[VIEWPOINT]Another president’s war of resistanceBecause I am single-minded, I may not be popular, the president said. But I cannot give up my goals for the rest of my term in office. I am doing this because I am looking not just at the short-term, but 20, 30 or 40 years ahead. Please follow me.
The president said these words, appearing in person before the people. His aides also made concerted efforts to support him, stressing on the television talk programs that the president is about to carry out historic policies. He asks cooperation from the opposition party, they said.
The president held a press conference the day before a television appearance and announced that an “important decision” was coming. But a majority of the people turned their backs to it. The opposition party dismissed it, saying it’s sheer nonsense and there’s no need even to respond.
Even among the ruling party lawmakers, some said that if they listen to the president, they will die in the elections.
The president, upset, invited the leaders of the opposition party to his office to appeal for unity. But the leaders said that the legislators were not listening. They asked the president to change the policy even a little, considering the public discontent.
This story is not about the Blue House and the governing Uri Party in South Korea, but the White House in the United States last weekend. President George W. Bush officially announced on Jan. 10 that he would send an additional 20,000 U.S. soldiers to Iraq. He completely ignored advice to withdraw U.S. soldiers step-by-step, which was suggested by a study group on Iraq, a bipartisan panel consisting of experts in the area of diplomacy and security. He instead emphasized that the only way to win the war against terror is to expand the number of troops. But two out of three Americans opposed his proposal to dispatch additional troops.
At this, the president appeared on a television talk show on Jan. 14, the first time in two years, and directly appealed to the people. Vice President Dick Cheney and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, appeared on four talk shows the same day to argue for the need for the additional dispatch. But the White House seems to be having difficulty winning over the hearts of the ruling party representatives, not to mention the people’s hearts. Chuck Hagel, a heavyweight Republican senator, attacked the president, saying, “The Iraqi policy is the worst failure the United States has made since the Vietnam War.”
Even John McCain, the Republican senator who supports the additional dispatch more strongly than Mr. Bush, expressed his concern that he was not confident that Republicans would vote for the proposal if they have to vote on it.
Mr. Bush once said, jokingly, “Even if only my wife, Laura, and pet Bunny side with me, I will stick with the war in Iraq.” The situation has turned this joke into a serious talk.
Julian Zelizer, a professor at Boston University, made fun of the president’s isolation, saying Mr. Bush must be the loneliest of the 43 U.S. presidents in history.
But in a way, the president brought the isolation upon himself. Though he had high ideals for the democratization of Iraq and the eradication of terrorism, he thoroughly ignored reality. Though he attacked Iraq buoyed by a 90 percent support rate, he was not prepared for the current situation in which his support rate has plunged.
The present support rate for the war, a mere 20 percent, is not enough to expand the war. Even so, Mr. Bush is determined to go his own way based on the simple fact that he is the president. He has also said that the president can not fail to do what should be done just because Congress opposes it and because he is not popular. President Roh Moo-hyun, who pledged to exercise the legally guaranteed authority of the president consistently to the last day of his term, is in a predicament to Mr. Bush’s, in regard to low popularity and support.
But President Roh is in a far better situation than President Bush because he is not facing the awkward dilemma of war. Mr. Roh can still begin to look after the livelihood of the people and offer a vision for the next generations during the remaining one year, one month and 10 days of his term, which is not a short period.
Of all the things he should take care of from now on, his proposed constitutional revision should be left out unless he is determined to get stuck in the muck of opposition from the majority of the people.
*The writer is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kang Chan-ho