Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Lu should learn to handle her screw-ups

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

Let's face it, everybody screws up, especially when it comes to politics. But the difference for politicians is that their screw-ups wind up on the front pages of newspapers. The "good" politicians develop an ability to recover from a foul-up. By doing so, even if you screw up, you take responsibility and thereby demonstrate that you are responsible and perhaps smart and politically correct. That's exactly the dilemma Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has faced in the last couple of weeks.

As one of the most outspoken political figures in Taiwan, Lu's recent words and deeds illustrated a lack of prudence and comprehension on what role a vice president should play in Taiwan's unique political environment.

Constitutionally speaking, a vice president plays no significant role in the government. But during her first term as vice president, Lu has not only deconstructed the stereotype of the VP as "the one with no voice" but also redefined her role as an active player in the administration.

As a long-time advocate for human and women's rights, Lu is well known for her strong and outspoken personality. Her successful re-election, with a strong endorsement from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), constitutes the most significant progress the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) administration has achieved in broadening the role of women in politics.

Nevertheless, her latest inappropriate statements on changing the title of the country, as well as her criticism of the government's disaster relief efforts, created the impression that she is not part of the administration. Even worse are her comments about Aboriginal people. While she put all the blame on local media for misrepresenting her ideas about relocating Aboriginals to Taiwan's allies in Central America and about whether the Aboriginal people indeed are native-born Taiwanese, the problem lies in the timing of such messages.

First, reconstruction after Tropical Storm Mindulle is the administration's top priority. Any discussion of future environmental protection and resource allocation should wait. Although Lu might have her own opinion about reconstruction, no prior consultation was made within the administration's decision-making mechanism before she unleashed her "personal comments" on key issues. The results were inconsistency and an apparent lack of internal discipline from the Chen administration.

Moreover, Lu's attempted political maneuvering over key issues revealed her intention to move to a higher level in 2008 -- at least, that is how her actions were interpreted. While claiming that her latest moves have nothing to do with the election in 2008, Lu's sometimes eccentric performance may constitute a huge liability to her own popularity.

Lu is one of the DPP's leading candidates to become the next president, along with Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jen-chang (蘇貞昌). According to the Constitution, Lu has the least power to exert political influence, but she remains a significant player in the game. That explains why she has been quite aggressive in building up her own public image.

How should Lu recover from her past screw-ups? She must realize that she is a member of the DPP team. And she has to make sure her role is helpful to Chen. Lu should play the same tune as the DPP government, instead of dancing to her own music.

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