More Than Mere Legal Maneuveuring
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 12, 2009
Wu Shu-chen has chosen to admit partial guilt, or to admit guilt as a legal ploy. Either way observers are nearly unanimous about her legal strategy and underlying motivation. They have pointed out the many ways in which Wu Shu-chen is covering up and contradicting herself. Here we would like to ask a hypothetical question. Suppose Wu Shu-chen's testimony is true. Suppose she really didn't engage in bribery and corruption? Suppose all she did was forge official documents and launder money? Suppose Ah-Bian has been seriously wronged? Suppose the poor man was actually kept in the dark all this time? Suppose he knew nothing? Suppose he should never have been detained? Suppose Wu Shu-chen's account is true? That raises an interesting question. Namely, has this man really been our President for the past eight years? Has this woman really been our First Lady?
Chen's legal defense team has been striving to create an image. According to this image, former President Chen has no standing at all at home. Wu Shu-chen wears the pants in the family. Chen Shui-bian never asks how Ah-Chen budgets their finances, Therefore Chen Shui-bian was in the dark about the receipts from the State Affairs Fund, and campaign contributions by business consortiums. Assuming this is all true, then we have to ask, is this really the kind of person has been governing our nation for the past eight years?
No normal department head of a public institution, no normal chief executive officer of a private corporation, no matter how much he loved his wife, would turn the entire household budget over to his wife to manage. He would certainly not dare put his wife in charge of the budget for the department or company he heads. He would not certainly not dare permit his wife to collect invoices from the wives of subordinates and submit them to his department or company for reimbursement. He would certainly not dare permit his wife to meddle in official departmental or company disputes. He would certainly not take orders from her on how to run the department or company he heads. It is not even necessary to explicitly forbid such conduct, because since time immemorial the line between public and private has never been in doubt.
The First Lady is severely handicapped. Wu Shu-chen must be assisted in all her movements by family members. She is so frail that when issued summons to appear in court, she asked to be excused 17 consecutive times, for reasons of health. Who knew she had the time and energy to intervene in the Nankang Exhibition Hall construction bidding process, and to order the Minister of the Interior to leak the list of review board members? She was not the least bit shy about mediating disputes between wealthy consortiums. She directly intervened in the Lungtan land auction process. If that was not enough, she unblinkingly collected hundreds of millions in "campaign contributions" then transferred them overseas into dummy accounts under her son's name. The prosecution has indicted her on all counts. Wu Shu-chen has admitted to them. Are these things permissible for the First Lady? Can these things be cavalierly rationalized away as "campaign contributions?"
Now let's look at the State Affairs Fund. Whether one wishes to cite the "big reservoir theory," or to attribute the problem to obsolete practices, as long as the expenses are in fact "Presidential Office official expenditures," they can more or less be justified. But by no amount of rationalization can justify putting the First Lady in charge of collecting receipts, or allowing her to fulfill a role akin to Yu Wen's. No amount of rationalization can justify permitting the First Lady to collect invoices from the wives of wealthy cronies for reimbursement, then making them available to former President Chen. If everything was as Wu Shu-chen said, if she did not embezzle even a single dollar, then Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-chen owe everyone on Taiwan an explanation. The State Affairs Fund should have been directly remitted to the president for his use. Why did it have to first pass through the president's official residence? No matter how tolerant voters may be of former President Chen's pecadillos, this is one they cannot possibly tolerate.
Let's return to the root of the problem. How could a president who was ostensibly elected by over half the voters, who swore an oath to uphold the constitution, who was endorsed by a political party that trumpets its moral rectitude, sink so low as to allow his wife to assume official functions and exercise official powers. How could he turn the machinery of the State Affairs Fund over to wife? How could he be totally unaware of his own wife's brazen involvement in public works bidding, issuing orders to department heads to leak secrets, and mediating disputes between wealthy consortiums? How could he know nothing about his spouse's laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and jewels all over the world. During his presidency Chen lived under the same roof with her, day after day, for eight years. The public is being asked to believe he was kept in the dark all this time. In fact the ones who were truly kept in the dark are ordinary members of the public.
Wu Shu-chen's testimony must not be dismissed as legal maneuveuring. It must not be dismissed as an effort to help her husband and son evade prosecution. It must not be dismissed as a way to allow Ah-Bian to distance himself from these crimes. Even assuming he could, what would be the point? If the evidence shows Chen Shui-bian was aware of everything that was going on, then he was her chief accomplice. If the evidence shows Chen Shui-bian was completely oblivous to what was happening for the past eight years, then he was an incompetent fool. The only question in the public's mind is, which one of these is the real Chen Shui-bian.