Thu, Dec 28, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The game of pointing fingers

The sentencing of the president's son-in-law to prison on insider trading charges is, by any standards, a victory for the rule of law, and an indication of the sophistication of the country's political system.

Meanwhile, the specter of corruption seems to raise its ugly head in every corner of the political establishment. Former National Science Council deputy minister Hsieh Ching-chih (謝清志) was indicted on corruption charges on Tuesday, while former minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) was being questioned for her alleged role in another scandal.

Opposition demagogues will likely take advantage of this news to lecture society about the "corrupt" administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Of course, for a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to lecture on the dangers of corruption takes an act of cognitive dissonance so complex it should qualify for some kind of award. Perhaps we could use the old "Republic of China" honor system and create an Order of the Unpropitious Twaddle, with Grand Cordon.

As anyone with an iota of intellectual honesty will recognize, the system of government created during decades of KMT misrule lends itself to acts of corruption -- sometimes even inadvertently -- by politicians and bureaucrats.

But as we all know, intellectual honesty is not the strong suit of the nation's political elite. In fact they rarely seem interested in honesty at all, preferring instead to live in a fantasy world of their own creation, where every event affirms their preconceived beliefs.

This is not a problem unique to Taiwan. All modern democracies are plagued by this trend toward a kind of irrational political tribalism, in which honest debate is supplanted by mere management of perception.

Statesmen have been replaced by advertisers.

So even as we can certainly expect the KMT to portray the sentencing of the president's son-in-law as an indictment of the administration and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), we can also expect little in the way of an honest assessment of what went wrong.

But despite the fact that most of the talking heads in the opposition parties will spend days, if not weeks, prattling on about the issue of corruption, what you will probably not see is members of the opposition trying to find solutions to the problem of corruption.

The legislature has extended its session, but will it do anything substantial? Will it pass a party assets bill? A campaign finance bill, requiring greater transparency in how political donations are reported? Will it approve nominees for the Control Yuan, the supposed oversight branch of the government, which has not functioned for several years now?

Don't hold your breath. Because doing any of these things would require the opposition parties, who still hold a legislative majority, to squarely face their past. It would also require the KMT and the People First Party to put the nation's interests ahead of their own.

In short, it requires the opposition parties to grow up and become mature political institutions whose members understand the benefits that come with playing by the rules and standing up for Taiwan's democratic system.

But why should anyone expect these things, when all we have seen from the opposition parties is a solid history of playing the perpetual spoiler, and sacrificing Taiwan's interests for the sake of the egos of a handful of the old guard?

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