Cheer up! A Lame Duck President Need Not Sit and Brood
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 13, 2015
Executive Summary: To overcome its lame duck status, the Ma government must act. The first
thing it must do is dare to change. It must cast aside its “safe”
conservative mentality. The second thing it must do is dare to challenge
itself. It must not be afraid to be different today from what it was
yesterday. The third thing it must do it open itself up to the outside
world and listen. It must not be afraid to listen to different voices.
It must have the courage to confront its own weaknesses. Only then can
it expect a breakthrough. Being a lame duck means that it needs even
more courage than before. It must not sit back and brood.
Full Text Below:
The Democratic Party in the US suffered a major defeat during last year's midterm election. As a result, for the last two years of Obama's term, he is destined to be a lame duck. But Obama refuses to admit defeat. He is attempting to turn the tide, both domestically and diplomatically. He granted amnesty to illegal immigrants. He thawed relations with Cuba, which have been interrupted for half a century. He reached a carbon reduction agreement with the Chinese mainland. Obama, a basketball fan, told reporters on New Years Eve that usually the game only really begins in the fourth quarter. Obama is taking aggressive action to neutralize his status as a lame duck.
If Obama can neutralize his status as a lame duck, so can President Ma Ying-jeou. The key is whether the Ma administration can think anew and can stop butting its head against the wall. It must reinvent the wheel in order to win over hearts and minds. If it clings to old ways of thinking and decision-making, if it continues to repeat the same mistakes, over and over again, it will merely mire itself deeper in the mud, and meet its predictable fate.
Actually, compared to Obama, Ma Ying-jeou has a political advantage. The KMT still holds an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan. It is a ruling party that has never really exploited this advantage. By contrast, the United States Senate and House both fell to the Republicans. Obama's hands are tied. Ma Ying-jeou's lame duck status is not nearly so bad. The Ma government must show the public that he means business. Together with his comrades, he must promote policies whose benefits can be felt by the public. The Ma government must pick itself off the floor. It must not wallow in self-pity. It must not complain about having lost the hearts and minds of the public. Not only is that futile, it will only lead to greater humiliation.
Ma Ying-jeou has a massive blind spot. He lacks political imagination and political skills. He may even consider politics "evil" by nature, hence feel disdain. As a result, he does not know how to pick his battles. He does not know how to distinguish between enemies and allies. He does not even know how to make friends. He does not know how to win the support of the masses. To his mind, ruling means having the Executive Yuan issue instructions and decisions, having them endorsed by the Legislative Yuan, then carried out by various levels of government. He never considers how every decision or reform affects people, consortia, or special interest groups. He never considers the need for trade-offs. He never considers how the policies he promotes may encounter resistance and affect ruling party legislators. He never considers the need to finalize strategies through communication and coordination, or the need to make compromises.
Ma Ying-jeou probably does not realize that if the opposition DPP engages in outrageous political obstructionism, he can still win the support of enough people, enabling him to do what he must, or even turn the tide. Take Obama, for example. He was helpless against the Republican budget proposal. But he granted amnesty to illegal immigrants, and won the support of minorities. He lifted the embargo against Cuba, and won the support of the international community. He promoted carbon reduction, and improved environmentalist bona fides of the United States. Cannot President Ma take an inventory of his policy proposals, and find something worth doing?
Since its defeat, the Ma government's policy dilemma has not improved. The main reason is that his cabinet has retained Jiang's legacy, leaving it entirely intact. Its decision-making style also remains unchanged. The most obvious example is the capital gains tax "large investor provisions." Implementation has been pushed back three years by ruling and opposition party legislators. The Ministry of Transportation's proposed high-speed rail financial improvement plan has been blocked by ruling and opposition legislators, leading to Yeh Kuang-shih's resignation. Last year's STA and and "cross-strait agreement oversight regulations" remain in limbo. Unless these obstacles can be overcome, it is difficult to imagine how President Ma and Taiwan are going to get through the remaining ten months of his term.
Former Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-uuan recently criticized the Ma government decisions as "missing a brain." His comment may have been harsh, but everyone knows it's true.
One. Inner circle decision-making, and a lack of communication. Two. Top down decision-making, and an excessive reliance on elites. Three. Closed-minded thinking, and an inability to draw from public knowledge. An inability to recruit talent, leading to decisions made without thinking. A policy-making process that remains opaque, therefore unable to elicit official or public support. These include: An avian influenza epidemic prevention unit that suppresses information. Twenty billion in Taipower profits due to a decline in the price of petroleum, yet no response until the public erupted in outrage. The Ma government must change its "missing a brain" governance model. It must feel the public pulse, and demonstrate decisiveness and courage. Do so, and the people will respond.
Wen-Je Ko has done much since taking office. Much of what he did was pure show. But he understands that the people want change. He made other mayors' silent achievements part of his own eye-catching resume. His populist style may not withstand the test of time. But making policy change visible inspires people. It makes them feel the city is making progress.
To overcome its lame duck status, the Ma government must act. The first thing it must do is dare to change. It must cast aside its “safe” conservative mentality. The second thing it must do is dare to challenge itself. It must not be afraid to be different today from what it was yesterday. The third thing it must do it open itself up to the outside world and listen. It must not be afraid to listen to different voices. It must have the courage to confront its own weaknesses. Only then can it expect a breakthrough. Being a lame duck means that it needs even more courage than before. It must not sit back and brood.
2015-01-13 01:57:38 聯合報 社論