Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen misses his chance to bat

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) decision to stay on his aircraft during his stopover in Alaska in protest at his treatment by the US government is not without precedent. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) did the same in the mid-1990s to voice his objection to the limited itinerary that had been offered to him during a tour of the nation's allies in the region.

Unfortunately, Chen's "no feet on US soil" boycott did not have the impact he would have liked, and certainly was not as theatrical as Lee's effort.

When the US State Department has the cards stacked against you, sometimes there can be more effective ways to milk a media event than sitting in a plane and sulking.

Holding an outdoor press conference testing the limits of restrictions on Chen's speech would have been preferable -- and would have had the added advantage of a potentially spectacular icy mountain backdrop to remind viewers of just how much Chen and Taiwan have been left out in the cold, both diplomatically and strategically.

This would have been especially significant considering that Taiwan's enemies in the US government -- not to mention across the Taiwan Strait -- would have been delighted to see Chen stay cooped up in first class rather than walking freely into The Last Frontier.

But what really irritates is not that Chen missed a terrific opportunity to exploit a chilly metaphor. Instead, serious dishonor falls on the Presidential Office's media handlers, who announced that the president was simply too busy to get off the plane even for a moment.

Allowing for the fact that this was standard "downplaying" diplomatic-speak, it really has to be asked whether the Presidential Office's strategy of denying reality could become any more stupid than this.

The president has little time left to craft his foreign affairs legacy, and this process cannot be helped by doing one thing and saying another -- which is precisely the complaint that even Chen's friends in the US have made about him.

Chen would do well to take some advice from the nation's young representatives in the Little League World Series, who on Thursday night gave it their all and bravely fell to Japan in the semi-final 4-3 after four extra innings.

The kids from Taichung did their country proud -- and they did it while, as usual, being lumbered with the title of "Chinese Taipei."

This time around, however, they could hardly be identified as that. The team sported shirts and caps emblazoned with the words of the qualifying region for which they were champions -- Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, in the bleachers, their families were raucous, and a number of them carried Republic of China flags and banners bearing the words "Taiwanese spirit."

It is much easier to display that spirit by playing the game, rather than taking your bat and ball and refusing to play.

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