Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Some advice for Chen Shui-bian

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is probably under more pressure now than at any other time in his life, with serious personal problems at home and mounting stresses in his job.

At home, he has to contend with his wife Wu Shu-jen's (吳淑珍) deteriorating physical condition and her pleas for divorce for the sake of Chen's political career. He also carries the weight of his daughter Chen Hsing-yu's (陳幸妤) concerns, who has just given birth to her third son, while her husband Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) has been indicted on insider trading charges. Prosecutors said last week Chao deserved an eight-year jail term.

At the office, aside from the non-stop political war that he must fight with the opposition parties -- including corruption allegations against his wife and aides, and the claims of incompetence -- he must also deal with attacks from his own side, including the recent call from pan-green academics to step down.

But it is in the worst of times that true leadership comes to the fore. It is now that the president should stand up and commit himself to the job at hand, making full use of his last 18 months in office. It is no time to turn back -- the legacy of the Chen administration depends on taking the initiative and looking forward.

If the issues are not directly apparent to the president, perhaps they need to be spelled out. Let's start with a few obvious points.

First, Chen needs to talk less and do more. The public will support policy proposals that produce substantive results -- they don't care what PR baggage cloaks it. They will also feel let down if he promises the world and delivers anything short of this.

A case in point: During the opposition's attempt to oust the president last month, Chen said he would dedicate more effort to cross-party consultation and negotiations, and seek a breakthrough on cross-strait talks. It's now mid-July. What has he done on either issue?

Let's go back a little further. When he was first elected president in 2000, Chen said he would seek to bring the perpetrators of the White Terror to justice and reclaim for the country the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) stolen assets. Those were heady days and the promises came thick and fast.

But six years have passed and little has been achieved on any of these fronts. The White Terror atrocities remain unaddressed and the KMT is having a field day cashing in its booty. What the public wants now is less politically motivated slogans and more promises delivered.

Next, the president needs to place his family in the background.

We might feel sympathy for Wu in light of her deteriorating health and feel empathy for a leader who obviously loves his family, but in truth these matters are personal and don't deserve the limelight that the media and Chen give them. The public's impression of the president is diminished when he goes on and on about issues that are clearly private. What the country needs now is a strong leader with a firm grasp of the national interest, not one that often sheds tears over family matters.

Other than talking less and pushing his family to the background, the policy areas the president could address with some urgency include: pushing ahead with the proposed statute on stolen party assets, speeding up the next stage of financial reform, selling off the government's multitude of state-owned enterprises, bringing the Lafayette frigate scandal to a close and ensuring the opening of the high-speed rail system. Indeed, the list of things to do is long and behind schedule.

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