The Democratic Progressive Party's Last Chance to Break with Chen Shui-bian
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 1, 2008
The Democratic Progressive Party's Committee for Clean Government will decide how to deal with Chen Shui-bian this week. This is the Democratic Progressive Party's last chance to make a clean break with Chen Shui-bian.
Chen Shui-bian and the DPP are not on an equal footing. One. They are not on an equal footing in terms of maneuveuring room. Chen Shui-bian only needs to control a small number of Green Camp supporters to make big trouble for the DPP. The Democratic Progressive Party, on the other hand, must remain accountable to the community as a whole. Two. They are not on an equal footing in terms of time. Time is on Chen's side. The longer the situation remains unclear, the better for Chen Shui-bian, and the worse for the Democratic Progressive Party.
The Democratic Progressive Party has been slow to deal with Chen Shui-bian. It lost the opportunity to take matters into its hands, within both the party and the larger community. Take party members for example. One. Should the Democratic Progressive Party condemn Chen Shui-bian's corruption, or sympathize with him? Two. Does the Democratic Progressive Party consider Chen Shui-bian's brand of Taiwan independence Orthodox Taiwan independence? Or should the DPP condemn Chen Shui-bian's brand of Taiwan independence? Should it denounce it as false? As heresy?
The Democratic Progressive Party must adopt a clear and unequivocal position regarding Chen Shui-bian. If it fails to do so, Green Camp followers will perceive Chen Shui-bian as the standard-bearer for Taiwan independence. They may even conclude that Chen Shui-bian engaged in corruption only for the sake of the DPP, to fund the DPP's election campaigns and political protests. How then will the DPP be able to help Green Camp followers discern right from wrong? How then will the DPP be able to prevent Green Camp followers from sympathizing with Chen Shui-bian and feeling solidarity with him? The DPP Central Standing Committee has failed to establish a clear set of standards of right and wrong regarding Chen Shui-bian. By failing to do so, it has left Chen Shui-bian room to wriggle.
The public is waiting for the Democratic Progressive Party to take a stand on Chen Shui-bian's brand of Taiwan independence and corruption. If the Democratic Progressive Party cannot solve the Chen Shui-bian problem, how can it solve the problem of Taiwan's future? If the Democratic Progressive Party fails to engage in serious soul-searching on Chen Shui-bian's brand of Taiwan independence, what will the public think of the DPP? If the Democratic Progressive Party shies away from criticizing Chen Shui-bian's flagrant corruption, how can the public trust the DPP?
Chen Shui-bian is seeking warmth from diehard supporters. He is working his way from south to north. The arguments he has rallied in his own defense are beginning to take shape. The impact of his arguments on society are becoming apparent. Chen Shui-bian has made two major revisions to his defense strategy since stepping down. One. While in office, his main defense was to use the Executive Privilege of secrecy to shield other defendants. After stepping down, his main defense has been to pass the buck for any crimes he cannot weasel out of onto Wu Shu-chen. Two. While in office, his main defense was that the funds were for secret diplomacy. After stepping down, his main defense has been that the funds financed Democratic Progressive Party election campaigns and political protests. He offered two major defense arguments. One. Chen Shui-bian is also a victim. He is a victim of Wu Shu-cheng, aka "Lady MacBeth." Two. Even though the accounts remain unclear, most of the funds were nevertheless to be used on behalf of the Democratic Progressive Party and the Green Camp. Chen Shui-bian clearly hopes to turn these two themes into Green Camp articles of faith. One. I did not embezzle money. What Wu Shu-chen did had nothing to do with me. Two. The books may contain irregularities, but the funds were to be used for the Democratic Progressive Party and the Green Camp. This defense strategy may not be of much use in the courtroom, but they may have an impact in the Green Camp. They may provide Chen Shui-bian with sufficient leverage to hijack the Democratic Progressive Party.
Therefore the longer the Democratic Progressive Party waits before dealing with Chen Shui-bian, the denser the smokescreen Chen will be able to lay down. The Democratic Progressive will lose the opportunity to influence party members and the general public. It will lose the initiative. Chen Shui-bian's arguments may not change the big picture, but they may allow him to become the moral arbiter for hardline Green Camp supporters. They may give the public the impression the Democratic Progressive Party is indifferent to right and wrong. Chen Shui-bian is fighting like a caged animal. The Democratic Progressive Party may be dragged down with him.
Based on Chen Shui-bian's ability to manipulate the facts, he may be able to create an image of himself as someone who did not engage in corruption, but instead selflessly channeled wealth into the party's coffers. If so, he will be able to consolidate his status as the standard bearer for the Taiwan independence movement. Even if he is tried and found guilty, he needs only a pardon. Even though he has been stripped of political authority, Chen Shui-bian can still become the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party. This is a long term concern for the Democratic Progressive Party's reformist faction. Chen Shui-bian must not be regarded as merely a temporary inconvenience. For the DPP to distance itself from Chen Shui-bian, does not mean merely ridding itself of Chen Shui-bian. It means establishing a new set of standards for right and wrong within the Green Camp.
To sum up, the DPP must repudiate Chen Shui-bian. It must compete with Chen Shui-bian for the right to define the party's values. It must compete with Chen Shui-bian for the right to define Taiwan independence, to define democracy, to define the rule of law, to define ethics, to define integrity, to define honor, to define justice, and finally, to define the nature and image of the Democratic Progressive Party. When the viper bites the hero's hand, the hero cuts the hand off. This is the DPP's last chance to make a clean break with Chen Shui-bian.