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Hatoyama, credibility of Japan is at stake

Dear Prime Minister Hatoyama,

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

These are some of the famous words of Shakespeare. I am not quite sure which category he would have put you in, but I personally think you belong in all three.

You were fortunate to be born into one of the most prominent and powerful families in Japan, and the road was already paved for you at birth to follow in the footsteps of your forefathers to greatness.

But you bolted from the Liberal Democratic Party, which your grandfather founded, and started a new party, reaching the pinnacle of power through your own efforts, albeit with the tremendous financial support of your generous mother.

Nevertheless, there was a time when you seemed to be willing and content to play second fiddle to the mighty Ichiro Ozawa, until his political-fund scandal was exposed a few months before the general elections last year and the leadership of the DPJ was thrust upon you and — ipso facto — the post of prime minister after the election victory.

At the time, my Japanese wife and two daughters were very enthusiastic and full of hope, and I thought you had fine human qualities and the potential to become a great leader, despite being a bit too idealistic.

More than half a year has passed since then, and their great expectations seem to have transformed into great disappointments. Japan seems adrift without purpose or direction.

The other day, while we were having dinner, the TV newscaster blurted out that the support rate for the Hatoyama administration had plunged to around 30 percent. My wife, who is fond of “Yesterday” by the Beatles, said, “Yesterday, the future was so beautiful, but now it seems so bleak.” My younger daughter — still a university student — looked concerned about her future, and I felt rather sad to see them crestfallen.

I would be willing to bet that you have never had to worry about money before. But now that you are prime minister, you should take it more seriously, because the national coffers are not only empty, there are also gaping holes in them.

It is not wise to mix local politics with diplomacy. Diplomacy is like a poker game played by sovereign states. You cannot play it with your cards exposed. And to read the cards of others, you need the advice of career diplomats.

Futenma is a case in point. The way you and your foreign minister are handling this problem leaves much to be desired. Instead of solving the problem, you seem to be creating new ones. The credibility of Japan itself is at stake.

Your Cabinet and party have adopted an adversarial posture vis-a-vis civil servants, as if they all are immoral and imbecilic. There may be some who misuse their powers for personal benefit, but most of them are probably dedicated public servants. The number of corrupt people is likely to be much higher proportionally among politicians. Anyway, the civil servants are the backbone of national institutions that function like an engine of a car. You are in the driver’s seat of that car for a certain period of time, transporting your fellow citizens to your chosen destination. But you have to maintain that engine properly, because if the engine fails to start, the car won’t move an inch.

Your Cabinet ministers have loose tongues and a tendency to make contradictory statements to the media on matters beyond their jurisdictions. Don’t they realize that the daily Cabinet meetings are a proper venue to express their opinions, and that the Hatoyama administration has a collective responsibility under your leadership?

The time has come for you to show leadership. But leadership requires decisiveness and firmness. Vacillation and ambiguity will undercut your authority.

A leader surely needs time to think. Your philosophy of fraternity (yuai) reflects your goodwill towards your fellow human beings. But goodwill alone is not sufficient. You must also be able to deliver when required.

Mr. Prime Minister, you are an engineer by training, a thinker by volition and a politician by profession. Few people are better qualified. If only you were a little less rigid and idealistic and more pragmatic, I think you could really have great potential to grow up in the job to lead the nation to a bright future.

I started my letter by quoting Shakespeare. Let me conclude by quoting the following verse from a poem by Mao Zedong of China:

“So many things cry out to be done/Time presses/The world rolls on/Ten thousand years are so long/ Seize the moment, seize the day.”

Send submissions for Hotline to Nagatacho of between 500 and 600 words to community@japantimes.co.jp