Friday, June 04, 2010

The shirt that brought down a prime minister


At what's described as a "meet-the-people barbecue" at his official residence in Tokyo, just this past April, then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama enjoyed some rib-stickin'-good barbecued . . . uh, noodles.

by Ken

No sooner does the Washington Post's man "In the Loop," Al Kamen, return from vacation than he finds himself in the crosshairs of segments of the Japanese media for bringing down their prime minister.
We've gotten several phone calls from Japanese reporters about Wednesday's resignation of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after just eight months in office. The reporters implied that a mid-April Loop column -- the one dubbing him "the biggest loser" at President Obama's nuclear summit and referring to him as "hapless" and "increasingly loopy" -- somehow hastened his departure.

Al, however, isn't one to back down from a confrontation.
Seriously, now. We have photographic evidence that blatant sartorial criminality was without question the proximate cause of his demise -- okay, in addition to that dispute with Washington over the U.S. military base in Okinawa. A photo taken April 4, 10 days before the column in question appeared, shows the prime minister at what was described as a "meet the people" barbecue decked out in a 1980s multicolored shirt.

The checkered shirt has one yellow sleeve and one blue one, a red front, a purple back, and green cuffs. Hatoyama wore a black turtleneck underneath. The outfit prompted a prominent fashion critic to wonder in print whether there was "anyone able to stop him wearing such a thing." (In this country, that shirt alone would have been grounds for impeachment.) "His ideas and philosophy are old," the critic wrote in a national magazine. "Japan is facing a crisis, and we can't overcome it with a prime minister like this."

Worse, Hatoyama was a serial couture offender. In May, he visited Okinawa, sporting what a BBC report called a "garish yellow shirt, the color adopted by local protesters" to tell them the base would indeed be staying on the island after all, despite his campaign pledge to get it moved. On another occasion, he wore a white shirt with red hearts that he apparently thought went smashingly with a pink blazer.

The Loop column may have caused a fuss in Japan -- apparently in part because readers mistook it to be the official view of The Washington Post itself -- and in part because our assessment fit a narrative that was already gathering steam. The train wreck was inevitable.

Word is that George W. Bush has expressed interest in the shirt, which people have told him would match his eyes, but is trying to find out if it comes in a choice of colors. A thought: If you just worked a Confederate flag into the design, this could be the official shirt of the Teabagger Movement. Can't you just see Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio and Sarah Palin decked out in such finery? Not to mention "Miss Mitch"McConnell and "Sunny John" Boehner. (Photoshoppers: Have at it!)

Confidential to Young Johnny McCranky: Young Johnny, if you want to save your wrinkly ass in that Arizona Senate primary, this shirt could be just the ticket!

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