Keep the postings at the museum

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Keep the postings at the museum

At the publishing party for his book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” former U.S. Vice President Al Gore introduced himself, “I’m Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States of America.”

The audience broke into laughter.

He added, “In fact, that is the most inconvenient truth for me.”

Gore’s book became an international best-seller, and he went on to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change activism.

However, the 2000 U.S. presidential election may be an unforgettable moment for him. He received 540,000 more popular votes nationwide, but lost to George W. Bush, who had four more electoral votes. For the first time in 112 years, the winner of the popular vote had failed to secure the presidential election.

Florida, with 25 electoral votes, was the problem: The punch-card ballots used in the state were critically flawed. The back pages were not torn apart cleanly, and when the ballots were inserted into the machine, the computer often marked them invalid. Palm Beach, a traditional Democratic stronghold, had 13,000 invalid votes, about 4.14 percent. And Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, did not approve counting the ballots by hand.

However, Gore neatly accepted defeat. American voters grew tired of the prolonged recount debate, which lasted several weeks. The public was initially sympathetic, but eventually urged Gore to concede. Democrats persuaded him to do the same, so Gore acknowledged defeat.

“This is America,” he said. “Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.”

The controversy over the National Intelligence Service’s online smear campaign against opposition candidates during last year’s presidential election is growing significantly. President Park Geun-hye has mentioned the case twice.

On June 24, she said, “During the election campaign, the NIS offered no help, and I did not receive any.”

On Sept. 16, she asked, “Do you mean I am elected because of online postings?”

She seems to imply that she enjoyed no benefit from the postings and that there was no collusion with the top spy agency. Her remarks are extremely inappropriate as the prosecutors are still investigating the case. So the replacement of the prosecutor-general or the sudden dismissal of the head of a special investigation team looking into the allegation is suspected for ulterior motives. Doubts lead to more suspicions. The Korean society expects the Blue House to step forward and assume responsibility for potential faults.

The demand for the president’s accountability by opposition Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Moon Jae-in is also rash.

He has said, “The last presidential election was not fair, based only on the facts that have been proven.”

His statement may reflect the ominous signs that the election outcome has not been fully conceded. The NIS’s online smear case has not been concluded yet and interpretations vary. We will have to watch the prosecutors’ investigation and trial process. The truth will surface when the dust from the bombings settle.

The ruling and opposition parties are fighting a war of position. Citizens have grown tired of their rhetoric. The countless comments and tweets posted by NIS agents are amazing, but it is equally surprising to argue that 51.6 percent of the voters were entirely convinced by them. The breakthrough depends on how the moderates respond. What would have happened if President Park had said, “I would have the NIS fully cooperate with the investigation and wait for the decision of the court”? Moon should have also persuaded his party that the case should not lead to protests and urged them to wait for President Park’s NIS reform.

The state of Florida has now replaced the punch-card ballot with a touch-screen voting system. In fact, there are only two punch-card ballot machines remaining in the world. One is at the Smithsonian Museum. The other is at the Agora Political Museum in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

The ruling and opposition politicians may want to visit the museum and remind themselves of the true meaning of democracy. And perhaps the disgraceful NIS postings should be stored there as well.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Chul-ho
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