In his never-ending quest for power, and in an attempt to stay on as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for yet another term, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) drew criticism for citing the case of former US president Harry Truman to strengthen his argument.
Ma could have cited the example of former dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who, after losing the Chinese Civil War, fled to Taiwan, where he came up with big ideas like “retaking the mainland” and “reforming” the KMT.
Instead, what he ended up doing was staying on as “lifelong head” of the KMT, ignoring the Constitution and coming up with ways to benefit himself and his cronies.
Despite the cries of many people like late intellectual Hu Shih (胡適), late Taiwan democracy pioneer Lei Chen (雷震) and late Taiwanese philosopher Yin Hai-kuang (殷海光), Chiang just kept on doing what he was doing, saying he was “doing everything he could to serve his country.”
However, Ma did not have the wits to cite this brilliant and ingenious leader, and instead invoked the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution and Truman, who was so intensely disliked by Chiang.
The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution sets a two-term limit for each president and a one-term limit if an individual becomes acting president less than two years into a term in which someone else was elected president.
This amendment was added to the US constitution after a proposal by the Republican Party because the Democratic former president Franklin Roosevelt broke an unwritten convention and was elected president four times before and during World War II.
The 22nd Amendment does not refer to re-election but, instead refers to the number of times a person can be elected president and the maximum number of years someone can serve as president.
Since this is also applicable to situations in which a candidate is not running for re-election, Ma could just forget about his re-election if he wants to cite this amendment.
This is why former US president Bill Clinton could not run for another term as president four years after he finished his two terms in office.
Ma is obsessed with power and his comparison to Truman invites ridicule because the difference between the two is enormous: The 22nd Amendment clearly states it was not applicable to the president in office at the time it was created, but Truman did not take advantage of this situation by holding on to power and running for a third term. Instead he chose to retire.
If one wishes to quote the US constitution to one’s advantage, it would be better to first gain an proper understanding of the US system.
The US constitution restricts presidential elections, and also the US does not have the same problem as Taiwan, having a president who also serves as the head of the ruling party.
Despite this, Ma tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes with talk about US democratic ideals.
To put it bluntly, the KMT is divided into two tiers only: orthodox leaders and sideline lackeys.
There is no need for Ma to go citing US precedent to support his bid for a third term as party chairman.
All he should do is to emulate Chiang, and get his lackeys to kowtow to him and ignore the KMT’s party constitution.
By doing that, Ma can continue to do everything he can to serve his country; just as Chiang claimed.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Drew Cameron