With the cabinet almost complete and the ceremony of imperial investiture held Saturday night, Suzuki yesterday, Sunday, made his first radiocast as premier and gave his first interview to the press. Outwardly it is still a war cabinet; Suzuki is already being compared to Clemenceau, the indomitable old man who led France to victory in the first world war. Perhaps after all the signs were wrong; the old man will not seek peace but death. Still the feeling persists that this is all window-dressing.
Suzuki’s radio address was tuned to a note of sacrifice and immolation rather than victory. “I believe that there are not a few people who were rather surprised that I should have received the imperial order to assume my new post. I who am nearly 80 years old have tried to serve faithfully. However I have had no part in active politics before so that I am naturally not fit to serve. In view of the pressing war situation I have accepted the imperial order with the idea that though I die in this my last post, standing as the very head of the 100 million people, you the people shall ride over my body and overcome the situation our country is now in.”
But the premier’s first interview, as reported by the press this morning, was not so forthright. The interview follows in question and answer form:
Q.– How do you propose to solve the present situation?
A. – I am very old and I doubt if I can do much. Why, at this serious crisis, have I, a mere soldier, had to come to the front? I leave it to your imagination. In regard of the prospects of the war, I think we shall win…. It is a mistake to conclude that we have been defeated, looking only at the superficial aspect of the war. I don’t think we lost in Yiojima. In that battle we gave the enemy & great spiritual blow. If we all get into this frame of mind, if the people are really united and push the war through, we shall not be defeated. That is my belief….
Q. – What will you give priority in your administration? What is the basis of the policy of the new cabinet?
A. – I am a mere soldier and don’t understand politics…. My individual view is that we are at war and war needs no slogans.
Q. – Have you any new ideas for adjusting relations between the high command and the administration?
A. – I don’t know the present state of affairs so I have no ideas as yet on the matter.
Q. – Have you any plans for a smaller three-minister or four-minister super-cabinet?
A. – I am a mere soldier and I have had a great dislike for politics so I have no ideas on the subject. Clemenceau was a statesman from the first and was well versed in political affairs from early youth. I am his diametrical opposite. I have always devoted my attention to military affairs. I shall push everything onward to win the war by all means.
Q. – How about concrete measures for the formation of the national volunteer corps?
A. – As regards this matter, all I know is what I have read in the papers.
Q. – What counter-measures are contemplated concerning the notice of abrogation of the Soviet pact?
A. – I wish to see to this after appointing a full-time foreign minister.
Q. – What measures shall be taken for the production of munitions, especially scientific weapons?
A. – From the strategic viewpoint, the time of fighting with bamboo spears does not come until the final stage so that there is need of securing plentiful supplies of arms. As this is absolutely necessary, even the manufacture of hand grenades from empty tin cans should be undertaken and thus we should endeavor to have as many weapons as possible.”
And so on and so on.
The interview is scarcely credible. Is this the premier of the great Japanese Empire, this naive octogenarian who does mot understand and does not like politics, who believes that Yiojima was a Japanese victory, whose strategical plans are apparently reduced to making hand-grenades out of tin cans, a “mere soldier” who has “no ideas on the subject”? Is this merely a shrewd pose in a country that dislikes and distrusts politicians? Or is Suzuki really the man he appears to be from his interview, a bumbling dreamy old hero, wetting his thumb as turns the pages of his newspapers, bewildered and frightened by his tremendous responsibilities, yearning with all his heart to be off again in a quiet garden, dozing in the sun with fugitive memories of his torpedo attack on the Imperial Chinese fleet half a century ago?
Nor is the quality of the rest of the cabinet reassuring to the Japanese. The Times earnestly tries to make a virtue out of the cabinet’s mediocrity; it “presents no surprises”. The Times prophesies with unconscious lugubriousness: “No radical innovations of questionable soundness, no strong-arm methods of coercion, no frantic search for panaceas, will be indulged in by these men if their background is any criterion. Rather, a vigorous persistent execution of time-tested orthodox means….” The Mainichi is more sensitive to realities. “The Suzuki cabinet is not exactly young blood. Nor can it be called a group of men of the first magnitude. If anything it embraces quite a few bureaucrats.” But the Mainichi notes sharply: “The new prime minister has striven hard to enlist the services of mellow and scrupulous statesmen… (But) mellowness and conscientiousness are not the sole qualifications for those at the helm of the state. The state must be administered by real go-getters who have absolute control of the situation.