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The Wrong Man for the Job

Matsumoto Kan

Ryu Matsumoto and Naoto Kan (Kantei)

By Michael Penn

SNA (Tokyo) — We still don’t know exactly why Prime Minister Naoto Kan tapped former Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto for the high-profile post of Minister in Charge of Reconstructing Areas Ravaged by the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami, but we did discover today that he is certainly the wrong man for the job.

Matsumoto was handed his important new responsibilities only a week ago, but clearly his sense of self-importance has inflated even more rapidly than his authority.

Kept waiting a few minutes by Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai in Sendai, Matsumoto quickly became impatient ― in front journalists’ cameras ― asking why he had been let into the reception room before the governor had arrived.

When Murai did show up full of smiles, Matsumoto gruffly refused to shake his hands and gestured him to sit down.

When the prefectural leader presented his community’s list of needs and requests, the minister said he already knew everything about it and didn’t need to look at the papers. He followed this up with the remarkable comment that if the opinions in the prefecture couldn’t be brought to a consensus, then the central government would offer the ravaged communities no assistance at all.

Worse yet, Matsumoto then lectured the governor not to keep guests waiting and saying that the Self-Defense Forces “know the order of old and young” ― suggesting that Governor Murai had been outrageously discourteous and out of touch with traditional values.

Minister Matsumoto topped off the performance by turning to the media present and telling them that everything that occurred was off the record. He then added a blunt threat: “If anyone writes about this, it will be the end of that company.”

Fortunately, this is one instance in which the Japanese mainstream media did not act in a cowardly fashion: They immediately broadcast the whole episode to the world ― as well they should have.

The problems with Minister Matsumoto’s comments and behavior are almost too many to list ― and they should be self-evident to most readers of the foregoing account.

The bottom line is that this minister was brought in to help the nation recover from a horrible natural disaster ― a job requiring a bit of a human touch ― but by acting like some mighty lord descended from his manor, he’s only managed to become yet another disaster for the Kan administration.

Note to the Kantei: Please sack this fool immediately!

Michael Penn is the President of the Shingetsu News Agency.