“President” relinquishes Nonpresidential Powers
May 31, 2006
Chen Shui-bian, pretender to the Presidency of the Republic of China
One of the essential abilities that any intellectual worthy of the name must possess, is the ability to see what is right under one’s nose. This includes the ability to read a news report or op ed piece, and catch any paradoxes “hiding in plain sight” within the news report or op ed piece.
The ability to catch such paradoxes is an a priori deductive ability not dependent upon prior empirical knowledge. Whoever develops this ability can extract valuable information from an article, even if one knows nothing about the subject being covered or analysed in advance.
These paradoxes, which often go unnoticed even by the journalist or pundit who authored the article, are often the most valuable points in the news report or op ed piece.
Consider for example, the following articles. The first is a news report from Bloomberg, the second is a think piece from Stratfor.
First, let’s look at the news report from Bloomberg:
Taiwan President Chen Delegates Some Powers to Cabinet, Premier
James Peng in Taipei
June 1 (Bloomberg)
Last Updated: May 31, 2006 19:05 EDT
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said he will delegate some powers to the Cabinet and premier after his son-in-law was detained last week by prosecutors investigating insider trading, a Presidential Office spokesman said.
“President Chen made the decision late last night and the announcement was issued via the state-owned Central News Agency,” spokesman David Lee said in a telephone interview today in Taipei. The agency issued the report about 11 p.m. last night.
Chen will retain powers granted him by constitution, Lee said. He is still the military’s commander-in-chief of the military and remains in charge of foreign, defense and China policy, the spokesman said.
Comment: Now let’s look at the think piece from Stratfor, aka Strategic Forecasting.
Taiwan: Chen Relinquishes Nonpresidential Powers
May 31, 2006 20 34 GMT
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian announced late May 31 that he is transferring power to the premier and ruling party chief in the wake of the scandal over his son-in-law’s alleged insider trading. This removes him from his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — distancing him from both internal rifts and the DPP’s battles with the opposition Kuomintang — and separates the DPP from the scandal.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has been under increasing pressure since his son-in-law was implicated in an insider trading scandal. He already was suffering from a growing legitimacy crisis, as his push for independence has hurt business interests in Taiwan.
Opposition parties, including the Kuomintang (KMT), are trying to implicate the president in the scandal in hopes of allowing the KMT to begin impeachment proceedings. Under this increasing pressure, and with public opinion polls plummeting to the mid-teens (and the KMT already assumed to take the leadership in the next elections), Chen on May 31 relegated [sic] presidential administrative duties and personnel appointments to the premier and handed over his leadership role in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the ruling party chief. In essence, he is no longer acting as head of government, but only as head of state. He has not resigned as president but has decided to act only within the strict constitutional definition of presidential roles.
Now that Chen has relinquished his ties to the DPP, the party stands a chance of regaining some ground before local elections in December, which includes the elections for the mayoral post in Taipei. Chen hopes to divert his family’s scandals from the DPP and from KMT condemnation, while giving himself more time and space to deal with the accusations.
Chen knows that he has been rendered useless in his current position and needs to change things radically. If Chen is implicated in the scandal involving his son-in-law, there is no doubt that the KMT will begin impeachment proceedings. Although Chen’s move will take some pressure off the DPP, if he is able to remain in power he will continue to be a lame-duck president. However, by relinquishing his nonpresidential powers now, Chen might salvage some vestige of respect for his pro-independence party and keep the DPP from sacrificing him in the scandal.
Comment: Did you catch the paradox contained in both the news report and op ed piece? Did you catch the most valuable point of both the news report and op ed piece?
As the Stratfor headline wittingly or unwittingly implied, the most valuable point of both the Bloomberg news report and the Stratfor think piece was that a “president” was relinquishing nonpresidential powers.
Think about what that means for a moment.
That means that prior to relinquishing nonpresidential powers, that “president” had been exercising nonpresidential powers.
That means that prior to relinquishing nonpresidential powers, that “president” had usurped nonpresidential powers.
Political scientists and constitutional law experts have a term for a chief executive who usurps and exercises powers not constitutionally delegated to him, or her. That term is “dictator.” More ancient terms are “despot” or “tyrant.”
As the Bloomberg news article noted, in the words of Chen’s own flunky, David Lee:
“Chen will retain powers granted him by constitution … “
That means Chen had seized powers not granted him by the constitution.
As the Stratfor think piece noted:
“In essence, he is no longer acting as head of government, but only as head of state. He has not resigned as president but has decided to act only within the strict constitutional definition of presidential roles.“
That means Chen had been acting as both head of government and head of state.
That means Chen had been acting outside the strict constitutional definition of his presidential role.
That means that Chen was guilty of gross constitutional violations and should have been impeached or recalled for these offenses alone.
The fact that he is also guilty of every conceivable form of corruption under the sun, including patronage, bribery, extortion, influence peddling, fraud, embezzlement, and nepotism, is merely, as the Chinese expression goes, “frost on top of the snow,” i.e., “insult added to injury.”
As I said, the ability to read an article and catch any paradoxes “hiding in plain sight,” is of inestimable value. One who possesses this ability can extract valuable information from the article, even if one knows nothing about the subject being covered or analysed in advance.
Of course, those armed with additional, empirical knowledge not mentioned in the above news report and think piece will be aware of an even more fundamental fact, namely that Chen Shui-bian is not the president of the Republic of China in the first place.
I don’t use scare quotes around the title “President” when referring to Chen Shui-bian out of contrariness. I use them because they reflect the legal reality. I use them because Lien Chan is the duly elected president of the Republic of China.
For more on this subject, see my 2004 articles on the 2004 Republic of China Presidential Election
Not only has Chen Shui-bian exceeded the powers of the presidential office, the powers of the presidential office weren’t even his to exceed.