Although the would-be legion of red-clad protesters hoped to embarrass President Chen Shui-bian (
Ma's administration failed to meet its obligations when it allowed the "siege" of the Presidential Office to take place even though its organizers had not received a permit.
On Monday, Taipei City Police Department Commissioner Wang Cho-chiun (
But on Tuesday, the nation witnessed its capital city descend into a state of something approaching lawlessness when police failed to step in and restore order.
In electing not to enforce the law on Tuesday, Ma said that: "So long as they [the protesters] are not violent and do not disturb the peace, Taipei City police will handle the situation with flexibility."
Flexibility surely cannot refer to allowing a crowd to intimidate people, brazenly disregard the law and impinge upon the rights of other citizens.
It seems the definition of flexibility Ma learned at Harvard Law School accommodates unlawfully assembled protesters creating tension and paralyzing traffic, despite the wishes of the great majority of citizens who might want to freely go about their business.
The anti-Chen camp claimed that more than 1.5 million people took part in Tuesday's "siege," while according to an official tally released by police, only 124,000 participated.
This bloating of support is just the kind of pie-in-the-sky fantasizing that the organizers of the protests have been indulging in from day one. And Ma has been giving them direct support. He is responsible for giving these people the administrative oxygen they need -- not to mention a personal stamp of approval -- to keep it up.
If any doubt remains about Ma's spinelessness, it was removed once and for all when he said: "We only have about 5,000 police today, while there are tens of thousands of protesters. It's hard to say then who will disperse who."
Perhaps Ma meant that so long as those in the crowd outnumbered police, the police would not be able to disperse them. Perhaps he meant that if those in the crowd outnumbered police, the crowd could assemble anywhere it liked and do whatever it wanted.
Ma's refusal to enforce the law leads one to wonder with alarm what he would do -- or fail to do -- if he became president.
If the national day debacle serves as an indicator, Ma, when faced with Chinese threats, will presumable say that surrender is the only option in the face of a much larger population and a violent foe.
In large-scale protests around the world, protesters invariably outnumber police, but the police are able to enforce the law and control the situation through appropriate training and preparation.
Whether or not Taipei's police have these capabilities is beside the point. The city government's authority has disintegrated in Ma's hands, largely because he thinks -- erroneously -- that cynical politicking can mask gutlessness.
Ma owes the capital's residents an apology. Indeed, if the Great Jogger abided by the standard of faux morality that the red goons are imposing on the president, he would resign. Fat chance of that.