Downgrading the treatment, however, also means downgrading Taiwan's semi-official status, and that is why the pan-blue camp describes it as a great setback. And when Chen says that the US struck not only at him as a person, but also at the symbol of Taiwan's sovereignty, he is also right.
The problem with the pan-blue camp's criticism, however, is that it contradicts their past statements, since the blue camp has all along subscribed to the importance of the practical aspect of diplomacy and claimed that the official aspect -- symbolizing Taiwan's independence -- is unimportant. When they jump up and down in anger over this diplomatic slight, they in fact jump all the way into the pro-independence camp.
The downgrading of Taiwan's semi-official status of course implies that Taiwan is still a long way from an official relationship with the US and, of course, even further away from de jure independence under international law.
It is not very strange, then, that although Lee called for restraint for the sake of the nation, Taiwan independence fundamentalists ran to the AIT to protest.
In addition, this incident has highlighted the difficult situation that independence fundamentalists are in. Chen met their demands and, after the cessation of the NUC and its guidelines, DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun initiated a call for constitutional re-engineering and a change to the nation's title in an attempt to achieve de jure independence.
Unexpectedly, however, the US' reaction means that we are now even further away from internationally recognized de jure independence.
Chen also finds himself in a difficult situation. He says that he refused to transit through the US because national dignity cannot be diminished.
If this is so, it is indeed true that the reception offered by the US was rude. But when comparing the reception accorded to him during his "glorious visit" to New York in 2003 to that offered to other heads of state, national dignity was significantly diminished, and almost disgraced. The treatment couldn't even compare to that accorded visiting ministers and their wives.
Compared with the treatment on offer this time, not much more was provided in the way of protecting national dignity.
Based on the concern for national dignity, then, Chen should not brag about his reception in New York in 2003, but rather say that he felt slightly humiliated and very dissatisfied, but that it was endurable for the sake of the nation since some progress was made.
Because national dignity has been slighted, Chen can leave behind his transit diplomacy and concentrate on domestic issues. Meanwhile, opposition and government politicians can continue to engage in their logic-deprived free-for-all.
It is a tragedy that the leaders the public must rely on have sunk so low.
Lin Cho-shui is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Perry Svensson