[EDITORIALS]What is he doing?Can the president, the highest ranking person responsible for national affairs, do this? It’s alarming and surprising that from out of the blue, the president held a press conference a day after he arrived from Bali, Indonesia, and asked for a vote of public confidence. The entire nation is in shock and confusion. How will the president take responsibility for the massive confusion and the negative side effects that may hit our economy because of his sudden announcement?
The economy is already in a difficult state and so is our society, which is in a confused state as a result of several conflicts. Our future is very worrisome because the president is pouring gasoline on a house that is already on fire and making matters worse at a critical time when the president and the government should keep their balance and try to solve national problems step by step.
How will other foreign countries look at a country where the president, after only eight months in office, asked for a vote of public confidence? Would any foreign investors chip in to a country that is in an unstable political state, and would even domestic entrepreneurs feel like investing?
A massive perplexity in society as well in political circles will likely occur. Arguments on the standards as well as how and when to measure public confidence in Roh Moo-hyun are already rising. Especially since Roh Moo-hyun announced that he would entrust the entire process of measuring public confidence to a consensus, every political party will insist on the method that fits their particular position and is in their interest. There will also be talk about amending the constitution. Welfare legislation may drift, and no one will pay attention to next year’s budget proposals. The president’s supporters and foes are already at each other’s throats, and our society once again will be torn apart and massive national resources wasted. It is irresponsible to call the social conflict arising from Mr. Roh’s decision a “productive discord.”
It is not clear why Mr. Roh took such an extreme measure. Yet if we look at his political history, every time he was in a critical moment he would either charge ahead or use risky strategies with his political career at stake. As an Assemblyman, he once resigned and disappeared. Before the presidential election last year, when his popularity was falling fast, he asked for a vote of party confidence in his candidacy. Every radical step that he has taken has succeeded. If the recent request for a vote of public confidence came from the same chain of thinking in the past, he is overlooking the weight of his office.
Who will fill the void in national affairs until this is settled? Will ministers and bureaucrats work with conviction? There is a prime minister to fill in for the president, but he is only a proxy. It would be a disaster if the president thought he could solve all his political problems in one fell swoop. The public is smart enough to recognize political designs.
Roh Moo-hyun’s decision may have come with much difficulty; the president once said, “Confidence in the leader’s morality is the only principle that leads national affairs. When a red light flashes about morality, it will only bring more of a burden to the public if the leader does not clarify the issue involved.” The call for a vote of public confidence could be President Roh’s final card to be played in an effort to get national affairs back in shape. If they are in a bad state because of the scandals of those close to him, it would be better to let the prosecutors conduct a thorough investigation and apologize to the public if the results are bad. If bad personnel management is the problem, the president only needs to reorganize his team. If the president’s public support has gone down because of inconsistency of policy decisions, then there are many ways to fix the issue. That is the attitude that a responsible leader of a country should take. Even if the president wins back public confidence, another scandal among his confidantes could occur. Roh Moo-hyun cannot ask for a new vote of public confidence every time a scandal occurs.
Morality is needed in a leader, but extreme methods put everything at risk in an attempt to rescue slightly tarnished virtue. The public wants a president who presents a distinct vision and leads with consistency. It wants a humble president who knows how to both criticize and to listen.