[OUTLOOK]Roh requires fresh new aides

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[OUTLOOK]Roh requires fresh new aides

As a person having to decide on daily editorial topics, I face a dilemma where my journalistic responsibilities wrestle with concern for the public’s mental health because of what presidential aides say. When I hear what they say, I feel compelled, as a journalist, to criticize. But yet, at the same time, I worry whether I am needlessly rehashing nonsensical words and how the readers will feel after reading them. Sometimes, it’s better to simply disregard nonsense.
It’s disheartening to see that the president is surrounded and supported by men and women with such nonsensical logic. But then again, the president seems to handpick just such people. These men and women cannot discern between what should be kept internally and what can be said in public.
Presidential aides at the Blue House and cabinet ministers are the people who steer the country, representing and leading the nation, whose words, if right, can elevate our country and public spirit to a higher level and reach out to wounded hearts. Sadly, their words are twisted and crude, and one cannot but feel one’s been showered with a bucket of filth after listening to them.
The president, meanwhile, is patting them on the back for doing a good job. Just imagine that the president and his aides in front of their computers exchanging online messages and replies. Don’t they have better things to do? It’s deplorable to think we might have to continue to endure these crude words that hurt our ears and degrade ourselves for the remaining two years of President Roh Moo-hyun’s tenure.
The power-hungry in the nation have already started the race for the next presidential election, and the election heat is palpable. However, the presidential Blue House is yet mum on how it plans to redress the recent defeat it suffered in by-elections, or to overhaul itself to lead the country for the remaining two years.
If things are left as they are, President Roh may be headed for a dead-duck, rather than a lame-duck, two years. A country led by a dead duck would drift aimlessly, wasting valuable years, and inevitably Korea’s competitiveness on the global stage would suffer. It would not be surprising to hear people deplore how laborious the remaining two years of Roh’s tenure will be.
The late U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, was a near-dead duck when the Iran-Contra Scandal erupted with two years remaining in his tenure. Reagan, however, not only survived but also bounced back to be regarded as the best president of the 20th century. His achievements during those two years were impressive as he completed welfare reforms, signed a free trade agreement with Canada, successfully pushed through 13 piled-up budget bills, revised a nuclear arms treaty with the former Soviet Union and filled the Supreme Court.
As a result, his popularity jumped nearly twofold to 68 percent at his tenure’s finish, from a dismal low of 37 percent two years prior.
Reagan’s comeback was possible, more importantly, however, because he let go of longtime aides, including his chief of staff, and brought in new talent. He restored relationships with the Democrats, drawing their full support on the floor for legislative bills.
He toured the drought-ridden Midwest, personally briefed the press and the nation on economic issues and also paid close attention to reporters’ questions because he considered them a reflection of public sentiment.
If we were to compare the Roh administration to a play, it has passed the opening and the development, and is about to stage a reversal. It is time for Mr. Roh to launch this reversal to achieve a climax before bringing down the curtain. It’s time the president and the administration let go of familiar allies and adopt new partners and new perspectives.
The president and his men and women of the moment will achieve nothing. They think alike and there is hardly any dissension among them. I suggest that the president replace his so-called 386-generation aides, the young aides in their mid-30s who went to college during the 1980s and were born in the 1960s. He should appoint new people, appointments that would surely convey a message to the public that he is open to new perspectives.
He should also take on a reversal of relations with the opposition Grand National Party. Rather than appealing to the party with his proposal for a grand coalition, he should seek its cooperation in the National Assembly. It is also time to seek a reversal with the press.
If he stops disparaging the press for holding different views, and starts listening to them or public opinion presented by them, he will find his hands full for the remaining two years. He would also hear the public say that the two years were too short ― rather than a long two years of futile drifting.
Why not leave the stage with this climax with which the audience is gratified and impressed? Wouldn’t that be a nice reversal?

* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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