Two Tigers: Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, China)
May 20, 2008
Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou were both born in 1950, under the sign of the tiger. Today, President Chen Shui-bian will hand power over to Ma Ying-jeou.
This is the second time Chen Shui-bian has handed over power to Ma Ying-jeou. Ten years ago, In 1998, Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian lost his bid for re-election to Ma Ying-jeou. The consensus was that Chen's loss to Ma was a one time event. Chen Shui-bian was optimistic about a comeback. Today, 10 years later, in 2008, Hsieh has lost to his bid for the presidency to Ma Ying-jeou. But the consensus is it was really Chen Shui-bian who lost to Ma Ying-jeou. This time Chen Shui-bian lost more than political power. He lost his reputation. He lost his bona fides as the "Son of Taiwan" and his right to speak for "Taiwanese Values." He sullied the reputation of the DPP. He discredited the very notion of a 400 year old heritage of "native Taiwanese values."
Ma Ying-jeou has succeeded Chen Shui-bian twice in a single decade. Such are the vicissitudes of political life. Ten years ago, Chen Shui-bian lost his bid for reelection as Taipei Mayor to Ma Ying-jeou. That evening, as Chen thanked supporters, a tearful audience shouted, "A-bian for President!" Ten years later, all one hears across the land is cries of "A-Bian, Step Down!" Chen Shui-bian has twice paved the way for Ma Ying-jeou. Ten years ago, Ma Ying-jeou provided the springboard for Chen Shui-bian's presidential bid. Ten years later, Chen Shui-bian has provided the springboard for Ma Ying-jeou's presidential bid.
Ten years ago, Chen Shui-bian compared himself to a "mutt" and Ma Ying-jeou to a "poodle." Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou are indeed two very different political animals. One is "Taiwanese," the other is a "Second Generation Mainlander." One is an attorney, the other is an academic. Ten years later however, the difference between Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian has little to do with "mutts" and "poodles." Ten years later Chen Shui-bian is the "Shame of Taiwan," and Ma Ying-jeou symbolizes Taiwan's renewal of values.
Ten years ago, Chen Shui-bian was a sore loser. His satisfaction rating as mayor was high, yet he lost to Ma Ying-jeou. Chen Shui-bian was regarded as a man of ability. But he was unable to persuade others that he was a man of virtue, a man who could be trusted. As a result he was replaced by Ma Ying-jeou, a man who was perceived as a man of virtue, and a man who could be trusted. Ten years later, Chen Shui-bian has left an indelible image of himself as a corrupt and evil man, particularly next to Ma Ying-jeou.
By contrast, Ma Ying-jeou has always been regarded as a man of virtue. In fact, he has even been regarded as a man of virtue who was not a man of ability. Of course it may be that a man of virtue's abilities are not always immediately apparent. Whether this dichotomy between men of virtue and men of ability holds water remains to be seen. After all, Ma Ying-jeou's ability to maintain an image of himself as a man of virtue in the political arena is itself a kind of ability. Conversely, if Chen Shui-bian is a man of ability, yet has ended up defeated and disgraced, having destroyed his party and undermined his nation, is he really a man of ability?
How the future will unfold remains unknown. But if one had to sum up the lives of these two men today, one would have to say that Chen Shui-bian is the man who destroyed the DPP. He destroyed the DPP's political authority, he destroyed the DPP's political reputation. By contrast, Ma Ying-jeou, by helping the KMT regain its former status as the ruling party, is seen as a man who has given the KMT a new lease on life. Whether Ma Ying-jeou can help the KMT recast itself as the representative of mainstream Taiwan values remains to be seen.
Chen Shui-bian won the 2000 presidential election due to internal divisions within the KMT. As the standard bearer of the DPP's calls for reform, he once championed a "New Centrist Path." As a champion of "Rectification of Names and the Authoring of a New Constitution" however, his approval rating plummeted to mere 13%. By contrast, ever since Ma Ying-jeou accused the Lee Teng-hui regime of "abusing power for personal gain" in 1997, and resigned his position as a Minister of State, he has been seen as a reformist. Ma Ying-jeou is perceived as an antithesis of the machine politician, as someone who is "lonely at the top." Chen Shui-bian, who cast himself as a "reformer," wound up in bed with Deep Green Taiwan independence extremists, sealing his fate. Ma Ying-jeou is also cast as a reformer. What will be his fate? Will he be lonely at the top, or will he turn into a player who cuts sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms?
Two tigers. Chen Shui-bian became president eight years before Ma Ying-jeou. But during his eight years Chen Shui-bian divided the nation, demagogued Taiwan independence, and exploited "ethnic" bigotry to shield himself from prosecution for corruption. These two men are polar opposites. Ma Ying-jeou became president eight years later than Chen Shui-bian. If Chen Shui-bian hadn't demagogued these issues so shrilly, underscoring his rampant misrule and moral degeneracy, Ma Ying-jeou might not have won by such a landslide. Ma Ying-jeou might not have received such a clear mandate, even before assuming office. Over the past eight years, Chen Shui-bian destroyed himself and created President Ma Ying-jeou.
Ma Ying-jeou's integrity is a silent indictment of Chen Shui-bian. Chen Shui-bian meanwhile, is Ma Ying-jeou's object lesson.
2008.05.20 03:01 am