James Soong: Between Illusion and Reality
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 20, 2011
Grass-roots supporters of the Orange Camp are petitioning to make James Soong a candidate for President of the Republic of China, The leadership of the People First Party reportedly wants him to run for legislator from Hualien. Running for president and running for legislator from Hualien are miles apart. This suggests that despite any brave face James Soong might put on, in his heart of hearts he remains a realist.
By threatening to run for president, James Soong is putting on a magic show. This magic show conceals his bitterness with his loss of power and status, He is alienated from and angry with the Ma camp, It is hard for him to forget the era when everyone greeted him as "the honorable Governor Soong." Even now friends crowd around him, and urge him to run for office, The result has been bittersweet. On the Internet, he boasts a "million man petition." At the grassroots level however, he commands only a few tens of thousands of supporters. How many real world votes will this support translate into on election day? James Soong, a seasoned veteran, knows only too well.
By contrast, his plan to run for legislator from Hualien, is Soong's ultimate reality. Since 2000, he has suffered one defeat after another. He made failed bids for the presidency, the vice presidency, and the mayorship of Taipei City. In the end, he received barely more than 50,000 votes. He may still harbor political ambitions. But can he still fight the good fight? Fu Kun-chi has sunk deep roots in the region. James Soong probably intends to hitch a ride on Fu Kun-chi's coat tails. If Soong runs for legislator from Hualien, he may be able to return to the political stage. But even if Song is elected legislator from Hualien, the only impact he will have on the election, on cross-Strait relations, and on the strategic situation, is likely to be negative. Is this really the legacy Soong seeks? Even Lee Teng-hui is urging him to run for president. Running for legislator could be regarded as self-degradation, as looking tough on the outside, but being weak on the inside.
Just exactly what role does James Soong hope to play on Taiwan's political stage, and in cross-Strait relations? Why run for legislator from Hualien? Just because nothing better is available? He may be able to make trouble for the KMT. But what of it? He may be able to give the DPP a boost, and create chaos. But is that really James Soong's mission in life?
Also, must James Soong be synonymous with the People First Party? Is that something that might change? Years ago, the People First Party rode to glory on James Soong's coat tails. But times have changed. The halo over James Soong's head, has become a dark cloud over the PFP. The PFP is a political party founded on a single person's charisma. It may have difficulty maintaining voter support in Taiwan's highly competitive political arena. For proof, look at Lee Teng-hui's Taiwan Solidarity Union.
James Soong never considered the long term survival of the People First Party. He put himself above the party. His leadership of the party was emotional, even violent. He ignored others' advice. He alienated his original supporters. He drove away the party elite. This, rather than any KMT dominance. led to the decline of the People First Party. The real cause of the PFP's decline was the party chairman's egotism. The public still recalls his conduct during the "Chen/Soong Meeting." James Soong could refuse to remain under the Pan Blue banner. He could argue that "three parties without a majority ensures people power." But his political moves did not reassure the public. The public doubted his power play would improve the situation for Taiwan. They feared it would only make it worse.
Soong's problems began with the 240 million NT Chung Hsing Bills case. Soong insisted that the 240 million belonged to the KMT. Now however, he says the money was the balance from his own campaign funds. The KMT cannot compromise on this matter. The issue concerns more than justice. It concerns Soong's reputation. Soong originally insisted that the money belonged to the KMT. If he and the KMT were to donate it to charity, Soong could erase the stigma from the Chung Hsing Bills case, He could rehabilitate his image. But if the 240 million NT becomes his reason to run for legislator from Hualien, his reputation will soon be in shambles.
James Soong has repeatedly gone on the offensive, and attacked the KMT. But he has offered no national policies superior to the KMT's. The public sees no overarching reason for him to return to politics. Why is he joining the DPP's attack on the KMT? On the issue of black gold, he has even joined in the chorus with Lee Teng-hui. He is saying the money had nothing to do with Lee Teng-hui. Lee Teng-hui has returned the favor, praising Soong as "the best administor on Taiwan." Years ago, the two confronted each other with drawn swords. Yet today they acted out this perverse charade. By the look of things, Lee Teng-hui ought to visit Hualien and stump for James Soong.
This is Soong's greatest tragedy. The express train of time has hurtled ten years into the future, But James Soong remains seated at the same station, waxing nostalgic over the past. Filled with grief and sorrow, he rails against fate, and longs to revisit happier times. But who are his real enemies? Are they his erstwhile comrades, who once fought at his side? Are they Taiwan's voters, whose moods are as changeable as the wind? Or are they the demons in his own heart, who long for revenge?
People Soong once touched may recall the hard working Governor Soong of years gone by. But such memories are being squeezed out by today's images of a sour faced Chairman Soong. Five years ago, when James Soong ran for Taipei mayor, he said it would be his last hurrah. Today James Soong can still be received on the mainland with some dignity, People on both sides of the Strait still recall happier times. Is James Soong determined to sink so low? Is he determined to eradicate these final traces of his legacy, by glad handing and shouting slogans?