What is leadership?
The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
U.S. Republican Senator Ben Sass said, “This is a sad day for America.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that President Donald Trump is plunging the country into chaos. Stanley McChrystal, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said, “The kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ departure stirred the United States. It is unusual to see such a uniform, bipartisan reaction in such a complicated and diverse society. Mattis’ resignation is considered the most shocking departure in the 38 years since Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned in 1980. Why?
Vance strongly opposed the Carter administration’s military operation in April 1980 to rescue 63 Americans taken hostage in Iran. When his view was not accepted, he resigned. Operation Eagle Claw was also protested by many within the military for its reckless nature. In the end, the operation was botched and eight Americans died. In the aftermath, Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in the presidential election that year. Mattis was the first cabinet member since Vance to resign over differences in diplomatic and security matters, as he opposed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. That’s why some Washington insiders speculate that Trump may follow in Carter’s footsteps.
Upon his election victory two years ago, Trump cleared many domestic and international concerns with appointments: Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly were the “three grownups,” and everyone was relieved. They were known as the three-people committee saving the United States.
But Trump was not happy with the three as they stole the spotlight. In the end, he could not bear it and fired those he shouldn’t have. Those who controlled Trump’s temper and taught him details are now gone. Bloomberg wrote, “Already the floodgates are opening.”
I agree. For the past three and half years, I’ve been watching Trump’s moves almost every day. But his face has never looked so unstable. Tweets he sends from the early morning through the night are full of madness. He is eager to replace anyone he doesn’t like. Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be about to announce the results of his Russia investigation, and that seems to drive Trump into an extremely unstable mental state.
Trump fires those who did not do anything wrong, but Korea is the opposite. Those with allegations are condoned. A former Blue House inspector made disclosures about the presidential office’s alleged spying on civilians, yet it is considered the deviation of an individual. In a private company, a boss would take responsibility for the wrongdoing of their subordinates. As the scandal was shocking enough to replace the entire inspection team, Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Cho Kuk, who was in charge of the team, should resign and President Moon should hold him accountable for the management.
But Moon turned a blind eye to the case. Cho wrote on his Facebook page, “Many would beat me, but I will still go forward.” He even shared the song “No Surrender,” by Bruce Springsteen. No surrender means no ears. It is no coincidence that Moon’s approval rating is falling steeply. It may be about time that three Blue House officials — Cho, who is responsible for the inspection scandal, Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, and Tak Hyun-min — should consider whether to stay there.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 30