Ma should learn from this as he apparently digs the grave for his own legacy. He is no Soong, nor is he a Lee.
Though Ma can claim that he was president for eight years and Soong was denied that career finale, Ma does not measure up to Soong as a man who had to play with tougher opponents and had been dealt fewer good cards than Ma.
When one plays cards with and courts “Dame Politic,” it quickly becomes a high-stakes game and is never a one-hand deal. Past presidents have seen their reputations reverse as time went on and they ran out of cards. Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) may have thought he died as “resident emperor,” but his name is now vilified more frequently than it is praised. Similarly, his son Chiang Ching-kuo has at best had mixed reviews regarding his checkered life and rule.
At a time when politicians, including Ma, are learning to duck flying shoes, many are wondering why Ma is pushing all of his chips into the pot over this one hand regarding Wang. Could it be that Ma senses that he does not have the cards and stature to follow up after his lame duck term is finished?
By drawing such lines of division, Ma is certainly risking all when there are more players in the game than Wang. Ma must be conscious that he is also playing for a legacy, though his legacy is already one tainted by his lack of transparency in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and trade agreements as well as his questionable use of the courts. His odds of winning are decreasing because of his actions.
A victory over Wang will be a Pyrrhic one. Surrounded by sycophants, yes-men and incompetents, Ma could be oblivious that his day of reckoning threatens to approach if it is not already here.
In contrast, Soong had a clear vision and, whether people agreed with it or not, they listened to him because he was forthright in his opinions. With Ma, people only sense deception.
Surprisingly, there may still be cards for Soong to play. He could rise to a different role and different status with a different contribution. He could, if he had the nerve, disregard attempts to build a self-aggrandizing reputation and give advice and commentary from all that he has seen and been involved in.
It is ironic that now, when almost everyone — even long-gone actors like former Democratic Progressive Party chairmen Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) and Shih Ming-te (施明德) — is being asked to assess Ma’s gambit, Soong, the one man best capable of judging and telling it like it is, has not been asked.
Soong once called Ma a Persian cat; famed for looking pretty, but ineffectual in catching mice. Soong is the one who could also offer the most perceptive insights and judgments on what is going on with Ma’s decisions. Would he do it and would he be honest?
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.