The Green Card Crisis: Crisis Management? Or Management by Crisis?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 6, 2008
To say that the "Green Card Controversy" has undermined the image of the Liu Chao-hsuan cabinet is not quite correct. It would be more accurate to say that the Liu cabinet's crisis management abilities, or lack thereof, have undermined the image of the Liu cabinet.
Given today's political atmosphere, having a green card may make one a political target. But turning your opponents' green cards into a major political storm may not be so easy. 1. A green card after all, is merely a green card. It is not dual citizenship. 2. The law prohibits political appointees from having dual citizenship, but it does not prohibit them from having a green card. In other words, having a green card is not illegal. 3. The alleged green card holders forfeited their green cards when they failed to renew them, or on their own initiative relinquished them. For example, National Security Council Advisor Tsan Man-yung. 4. Even if one has dual citizenship, as long as one relinquishes one's foreign citizenship, one may still hold political office. If one relinquishes one's green card, one has already done more than what is legally required. 5. The Ma Ying-jeou green card controversy has already been resolved. The issues are already clear. It is unnecessary to go over the same ground again. The Liu cabinet's green card "crisis" is largely of the Liu cabinet's own making!
Central Personnel Administration records show that the former DPP government included 21 political appointees who had dual citizenship -- not merely green cards. These included Minister for Foreign Affairs Tien Hung-mao, Minister of Education Tseng Chi-lang, and Minister of Finance Ho Chi-ching. They each relinquished their foreign citizenship only after beginning their terms of office. Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Tsung, served little over a month. When she left office, she still hadn't relinquished her foreign citizenship. At Large TSU Legislator Liu Kuan-ping retained his Swiss citizenship throughout his entire term in the legislature. In February this year he was appointed representative to Switzerland. Only then did submit an application to relinquish his Swiss citizenship. As of now, he has still not completed the procedure. If the DPP government's political appointees can delay relinquishing their dual citizenship until after their inauguration, how dare they make an issue of Liu cabinet members' expired or relinquished green cards? The green card controversy is nothing but an artificial issue concocted by the DPP. The problem is not green cards. The problem is the Liu cabinet's inept response.
When Premier Liu was forming his cabinet, he surely must have inquired about dual citizenship and green cards. If he didn't, then he is responsible. If he did, but is still unprepared for his cabinet members' green card issues, if he sits passively and allows the controversy to reach a boiling point, then that is even more incomprehensible. Once Premier Liu was alerted to his cabinet's green card issue, at least two responses were available. 1. Don't wait for the opposition to leak information to the press. Seize the initiative and announce the information yourself, in advance. Let the public know that your cabinet members' green cards have expired or been relinquished. 2. Passively wait for an opportunity to respond. Immediately make known the results of your initial findings. Make known that your green cards have already expired or have been relinquished. If one does this, green cards may still become a political issue, but they probably won't become a political crisis. Alas, the Liu cabinet has adopted a strategy of evasion. As a result the situation is steadily deteriorating, with no end in sight. Liu cabinet members went so far as to say that "relinquishing one's green card is a sacrifice," "those who have green cards are talented individuals with an international perspective," and "One must not implement a Closed Door Policy." Such responses merely add fuel to the fire.
It is impossible to govern a nation without encountering crises. The question is whether the ruling party has the ability to deal with any such crises. Crises will inflict damage. They will test leaders' ability to control the situation. The Taiwan that the Ma administration took over is beset with internal and external problems. It is beseiged by crises. The tempest that has enveloped the Ma administration since it took office 20 days ago has raged unabated. This was unexpected. The tempest has not been about the larger issues, but about details. Even minor slips of the tongue have triggered uproars. For example, the Ma administration announced an increase in oil prices at 5:45 pm. It urged legislators not to wear suits in the Legislative Yuan. It prohibited Lee Chu-feng from visiting the mainland, then reversed itself. It cavalierly declaring that disaster relief and flood control is the Executive Yuan's responsibility. And last but not least, it bungled its response to the green card issue. Members of the Ma administration knew that sooner or later the issue would explode in their faces, yet they allowed the situation to deteriorate until it was unmanageable. The Ma administration seems incapable of preventing crises from arising. It also seems incapable of limiting their damage once they have arisen. The Ma administration is politically blind and tone-deaf.
Political leaders must be able to set the agenda. The Ma administration took office 20 days ago. Apart from cross-strait relations, it has been utterly passive and on the defensive. It has allowed itself to be attacked without making any effort to hit back. One cannot dismiss Ma administration ineptitude by arguing that the media and political opposition are being too harsh. Political leaders need to examine their ability to react to such matters. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a high-ranking official on Taiwan who hasn't had problems with either dual citizenships or green cards. The DPP allowed 21 political appointees to take office even though they had dual citizenships. Yet the DPP has the colossal effrontery to criticize the Ma administration? The Ma administration has been reduced to groveling. The KMT is fully aware of its own plight, and has only itself to blame.
The Ma administration must promptly extricate itself from the mess it is in. On the one hand it must exercise damage control. On the other hand it must seize the rhetorical initiative. It must reach peoples' hearts and minds. Once it allows the DPP to create a negative image of the Ma administration in the public imagination, it will be too late for regrets.
2008.06.11 02:58 am