The KMT Needs a Trowel as well as a Machete
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 19, 2011
Wang Yu-ting's resignation from the Youth Commission chairmanship has yet to be finalized. But King Pu-tsung has already resigned as KMT Secretary-General. King Pu-tsung's nickname is "little gold knife." But basically a secretary general should be a "trowel" rather than a "knife." He should make repairs, working slowly and deliberately. King Pu-tsung was more like a machete. He longed to slash away at the clutter. Instead he may have damaged the roots.
Wang Yu-ting turned down the job. This reflects Blue Camp defeatism. It also reflects an unwillingness to accept an offhand recruitment. To King Pu-tsung, the party was in dire straits. How could Wang Yu-ting think only of herself? But Wang Yu-ting felt that for her to become cannon fodder was pointless, and would benefit neither the party nor herself. Considered calmly, neither King nor Wang were wrong. They merely had different priorities. Wang Yu Ting's rejection, and King Pu-tsung's resignation amounted to the same thing. As matters stood, no one could have managed. This was true for Wang Yu-ting. This was true for King Pu-tsung as well.
King Pu-tsung and Wang Yu-ting faced the same problems as the KMT as a whole. They face problems at two levels. The first is the level of high-ranking party and government officials. The other is the level of grass-roots society. Consider the level of hig-ranking party and government officials. Cross-Strait policy appears to be the only policy that is working. Even this is subject to accusations of "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan." Other policies often raise controversies. Take Kuan Chung's self-righteous handling of the 18% interest rate, and his handling of King Pu-tsung and Wang Yu-ting. He was completely out of touch with the public. Poor coordination between the party and the administration also created problems. The handling of the 18% interest rate left military personnel, civil servants, and teachers deeply hurt. Ordinary citizens felt cheated. The handling of health care insurance angered the middle class. The handling of the five cities elections angered local factions, As a result, support at the grassroots level was shaken. Problems with misgovernance dogged them at higher levels. The prospect of electoral defeat loomed at the grassroots level. Wang Yu-ting turned down the post. But didn't King Pu-tsung do the same?
During the Kaohsiung legislative by election, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung actually nominated Hsu Ching-huang. But in Tainan, he was unable to persuade Wang Yu-ting and Kao Shi-po to run. His frustration can only be imagined. But anger is no solution. The public agrees with King Pu-tsung's attempt to recruit Wang Yu-ting. But it felt he handled the matter too clumsily. A way must be found to improve governing ability at the upper level, and campaigning ability at the grassroots level. .
King Pu-tsung is likely to rejoin Ma Ying-jeou's campaign committee. He may well be the right man for the right job. As a member of his campaign committee, he can intercept people and matters Ma wants to ignore. Ma can then deal only with a few consultants and public relations experts. During the past one year and one month, he should have been a "can do" secretary general. Instead, he turned himself a public target. He got what he wanted. But how can he face Ma Ying-jeou, who had such high hopes for him?
Ma's vision is sound. His heart is in the right place. His conduct is upright. Cross-Strait relations are improving. The economy is taking a turn for the better. Logically everything ought to be hunky dory. But his party and his adminstration remain victims of failures in communication. Take two examples. Kuan Chung still does not realize that his big mouth got him into trouble. King Pu-tsung still clings to his pride, and refuses to bow to custom. Both have problems communicating and connecting with the public. It may be unfair to characterize their attitude as "smugness." But at the very least it suggests a serious case of political tone-deafness.
King Pu-tsung may be an extreme case within the KMT, someone who resorts to both the carrot and the stick, to both orthodox and heterodox methods. But the "little gold knife" seems to lean only one way. He seems to think that as long as he is in the right, he can ignore how the system operates and the need to communicate with the public. The secretary general's job is to ensure that the party chairman has no other worries. Instead, he has left the party chairman with this mess to clean up. The secretary general should have no arguments with the world. Instead, he has created a rift within the party. This is hardly what Ma Ying-jeou and King Pu-tsung wanted to see. All one can say about his appointment as secretary general, is that they two came together due to a misunderstanding, and the two are parting ways now because they finally understand each other.
King Pu-tsung's style was prickly and unorthodox. If truth be told, it was consistent with public expectations that he transform KMT's "muddle through" mentality. He did not muddle through. But he was failed to reform the party's "muddle through" mentality. As we can see, politics sometimes requires drastic action. It sometimes call for someone to swing the machete. But it also requires a trowel. It also requires someone able to work slowly and deliberately.
Liao Liao-yi has been presented with a tough situation. Wang Yu-ting can refuse to rise to the challenge. King Pu-tsung can throw in the towel. But Liao Liao-yi must deal with the matter. The Ma Ying-jeou administration must do better. Party and adminstration officials must demonstrate greater governing ability at the top, and greater communication ability at the grassroots. Otherwise its burden can only grow heavier and heavier.