United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 28, 2015
Executive Summary: The first televised 2016 presidential election debate was held yesterday. It would be hard for voters who spent two and a half hours sitting in front of their computers or television sets, not to be disappointed with the three candidates' performances. The event was referred to as a "political debate". But where was the beef? The three candidates spent most of their time pointing fingers at each other and shirking responsibility. By debate's end, many people were more confused than ever, unclear where political differences between the three, if any, lie.
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The first televised 2016 presidential election debate was held yesterday. It would be hard for voters who spent two and a half hours sitting in front of their computers or television sets, not to be disappointed with the three candidates' performances. The event was referred to as a "political debate". But where was the beef? The three candidates spent most of their time pointing fingers at each other and shirking responsibility. By debate's end, many people were more confused than ever, unclear where political differences between the three, if any, lie.
During the policy presentation stage, James Soong and Eric Chu each made explicit policy commitments. Soong proposed to "Surpass Korea by 2030". He promised to surpass South Korea's annual growth rate by 1.5%, to cut government debt to 1% under the growth rate, and to increase Internet speed on Taiwan to the world's top ten within a decade. Chu proposed a "three policy strategy". He promised that four years after taking office, he would increase base salaries to 30,000 dollars or more, impose a wealth tax on the wealthiest One Percent, and provide interest free student loans within five years. These policies provide specific numbers that can be tested.
Tsai, meanwhile, probably assumed victory was at hand. She may have recalled President Ma's "Six Three Three Policy” rubber check. She offered virtually no explanation of her vision, let alone specific policy objectives. Instead she devoted all her energy to attacking Chu and Ma. Was she overly defensive, or insufficiently tolerant? That is hard to say. She took only one clear position yesterday. She would allow the importation of US pork containing clenbuterol, providing they met the same standards as Japan and South Korea.
The first thing Tsai did during her opening remarks, was attack the KMT. She said "No matter how poorly a ruling party has performed, as long it is pleased with itself, it can tell pretty lies, make empty promises, and ignore peoples' pain". Her own words were pretty enough. In fact, they applies just as well to every president beginning with Lee Teng-hui, including Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou. In fact, they were a warning that applied to herself. If she becomes president next year, will another challenger accuse her of precisely the same sins four years later?
Based on yesterday's performance, the political differences between Chu, Tsai, and Soong are imperceptible. There are three reasons for this. One. The largest political parties on Taiwan differ mainly over blue vs green, and reunification vs. independence orientation. Their differences are not over left vs. right, or poor vs. rich. As a result their basic policies overlap considerably. It is easy for one candidate to claim his opponent's position as his own. Two. The blue and green camps differ primarily over cross-Strait policy. Reporters yesterday were particularly concerned about the 1992 Consensus. As usual, Tsai fell back on "strategic ambiguity". Most voters could not even begin to decipher her meaning. Three. All three candidates unanimously emphasize unity, communication, transcending partisanship. Their rhetoric is pretty. But voters have been listening to their braggadocio for the past 20 years. Have they not tired of it yet? Judging by the expressions on the faces of the three candidates yesterday, they don't think so. They hold out little hope that their ideals will ever materialize.
Eric Chu, Tsai Ing-wen, and James Soong are battle-hardened veterans. The three were provided an opportunity to clarify their political philosophies by means of political debate. They were given a chance to present elevated political visions and broad-minded national policies. Instead, they wallowed in Taiwan's political morass, which necessitates grandstanding and belittling one's opponents. For example, Tsai Ing-wen accused the KMT of not knowing how to engage in self-reflection. She then boasted of her own achievements under Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. She engaged in not one iota of self-reflection. She displayed not one iota of humility. Eric Chu began by saying that a leader must advise people what to do, rather than merely parrot what they say. But when someone mentioned the high-handed manner in which he replaced Hung Hsiu-chu, he argued that his candidacy was "a response to public opinion". James Soong said leaders must "build trust by practicing what they preach”. But how many times has Soong said, "If I lose this election, I will quit politics"? How many times has Soong said, "This is my final battle”? Given all Soong's inconsistencies, where is this alleged "trust"?
How candidates perform during an election debate, demonstrates the maturity of a nation's political culture. Yesterday's presidential debate was lackluster, and demonstrated the inadequacies in Taiwan's democracy. We can only hope that the next debate will be better.
