Winning Office with Their Tongues. Staying in Office with Their Tongues
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 13, 2007
Annette Lu surprised everyone. She declared that "The attainment of political power truly does depend upon the ability to talk." It's possible of course that she misspoke. To stress the importance of speech-making, Lu said that wherever she and Chen Shui-bian spoke, she shook hands with everyone, smiled, and by doing so "racked up another vote." If the president and vice president were actually elected on the basis of their silver tongues, then the power of language truly is astonishing.
Chen Shui-bian won political office by means of his tongue. Now however, that same tongue is demeaning the people of Taiwan. "The Pacific Ocean doesn't have a lid on it." Chen declared, "Anyone who thinks China is so wonderful can swim over there!" Does the head of state intend to banish people from their own homes? Was he merely showing off his rhetorical skills, or did his words reflect the narrowness of his mind and the smallness of his heart? Annette Lu wants to underscore the astonishing power of language. Chen Shui-bian, ironically, is doing precisely that. He is providing us with an eloquent demonstration of how he and the Democratic Progressive Party rule the nation.
Chen Shui-bian is unrelenting while holding forth at campaign rallies. He is unrelenting while attacking his opponents. He is unrelenting while promoting his "political achievements." He has reached the point where he now says anything that comes to his mind. Political opponents and party comrades share this perception. Perhaps Annette Lu's indiscreet remark that "The attainment of political power truly does depend upon the ability to talk" was not wrong after all. Saying anything that comes to your mind may be a means of survival in the political jungle, but it is hardly something the average person considers worthy of respect. Chen Shui-bian's manner of speech has become an indicator for observers of Taiwan's political scene and social trends.
Chen Shui-bian's rhetoric comes in several varieties. The most common is what Annette Lu referred to as a way to "rack up another vote." Usually this involves issuing blank checks, making wildly irresponsible election promises. For example, Chen Shui-bian once shouted himself hoarse talking about his commitment to "rescuing the economy." But after holding a much ballyhooed economic summit, he let the entire matter drop. Now he is doing the same with his "Join the UN" campaign. Even Chen Shui-bian himself admits "Nothing will come of it." Yet the Democratic Progressive Party persists in squandering all sorts of resources on this utterly pointless campaign. They don't know how to rescue the economy. Yet they unblinkingly assure us that "our competitiveness equals South Korea's." Financial reform, judicial reform, and education reform have turned into debacles. Yet they unblinkingly assure us they intend to "persevere in their reforms." Such surrealistic election rhetoric, such bare-faced lies, use misleading data and rosy scenarios to deceive some voters. Their ability to govern has repeatedly fallen short of expectations, undermining Taiwan's economic development. This is why so many members of the public are openly complaining, straight to Chen Shui-bian's face, that they can no longer survive.
Chen Shui-bian has a second kind of rhetoric, one that divides society, foments civil unrest, manufactures opposition, and propagates hatred. This is Chen Shui-bian's most unforgiveable sin. Some have directly compared the harm inflicted upon social harmony to Hitler's politics of hate. Chen's remark "The Pacific Ocean has no lid. Swim to China if you like!" is merely the most recent example. Every time a member of the public expresses dissatisfaction with DPP misrule, he accuses them of being "Communists," "Chi-Com fellow travellers," or "Members of the Red Shirt Army." Rival political parties and candidates are slandered and vilified. Chiang Kai-Shek is labelled a murderer. Ma Ying-jeou is maligned as a "Traitor to Taiwan." Chen uses his status as head of state to foment social opposition. Postwar Germany learned a painful lesson. Germany's constitution prohibits language that foments racial opposition. A Bian has sown the seeds of hatred within Taiwan's society. Will it be necessary some day to establish legal standards to heal the wounds caused by this hatred?
Chen Shui-bian has a third kind of rhetoric, as demonstrated by his mean-spirited personality and cultural bankruptcy. He has put his foot in his mouth too many times to mention. He has mocked ordinary citizens with remarks such as "If you can no longer get by, what are you doing at a high end audio and video exhibit?" He has revealed the sort of person he is through his behavior. What sort of person is he? The public has already arrived at its own conclusions. Chen Shui-bian's offensive terminology and obstinate behavior has often been characterized as "lawerly" conduct. Many lawyers have complained that Chen Shui-bian has has tarnished lawyers' public image. A single individual's personal style has resulted in the negative stereotyping of an entire profession. What is this but a case of one bad apple spoiling the entire barrel?
The Democratic Progressive Party has been in power for nearly eight years. The public now complains openly to Chen Shui-bian's face wherever he goes. In response, the president says whatever comes to mind, wherever he goes. After attaining political office on the basis of their speaking ability, Chen and the DPP have no political achievements worth mentioning. So confesses Annette Lu, Chen Shui-bian's own running mate. Now that they are in power, their ability to talk is what they are relying on to maintain their power, as testified by the popular discontent they encounter wherever they go. To write his political legacy, Chen Shui-bian need only open his mouth.
2007.11.13 03:45 am