Don't Underestimate the Wisdom of ROC Voters
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 5, 2008
Those who believe that Ma Ying-jeou's wife Chow Mei-ching stole newspapers while studying in the United States, and believe therefore Ma Ying-jeou is unqualified to be president, please raise your hands. Those who believe that the Ma Ying-jeou camp would be clueless enough to openly dispatch a former ambassador to the American Institute in Taiwan to negotiate the cancellation of green card, please raise your hands. Those who believe that Ma Ying-jeou leaked details of the 2004 Chung Hsing Bills Finance scandal, and authored the anonymous 2004 letter demanding that Lien Chan step down, please raise your hands. And last but not least, those who believe that if Vincent Siew's eldest daughter works for a US company and owns real estate in the US, that disqualifies Siew from running for vice president, please raise your hands.
For the past few days, these have been the hottest issues under the media spotlight. What does the issue of whether Chow Mei-ching stole newspapers have to do with the 2008 Presidential Election on Taiwan? Vice Chairman Jin-Heng Wei of the Northern Society says he got his information straight from the horse's mouth, from Chinese Language Department Director Wu Kui of Harvard University's Yenching Library. For the record, Jin's information is incorrect. Wu Ying, not Wu Kui, was former director of the Yenching Library, and he has publicly refuted Jin's allegation. Forget Ma Ying-jeou's green card. Anyone with any campaign experience knows unless you've suddenly lost your mind, you're not going to discuss such a senstive matter with the AIT at such a sensitive moment. Besides, the Hsieh camp merely "suspects" that the Ma camp "might have," or "probably" discussed Ma's green card. The Hsieh camp made no effort whatsoever to seek additional evidence before going public with such a serious accusation. If some day Frank Hsieh pays a visit to such and such a person, and his political opponent publicly announces that he "suspects" Hsieh "might have," or "probably" went to discuss shameful secrets that must never see the light of day, how will Hsieh respond then?
Whether Ma Ying-jeou had inside knowledge of, or took an active part in the 2004 election intrigues, is frankly, a KMT family affair. No matter how things went down, it's really none of Hsieh's business. Hsieh took exception when the Blue camp criticized Hsieh and Su for their lack of cooperation. He said it was unprincipled of the Blue camp to sow the seeds of conflict within the Hsieh/Su ticket. Whether Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang still hold grudges against each other is one thing. But Su Tseng-chang placed an ad in the newspapers blasting Hsieh. That is a fact. Does Frank Hsieh feel that the Ma camp is attempting to sow seeds of conflict within the Hsieh/Su ticket? Does he consider such attempts unconscionable? Does he consider them dirty tricks? If so, how does he feel about his own unfounded allegations that Ma Ying-jeou conspired to "exterminate Soong and destroy Lien?" Hsieh denies responsibility. He says he has "confidential information that cannot be disclosed." Does Hsieh feel his allegations are ethical, conscionable, and in good taste?
The presidential election is rapidly approaching. The fighting in the trenches is increasingly bloody. Elections are a form of competition. Some form of tit for tat is normal, even necessary. But this campaign has been reduced to digging up the past; to endless quibbles over whether a family member was ever a "hired gun" (a paid test taker) decades ago; or whether someone ever stole newspapers. This can only leave the public disappointed and angry. Who hasn't been guilty of youthful indiscretions? Is it really necessary to dig up such matters decades later and blow them out of proportion? Besides, much of the "inside information" has proven to be dead wrong, an embarrassment to the individuals who made it public. Politicians are repeat offenders guilty of wasting public resources. Taiwan faces an array of urgent practical problems. These problems affect the economy, culture, education, foreign affairs, and society. There really is no need to burden people with pointless quibbles irrelevant to peoples' lives.
Let's step back for a moment. Politicians are of course not doing any of this for the Public Welfare. They are doing it solely to win votes. But one can't help asking: Is this really going to win them votes? Do they really not see what concerns the public the most? Do they really not see what society needs the most? Do they really think voters will change their vote if they believe Ma Ying-jeou's wife stole newspapers? Or will indignant voters vote for the opponents of those who harp on such irrelevancies?
The DPP has long given people the impression that they are adept at "selling the sizzle, and not the steak." They know how to make gut appeals, how to seeking out what moves people emotionally. So what if Chen Shui-bian's strategy of linking the plebiscite to the presidential election provokes endless controversies? The "Taiwanese people's" demand for dignity and a "Taiwanese ethnic and national identity" is at stake! That takes precedence over all else, doesn't it? But look at the Hsieh camp's campaign tactics. Is this how Frank Hsieh plans to use his street smarts? His mental agility? His responsiveness? Pan Blue voters aren't the only ones who can't accept such campaign tactics. Even Pan Green voters feel more than a little uncomfortable.
When political candidates attack the pecadillos of their opponent's family members, it is tantamount to harassment. Harassment not just of the opponent, but of the opponent's family. Even worse, it insults the intelligence of ROC voters. Do politicians really think so little of the electorate? Will hysteria win votes, or will reason? We'll know the answer in 20 days.