aso being busy with the disintegration of his cabinet and the remains of his political career and all. Go read it, and read his blog - it's way better than anything I can write about this whole thing.
He points out that Mori in fact is not the record holder for low approval ratings; Takeshita Noboru managed to reach 7% in a Bob Beamon-like feat of lining up his political stars into a moment of singular greatness. This is a very, very hard score to beat. Fortunately, Aso may just be up to the task.
He was off to a great start on his record attempt this week, what with throwing his friend with substance-abuse problems to the lions, and manage to look indecisive and out of control in the process. In some inspired waffling, he first decided to keep Nakagawa on; then have him resign later, once the current economics bill has passed; only to finally give in to pressure and have him leave immediately. We should see a very satisfying dip in the polls from this.
But Aso needs something more to put him over the top, I think; something to yank those last few decimal fractions from his support base. And I think I know his ace in the hole: Agriculture minister Shigeru Ishiba. Note how we haven't had a single minister of Agriculture resign in disgrace for almost six months now; an almost frightening period of calm and order, like a tropical storm building strength just beyond the horizon.
And that, I think is Aso's master plan. The agriculture sector is one of his last bastions of support, and something to turn even them away is exactly what he needs. My bet is that any time now - as soon as next week, perhaps, timed to coincide with his visit to the USA, but more likely in early March - the Agriculture ministry will erupt in the kind of spectacular scandal they do so well. Perhaps they'll play it safe and go for the tried-and-true underhanded campaign donation and misused funds with faked receipts-play. Or perhaps they'll do a daring new domestic food scandal with bribed inspectors looking the other way. Only time will tell. But that, I'm sure, would be enough to truly put Aso and his government in the record books forever.