On Dec. 10, 1954, Ichiro Hatoyama became prime minister after a long and bitter political struggle with Shigeru Yoshida. In the immediate postwar period, Hatoyama had appeared to be the most promising of the candidates aspiring to head the government. But he was forced to leave the political arena after he was purged by the Occupation forces.
Yoshida reportedly promised that he would eventually hand over the reigns of government to Hatoyama, but the latter fell ill. After the ban on his political activities was lifted, Hatoyama demanded that Yoshida yield the prime ministership as he had pledged to do, but Yoshida refused, saying a sick man could not rule the nation. This triggered a prolonged struggle between the two men. An outraged Hatoyama worked hard to regain his health and, though partly paralyzed, continued to engage in politics.
In 1954, meanwhile, a major scandal involving the shipbuilding industry was uncovered, and the Tokyo Public Prosecutors’ Office was set to arrest Eisaku Sato, the then secretary general of the Liberal Party who later became prime minister. But Prime Minister Yoshida ordered Justice Minister Ken Inukai to exercise his powers and prevent Sato’s arrest, which he did.
There was an uproar of public protest over this perceived obstruction of justice, and the newspapers of the day were unanimous in criticizing Yoshida. Yoshida was forced to resign, and Hatoyama succeeded him, clearing the dark clouds that had been hovering over the political scene. What made Hatoyama’s dream come true was a combination of his determination to gain political power and the high public expectations placed on him.
Today, Yukio Hatoyama, the grandson of Ichiro Hatoyama, is striving to bring down the government headed by Yoshiro Mori, just as his grandfather fought to depose Yoshida. It seems that the Hatoyama family has a hereditary intolerance of wrongdoing that allows no compromise with those in power.
The Democratic Party headed by Hatoyama is therefore eager to win in the House of Councilors election in July to reverse the standings between the governing and opposition parties and, eventually, to gain a majority in the House of Representatives as well. That, in turn, is why the current ordinary session of the National Diet is of utmost importance to the Democratic Party and other opposition groups.
An opinion poll conducted by a television station has shown that only 14 percent of the public supports the Mori government, while those who disapprove of it account for 70 percent, indicating that the regime stands under virtual death sentence. Yet, regardless of the polls, the Mori Cabinet will continue in office as long as Mori himself chooses not to resign.
Newspapers, radio and television stations, as well as magazines, can be depended upon to play up every occasion on which the prime minister Mori says something wrong, no matter how trivial the remark may be. While their comments are carping criticisms rather than constructive opinions, the thoughtless manner in which Mori speaks is also to blame. He needs to think carefully before saying anything.
In Japan, there is a saying that one should be patient without saying a word. Mori should bear this proverb in mind.
The Japanese press, meanwhile, is making too great an issue of gaffes made by the prime minister, only to give the public the impression that he is not very bright. Although Mori is to blame for repeatedly saying the wrong thing, there are times when the press should ignore what he says.
The press calling him incompetent has led the people to lose confidence in him, causing fewer and fewer people to approve of his Cabinet. It is as ridiculous as members of a family saying their father is a fool.
Who can respect a country whose citizens call their prime minister a fool? The press must consider this question. I have long thought that we need a proper balance among those in power, the mass media and the public. I cannot help but feel that the press is carrying things too far. It is not the job of the press merely to slanders or find fault with those in power.
Deep and objective thought should precede any public criticism of the prime minister, because whatever is said by the press carries a lot of weight. Journalists these days seem to be incapable of examining and evaluating the past, present and future.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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