Prime Minister Eisaku Sato was poorly regarded in his time by the progressive mainstream media and most of the intellectual class. But few doubted his ability to manage and manipulate the massive egos of the faction leaders and their more or less loyal capos and lesser underlings, a trait that earned him the sobriquet of “Sato of Personnel Management.” (It seems to have worked fine if results were all we had to go by; Sato is the second-longest serving prime minister in Japanese history, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and he even went on to carve out a personal niche in Amnesty International.) By the same measure, Noda has messed up completely. Let me explain.
The October 22 evening edition of Nikkei has a chart listing the ministers that resigned or were dismissed during the three years of the DPJ regime. It tells us that Hatoyama lost two, Kan lost four, while Tanaka is Noda’s second loss. So one head better than par for the course? Not quite.
Hatoyama’s two losses were Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, who resigned because of genuine health issues but stayed on to play an advisory role to the administration, and Mizuho Fukushima, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Social Affairs, and Gender Equality, who resigned over a critical policy dispute between the DPJ and her Social Democratic Party. Hatoyama is certainly responsible for Fukushima’s departure, but culpable? I think not. Noda’s two losses by contrast were precipitated by political and legal misdemeanors by obviously under-qualified if personable politicos being rewarded for their political attributes.
But that’s not all. Prime Minister Noda in what must be a national record has conducted three cabinet reshuffles in little more than a year in office. This is not exactly mitigated by the fact that two of those reshuffles were actually pretexts to get rid of a couple of appointees in each case who had exposed their lack of political toilet training and had to go.
Six incompetents kicked out, or three cabinet reshuffles in little more than a year. Pick his poison; whichever explanation you choose, he makes Hatoyama look good and Kan look at worst average as far as personnel management goes. And that’s probably not an easy feat to accomplish.