[Viewpoint]Greed for powerOne of the merits of a presidential election is the way it functions to rearrange and cleanse the political arena. In the 1992 election, Hyundai founder Chung Joo-young and political veteran Lee Jong-chan saw their hopes tumble; in 1997, it was the turn of Lee Su-seong and Park Chan-jong to see their dreams for the top job fade. Most recently, in 2002 the political careers of Rhee In-je, Chung Mong-joon and Lee Han-dong came to an end. Somehow, when these politicians reached a crossroads, they chose the path of self-destruction. Perhaps they overestimated themselves or they were blinded with fury against their opponents. So who will be the victim of political cleansing during the 2007 presidential election? It will most likely be President Roh Moo-hyun. As his term nears its end, he has wasted whatever political assets and goodwill he had left, and those who have some sympathy and affection for him are sick and tired.
Around the end of December 2001, Roh had a year-end party with reporters accredited to cover the Democratic Party. At the party, he shared an episode from his April 2000 National Assembly campaign in Busan. “I created a roster of the voters and marked my supporters with an O, the undecided with ? , and opponents with an X,” he recalled. “I got to spend as much money as I wanted on my campaign.” In effect, he confessed to a violation of the election law, but the media did not report his comment. It was too late to charge him with an election law violation anyway, and the reporters thought that he had little chance to become a presidential candidate at the time. Also, the reporters had a soft spot for Roh, who seemed to have a sincere passion for politics, having run for a National Assembly seat in Busan several times before, despite facing almost certain defeat.
“Sincerity” has become too familiar to us by now. During the last four years and four months, Roh and the Blue House have resorted to “sincerity” whenever they found themselves in a tight corner. In fact, the argument that the president is sincere appealed to many people. However, even that awkward sincerity is long gone, and only the greed of political interest remains.
The moment Roh began to curry favor with former president Kim Dae-jung and called him a man with a “passion for knowledge and information, profound thinking and well-organized values,” all Roh’s merits disappeared into thin air.
Before, the president often sarcastically taunted the press. “The politicians are prey to the media,” he has said. “What can we do when we are scrutinized with a pen and a camera? Should I try to please the media, cater to it or just surrender?” But now it is time for Roh to be taunted, and he has become mere prey to Kim Dae-jung. With the Honam region’s support and the Sunshine Policy, the former president is cornering the current president. Is the president trying to please Kim? Is he catering to Kim? Or has he simply surrendered to the old and greedy politician?
It all boils down to the president’s political greed. Because of greed, Roh has been heaping crude criticism that comes close to profanity on Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye of the Grand National Party.
While he claims that he is trying to create an anti-Grand National Party alternative, these are just words to camouflage his real intentions. In reality, he wants to bring together pro-Roh Moo-hyun forces. because he wants to be the center of attention whatever the political cost. Preventing the Grand National Party from coming to power, or helping the progressives to maintain power, is a secondary matter. His eyes are blinded by selfish greed as he tries to prevent his demise to lame duck status. He wants to ensure that he has political influence after he steps down.
The president claims to be a “president of international standing.” But it is unprecedented anywhere in the world to find a president who claims to be a straight talker using foul language and slang and attempting to rate his own achievements instead of letting history evaluate his term. Where else can we find a president who credits himself if the per-capita national income reaches the magic $30,000 level? When the president, who is supposed to respect the Constitution and the law, becomes a reckless maverick, the people do not have an appropriate way to respond to this catastrophe.
Roh is living proof that we cannot eliminate the rule that a president must remain politically neutral and we must not amend the Constitution to allow the president to serve two terms.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo