[OUTLOOK]What U.S. can learn from KoreaA lifelong friend, who went to the same famous kindergarten that I did, was in Seoul over the weekend. Because of strong school ties, Murphy has stayed in touch over the years during his steady rise through the ranks of the U.S. bureaucracy. Today he heads the National Political Policy Office at the White House, or NAPPO, run by long-range strategy operatives.
Murphy briefed me informally on what is coming down the road if President Bush is re-elected tomorrow. Four major initiatives are planned, he told me.
Already in draft form is legislation to confine The New York Times circulation to the New York metropolitan area.
“Look,” Murphy said, “It’s not the ‘New York’ Times for nothing. That defines market, but the administration might compromise and permit distribution around New York state.”
I knew the Times had been giving the Bush people fits on Iraq, the economy and its policy toward North Korea, but still it seemed a drastic proposal that appeared on the face of it to be anti-free market.
“Same goes for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times ― no sales outside D.C. and L.A.,” Murphy said. “Seems only fair. There is no ‘right to read’ in the U.S. Constitu-tion.”
And USA Today? “With a name like that, there’s basically nothing we can do,” Murphy told me. Wall Street Journal? “You know a lot of towns have a ‘Wall Street,’ and we thought we might face a constitutional issue over it. We’re leaving them alone.”
Another major policy proposition that Bush people want, Murphy told me, is a national inquiry into the history of the Watergate scandal. “Top people around the president think it’s time to give the country a better understanding about what really happened,” he said.
He claimed there was no vendetta involving Republicans who still feel wounded over the attacks on Richard Nixon, launched, as they saw it, by a vast left-wing conspiracy. “No,” Murphy said, “the idea, of course, is to set the record straight. The people who went after Nixon made it seem that conservatives didn’t really love America or value freedom.”
What other measures are in store, I wanted to know. Murphy said the administration felt strongly that elite U.S. universities had too much influence. “The view inside the administration is our top schools have become arrogant. Just because they attract tens of thousands of applicants from overseas, there’s no reason to become drunk with power, right?”
But President Bush and Senator John Kerry both went to Yale, I said. “Do you think,” Murphy said, “that it did the president any good?” I had no answer for that.
Murphy wasn’t finished. “We’re not exactly suggesting the government actually run places like Harvard and Yale, but we want more transparency in the governance at the schools. We suspect the admissions officials are not playing fair when they select incoming students. That’s something we can take charge of.”
Anything else shaping up, I wanted to know.
“I’m not supposed to even mention this, but you’re an old friend,” Murphy said. “There is a little project looking at moving the White House and Congress to West Virginia. Some people who have the president’s ear first suggested we go the whole hog and get everything down to Texas, but our analysts said it might be too much of a political risk.”
“You’re joking,” I said. “That sounds like what they are trying to do in Korea. I doubt you guys will get that one past the Supreme Court. Americans will think they should vote on that.”
Murphy paused. “There’s one other thing I haven’t told you. We’re in discussions now about how we might change some of the more troublesome justices. It’s what strong leadership is all about.
“And frankly, it’s the reason I’m in Seoul. Koreans are always looking to learn from the States. But we think they’ve got some great ideas. See you after the election.”
* The writer is the editor of the JoongAng Daily.
by Charles D. Sherman