United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 17, 2015
Executive Summary: President Ma Ying-jeou recently granted this paper an exclusive interview. He vowed to continue promoting his unfulfilled goals during the remainder of his term. He vowed never to relent. He vowed that he would not leave these problems to be addressed by his successor. The nine in one elections was a debacle. Ma has been bad-mouthed constantly ever since. Yet President Ma remains resolute. That is indeed admirable. Of course, it is easier said than done. President Ma must remember the reasons for his original defeat. He must change his manner of thinking and acting. Otherwise, his bold declarations will remain castles erected on sand, and all he vows will come to naught.
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President Ma Ying-jeou recently granted this paper an exclusive interview. He vowed to continue promoting his unfulfilled goals during the remainder of his term. He vowed never to relent. He vowed that he would not leave these problems to be addressed by his successor. The nine in one elections was a debacle. Ma has been bad-mouthed constantly ever since. Yet President Ma remains resolute. That is indeed admirable. Of course, it is easier said than done. President Ma must remember the reasons for his original defeat. He must change his manner of thinking and acting. Otherwise, his bold declarations will remain castles erected on sand, and all he vows will come to naught.
During the first three years of President Ma's second term he suffered one setback after another. These setbacks fall into three categories. One. Policy promotion failures. For example, the capital gains tax, the STA, the food safety crisis, the gasoline price and electricity rate hikes, nine year compulsory education, and the 4NPP issue, were all plagued by a haste to claim credit, poor communications, administrative ineptitude, and of course malicious obstructionism by the political opposition. Two. Political bungling led to political crises. For example, the Wang Jin-pyng influence peddling scandal and party membership controversy, the Chang Hsien-yao leaks scandal, the death of Hung Chung-chiu, and the Sunflower Student Movement. Ma misjudged the situation and responded inappropriately. Either that, or he failed to follow proper procedure and plunged himself in hot water. He even forfeited his bully pulpit. Three. Ma was a bad judge of character. For example, he promoted Lin Yi-shi and Lai Shu-ru despite their improper conduct. He retained academics and experts who lacked the courage of their convictions. He watched idly as Chang Hsien-yao and Wang Yu-chi committed fratricide. He relied too heavily on advisors who closely controlled the information he received. The debacle that followed was a long time coming.
When President Ma first took office, public support was sky high, and he enjoyed a supermajority in the legislature. But in swift order, both his authority and ideals were frittered away. Intense public resentment left him paralyzed, unable to move. The precise reason for this change has puzzled many.
The previously mentioned three crises were largely the result of Ma administration ineptitude. This indeptitude reflected poorly on his leadership, and was the result of President Ma's own unrealistic expectations. President Ma loved to hold forth on high ideals and high-minded reforms. But he ignored the need for public support. As a result, he not only failed, he also provoked a public backlash. As head of state he must use government authority and national resources to create stepping stones to his ideals. He must clear away the obstacles standing in his way. He must inspire public support, instead of resorting to hollow rhetoric, in the mistaken belief that his ideals can be realized overnight. President Ma insists he is not a lame duck. That is easy to say. Alas, he still does not seem to understand that the gap between reality and ideals cannot be bridged by sheer bravado.
If someone were to say that Ma was the most naive head of state ever, few would disagree. Viewed positively, "naive" means he was pure of heart. Viewed negatively, the implications are highly derogatory. It means he brimmed over with good intentions, but had no idea how to realize them. It means he wielded great power, but had no idea how to use that power to benefit the people. It means he controlled the powerful machinery of state, but repeatedly dropped it on his own toes. True, he remained scrupulously incorruptible, but he never won the public's trust. President Ma occupied the highest political office in the land, yet had not idea how to govern. His contempt for politics, ironically mired him in politics. This was the fundamental reason both his authority and ideals came to naught.
Take the case of Chang Hsien-yao, the clearest example of President Ma's “all talk but no walk” phenomenon. President Ma granted us an interview. The woodpecker diligently searched out insects. Chang Hsien-yao was considered a second-tier official. Yet he provided information to outsiders, and eventually to the Mainland. This was forbidden by public administration ethics and the law. Yet the Taipei District Prosecutors Office failed to prosecute. It was all too incredible. President Ma apparently forgot that the person who appointed Chang Hsien-yao to both the MAC and the SEF was none other than himself. If Chang Hsien-yao's conduct was unacceptable, he could have dealt with the matter politically or removed him from his post. He could have instructed national security or internal affairs units to investigate. He should not have given him access to confidential information that could be leaked. But President Ma refused to remove his political appointee from office. Instead he presented the case to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office. The resulting criminal investigation backfired on him.
Consider the outcome. Was it not the same mistake he made with Wang Jin-pyng? The Chang case was the same as the Wang case. The Ma government had evidence of two violations. It mattered not whether the cases involved leaks or influence peddling. They were actions that the public considered unacceptable. Unfortunately, the Ma government could not grasp the political subtleties. He reduced the entire affair to a matter of "criminal justice". In the end, social justice was blurred. Even the legitimacy of his own authority was undermined. President Ma was educated in the law. Perhaps he imagined that criminal justice would restore social justice. But as we all know, he has repeatedly blundered on the political front, and sacrificed his moral beliefs and social values.
Today's Taiwan is a values vacuum. The blue and green camps face each other, daggers drawn. The opposition party engages in defamation, and panders to the mob. These perhaps, are the main factors. But President Ma's political ineptitude and empty promises allowed his opponent to take advantage of him, time and again. They too, are to blame. President Ma says he intends to stand and fight another day. If so, he must first confront his shortcomings, his habits of all talk, no walk, and being quick to retreat.
2015-02-17 02:01:33 聯合報 社論