Sat, Nov 25, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Governing based on 'original sin'

By Wang Chien-chuang 王健壯

Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times columnist, wrote in an essay on the recent US election that no matter who the winner is, there must be a government of national unity. Otherwise the new president simply will not be able to govern.

As there was only a 0.2 per-cent gap between the percentage of popular votes won by Al Gore and George W. Bush, whoever wins the presidency will lack a mandate from one half of the population, Friedman argues. It is therefore not enough that the new administration merely be bipartisan -- there must be a government of national unity and a cabinet reflective of the make-up of the voters to "rule from the center."

Friedman, only half-jokingly, drew up a Cabinet members' list for the ideal government. If Bush wins, "there is no doubt," he says, that his secretary of state should be Bill Clinton, his secretary of the interior Gore and his UN representative Joe Lieberman. If Gore wins, his secretary of education must be Bush, his secretary of defense Dick Cheney and his secretary of state, "unquestionably," Colin Powell.

The title of Friedman's essay, `The Original Sin,' helps us to grasp the importance of his argument. He claims the next US president would be "born in sin," as the result of a too-close-to-call election caused by the "original sins" of the US constitutional framework (ie, the popular votes and the Electoral College votes). Faced with these sins, the president cannot help but accept a government of national unity. Though unprecedented, this solution could redeem the new president's sins.

The new resident of the White House might simply turn a blind eye to Friedman's advice. But his reasoning -- "from original sin to a national unity government" -- should inspire both the US and Taiwan.

There are many reasons for Taiwan's political turmoil. The most crucial one is that political figures from both the ruling and opposition parties, but especially the president, have long refused to face the original sin inherent in our Constitution. The president is still reluctant to admit that he was born a sinner.

The original sin that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should face up to consists of three elements. The first is the fact that he is a minority president, elected with less than 40 percent of the vote. The second is that the DPP is still a minority in the legislature. The third is the semi-presidential system. But Chen has adamantly refused to face his original sins. Instead, he hoodwinked both himself and the people into believing in his government for all the people. After that, he turned down Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) advice to establish a majority alliance in the legislature. Finally, Chen enhanced his own power but weakened that of the premier in contravention of the spirit of the semi-presidential system.

All of the DPP's current leaders, however, participated in the amendment process on the six occasions on which the Constitution was amended during the past decade. They unimously supported presidential elections based on simple majorities, restrictions on the president's power to dismiss the legislature and a semi-presidential system similar to that of France. Undoubtedly, they have been like Adam, in giving birth to "the original sins" of the Constitution. But now Adam either refuses to admit or has forgotten that he ate the forbidden fruit. And he refuses to seek redemption by being honest.

This story has been viewed 2932 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top