The debate left much to be desired. Yesterday's broadcast showed Tsai Ing-wen subtly changing her stand as she gets closer to the presidential palace. For example, the DPP has obstructed passage of the “Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations” for two years. But yesterday Tsai Ing-wen announced that the DPP will pass this most important bill during the next legislative session. Another example is US pork imports. The DPP formerly vowed undying opposition to US pork imports containing clenbuterol, on the grounds of national interest, Taiwan's pig farmers, and public health. Now however, Tsai Ing-wen is tacitly backing down. She now says she will adopt “the same standards as Japan and South Korea". Such changes are at best a case of "new position, new tune”. At worst, they are a case of "I am allowed to commit arson, but you are forbidden to light a lamp”.
Will solemn promises become pretty lies? Time will tell. But wise voters must act now, and not wait on Father Time.
花了兩個半小時坐在電視機或電腦前面收看的選民， 恐怕很難不對三位候選人的表現感到失望。名為「政見辯論」， 但三名候選人多數時候卻「辯而不論」，提出的政策牛肉不多， 反倒是互相指責、推卸責任之詞不少。也因此，在辯論大戲結束後， 許多民眾恐怕仍然覺得霧煞煞，不清楚三人之間的政見差別何在。
宋楚瑜提出「二○三○超韓趕星計畫」， 稱未來每年經濟成長要高於韓國一點五個百分點， 政府債務成長要低於經濟成長一個百分點， 上網速度則要在十年內進步到全球前十名等。朱立倫則提出了「 戰略三策」，承諾一旦執政，四年內基本薪資將提高到三萬元以上， 並對所得前一％的富人課徵富人稅， 學生畢業五年內免除助學貸款利息等。這些， 都是有具體數字的政策，可供來日檢驗。
的跳票紀錄，在整場辯論中，她幾乎未就其執政願景提出任何說明， 遑論宣示具體的施政目標，反而將全部重心放在批朱打馬。這點， 不論是不是防衛過當，都顯得她氣度不足。 昨天會中她唯一明確的表態，是上任後採取「和日韓一樣的標準」， 開放含瘦肉精的美國豬肉進口。
一個執政黨不管做得再怎麼差，只要自我感覺良好， 都可以編出美麗的謊言，開出美麗的空頭支票， 對人民的痛苦卻無動於衷。」這段話說得鏗鏘有力， 但如果將語境的時空背景抽離， 此話似乎適於送給所有任期即將終了的執政者，包括李登輝、 陳水扁、和馬英九在內。同樣的話， 其實更像蔡英文送給自己的警語：明年她若如願拿下政權， 四年之後，她會不會也遭到挑戰者同樣的質問？
第一，台灣藍綠政黨的基本差異主要在統獨， 而不在路線的左右或社會階級， 因此各黨在一般政策主張的相似度很高， 也很容易隨手吸收對手的論點融為己有；第二， 對於藍綠基本差異的兩岸政策， 尤其是昨天提問者關注最深的九二共識，蔡英文一路以其慣有之「 戰略模糊」閃避；對一般選民而言，根本無法意會她言下之奧義； 第三，三位候選人異口同聲強調團結、強調溝通、強調超越黨派， 這些都是「想當然爾」的美麗詞藻；但對選民而言， 如果廿年來還沒聽膩這些大話， 昨天人們從三人臉上恐怕依然讀不到誠懇， 也依然看不到實現的機會。
原本三人有機會透過政見辯論，幫選民釐清一些政治理念， 甚至提升彼此的政治瞻矚和治國胸襟。遺憾的是， 他們卻拘囿於台灣既有的格局，既要譁眾取寵，又要貶抑對手。 例如，蔡英文批國民黨不懂得反省，卻對自己在李登輝、 陳水扁時代的功績自吹自擂，而無一句反省，也無一絲謙卑。 至於朱立倫，前一句才說領導人應該要指導民眾怎麼做， 而不是人云亦云；但提到換柱，他卻又說自己參選是「回應民意」。 再如宋楚瑜，聲稱領導人必須「昭大信，言出必行」， 但他自己說過多少次「落選退出政治」、「最後一戰」， 卻不斷出爾反爾，他的「大信」又在哪裡？
人們也看到了距離執政權越來越近的蔡英文， 如何悄悄移動了她的立場和角色。例如，遭民進黨杯葛了兩年的《 兩岸協議監督條例》，蔡英文昨天宣稱， 民進黨會將之列為立法院下會期最重要的法案。再如美豬的進口， 過去民進黨以國民健康和台灣豬農的利益為由， 誓死反對含瘦肉精的美豬開放；而如今，蔡英文也悄悄鬆口， 把底線退至「採取和日韓同一標準」。這樣的變化，說輕鬆點，是「 換了屁股、就換了腦袋」；說嚴重點，不就是「只准我放火， 不許你點燈」嗎？