Unable to "manage a majority," Hsieh still wants to be President
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 24, 2008
During the DPP primaries Yu Shyi-kun advocated "total government." By this he meant that the DPP, having won the presidency, should win a majority in the legislature. Yu's dream may well come true, not for the DPP, but for the KMT. During the Legislative Yuan elections Frank Hsieh boasted that if elected president, he would "manage [to get] a majority." By this he meant he would incite defections from the Blue Camp. Hsieh's boast has been shattered by the KMT's landslide victory.
Both Yu Shyi-kun's advocacy of "total government" and Frank Hsieh's dream of "managing a majority" were responses to eight frustrating years of divided government, in which the executive was controlled by the DPP, while the legislature was controlled by the opposition. This led to the advocacy of "integration of the executive and legislature," to a return to constitutional norms.
But following the DPP's catastrophic loss in the legislative elections, Frank Hsieh's campaign theme suddenly changed. It suddenly became "Because the KMT controls the legislature, therefore the DPP must control the presidency." It suddenly became "defending Taiwan and saving democracy via joint governance." Not only does Hsieh's new theme flatly contradict his "total government" proposal, it openly proclaims "So what if I wasn't able to create a majority? I still ought to be president!"
Overnight, Frank Hsieh went from "If elected president, I will manage a majority" to "So what if I wasn't able to manage a majority? I still ought to be president!" Will Hsieh's proposals, utterly contrary to constitutional norms, win the approval of moderate voters during the 50 days leading up to the presidential election? Not a chance.
Frank Hsieh is clearly caught in a contradiction. He assured the public that if elected, he would be a "passive president," that he would "relinquish executive power," that he would "allow the KMT to form a cabinet." But Hsieh is merely a presidential candidate. Yet here he is, boasting about how he allow the CEO of a major corporation to form a cabinet. What happened to his promise to "allow the KMT to form a cabinet?" If that was not enough, he promised a general amnesty on all National Health Insurance debts, and to reduce the inheritance tax to less than 10%. Is this how a "passive president" behaves?
Frank Hsieh's recent policy proposals prove that he would never be a "passive president." They merely confirm that "divided government," in which the executive and controlling majority in the legislature belong to different parties, is a horrible state of affairs. Suppose Frank Hsieh is elected president, but the cabinet is formed by the KMT. Suppose the president wants to declare a general amnesty on all National Health Insurance debts today, reduce the inheritance tax tomorrow, and implement the "Resolution for a Normal Nation" the day after. Suppose further that he wants to promote the "prompt rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution." Can you imagine the consequences under divided government?
Hsieh is caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, he must promise to be a "passive president." Otherwise voters will be afraid he will make trouble. On the other hand, Hsieh must boast of his ability to "grow the economy." But if the cabinet is presided over by the KMT, how is Hsieh going to be the one who "grows the economy?" Are the president and the cabinet each going to implement their own strategies for growing the economy?
Hsieh proposes "defending Taiwan and saving democracy by means of joint governance." But the public holds the Democratic Progressive Party responsible for destroying Taiwan's values. That's why the public used its ballots to defend Taiwan from the DPP. That's why the public used its ballots to save democracy from the DPP. As for his "joint governance" proposal, that's precisely the nightmare of "divided government" the public has endured for the past eight years. Does Frank Hsieh really believe the voters won't realize how horrible divided government is during the next 50 days?
Besides, campaign planks such as "defending Taiwan and saving democracy via joint governance" have already exposed the self-destructive appeal at the core of Frank Hsieh's presidential campaign. By highlighting such appeals, the Hsieh camp is announcing that it intends to offer up the same same discredited old "I am Taiwanese. Those who oppose me are not Taiwanese. I am democratic. Those who oppose me are not democratic" pitch. Hsieh and Su have been mouthing arguments that "The KMT will sell out Taiwan because Ma Ying-jeou advocates eventual reunification." These arguments proved to be ineffective during the legislative elections. Is this Frank Hsieh's notion of "not encouraging populist mob sentiment," of "not inciting ethnic strife [i.e., social conflict]?" Is this Frank Hsieh's notion of "drawing a line between himself and Chen Shui-bian?"
Hsieh's original plan, if elected, was to "manage a [DPP] majority" in the legislature. No wonder voters are suspicious. If Hsieh already knows he cannot "make a majority," why is he claiming he will simultaneously be a "passive president" and "a president who acts as a check on the legislature?" Why is he asking voters to use their ballots to create yet another divided government? Why is he asking voters to use their ballots to commit political suicide?
Frank Hsieh faces a tough election. If he adopts "divided government" as his campaign theme, he is going to have a difficult time winning over voters. His campaign will inevitably be reduced to fanning mob sentiment and inciting social conflict. The Hsieh/Su campaign will find itself caught in a self-destructive downward spiral. Not only will Hsieh lose the election, he will lose any chance of becoming the Democratic Progressive Party's standard-bearer following the election. That's because fanning mob sentiment and inciting social conflict is Chen Shui-bian's strong suit.
If Frank Hsieh loses the election having run a righteous campaign, the consequences for him will be more salutary than if he loses the election having run a dirty campaign. If he loses the election having run a righteous campaign, he can reinvent himself as a "New Frank Hsieh." But if he loses the election having run a dirty campaign, he will merely wind up as a Chen Shui-bian clone.
2008.01.24 04:03 am