A not-so-great communicator

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A not-so-great communicator

President Lee Myung-bak’s nationally televised interview yesterday with two commentators was a rare opportunity for us to understand what he thinks about many critical issues facing the country. We praise his willingness to directly communicate with the people through the media. However, his statements fell short of our expectations in terms of both substance and style.

At first listen, Lee’s remarks sounded proper. First of all, there are few, if any, who would oppose the idea of revising the Constitution, which still has many outdated clauses because it reflected the zeitgeist of the democratization movement in 1987, which was most concerned with ending the legacy of dictatorship.

Also, as Lee said in the interview, no one casts doubt on the need to reorganize administrative districts, which were drawn up during colonial days. He is also right in arguing that the Korea-U.S. FTA should be ratified by the National Assembly as soon as possible. And no one can find fault with his remarks that our current confirmation hearings system has lots of problems.

The problem is that what’s right cannot always be realized as a political reality. Not all issues can be agreed to by political parties or factions struggling to protect their own interests. As for constitutional amendments, each and every political group is engaging in a fierce fight to swing the issue to its advantage. If Lee wants to amend the Constitution so that it covers many areas of our national life, including the South-North relationship, it will take a more prudent approach and much more time than he has left in his term.

Despite persistent efforts to restructure the outmoded administrative districts, such a change could not move forward without the consent of residents. Ratification of the FTA also may suffer a backlash if pursued without public support, as seen in the massive 2008 candlelight protests against the resumption of U.S. beef imports.

Under the circumstances, what’s needed is presidential leadership. Regrettably, Lee passed the buck to our legislators. He also said that the government’s job is picking public office candidates compatible with its philosophy. That may explain why the administration has so far failed to nominate qualified people for top positions capable of surviving a confirmation hearing.

Overconfidence is not good for a commander in chief. The president’s job is to talk with, and persuade, his people. We hope he will get better at that and soon.
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