Dare I say it? The very thought makes me titter with glee. It seems almost too fortuitous to be true. Faintly on the horizon lies the 2008 presidential election, and I believe I spy the makings of a pan-blue camp spl --
Wait, I can't risk it. No amount of knocking on wood would make this a safe bet. So no degree of premature optimism could induce me to utter that dirty five-letter word that has haunted the pan-blue camp since it was swindled into this democracy business. We need another term: Let's call it "candidate overload."
Yes, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters, the specter is rearing its ghastly head once again. Yes, it's that recurring nightmare, like the 7-Eleven chili dog that rips your bowels apart, but whose cheesy temptation you succumb to just the same, again and again.
You could hear the collective groan emanating from KMT headquarters as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) announced this week that he would not participate in the party primary because, he said, the KMT bent the rules for the Indicted One, former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)(no argument from me on that). And although Wang hasn't officially said he's running for president -- well, he did, but later said he didn't -- the writing is on the wall.
Could it be that luck is still with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after all its travails? Could pan-blue "candidate overload" give the DPP a chance to redeem itself?
All I can say is that I've never felt so convinced that Ma is innocent. You heard me: innocent. If politics makes strange bedfellows, then Ma and the DPP should be spooning like they were fighting off hypothermia. It takes at least two for the pan-blue "candidate overload" tango, and a conviction would leave Wang dancing with himself.
Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy watching Mr Teflon being scrubbed with a Brillo pad just as much as anybody. But what a calamity for the green side if justice were served with his conviction.
So what if Ma got a little confused about the difference between things that belong to him and things that don't. Who doesn't? The line between collecting a salary and stealing from the public does get a little blurry now and then. And as Ma has admitted, he's been pilfering since 1988. Old habits are hard to break. Cut him some slack.
Yes, the DPP needs Ma in that race more than it needs him fighting for the cell's top bunk with KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (
To fully appreciate this de-masking, we must revisit his drunken night out with Wang and honorary KMT lord of darkness Lien Chan (
As Ma stumbled out of the meeting, grinning idiotically and denying his inebriation with a high-pitched "Meiyou la" that would put the most dolled-up, low-rent SOGO xiaojie to shame, light was shed on the shrouded world of KMT decision-making.
While the evening's debauchery was ostensibly for "social" purposes (who spends his free time partying with Lien?) I can only imagine how many major KMT resolutions have been made under similar circumstances, with the attendees half in the bag, and dirty old men getting kisses from pretty young girls and downing glass after glass of red wine. Some things never change.
In his trial this week, Ma admitted that he had followed KMT-style fiscal practice, a leftover from the end of martial law.
Uh, Mr Ma: The rules have kind of changed since then. Back in the 1980s, pretty much anything a KMT official could swipe was a "substantial subsidy."
But the icing on the cake came last Saturday. After weeks of DPP poking and prodding of defenseless dictator Chiang Kai-shek's (
His comments were manna from heaven for the DPP. The highlight was his claim that the White Terror, the 228 Incident and martial law were all "small problems" among an otherwise sterling job by Chiang. He compared the savior of the nation to a piece of fine jade, which, though slightly blemished, remains beautiful overall.
Ma also accused the DPP of ineffective governance and "only being able to turn up old historical accounts." The irony of saying that while standing next to a Peanut impersonator appeared to be lost on him.
It was a helluva long and tedious rally. Most of the few thousand KMT crazies attending were about 100 years old and hobbling along on canes and in wheelchairs. Party of the future, indeed. Some saner party members had the sense to grumble that such shenanigans would alienate moderate voters, and that the party was sacrificing its overall interests for a few radical members. Gee, ya think?
Wang was conspicuously absent from the marching segment, making only a brief appearance for a cheer on stage next to Peanut Redux. Later in the week Wang tried to push Ma further toward the blue fringe by trumpeting his own credentials as a native-born Taiwanese and attacking Ma for not getting rid of the assets the party stole. Then he took off the gloves completely by going after Ma (in so many words) for being a Mainlander.
That last attack came just days after he told a rally that the DPP is stirring up ethnic tension. I swear: I'm going to open a buxiban dedicated solely to teaching irony. All irony, all day. I'll cover the walls with photos of Sisy Chen (陳文茜) and the statue of Chiang in a future Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. Perhaps Shih Ming-teh (施明德) will be a guest speaker.
Either way, Ma has been through too much to quit now, while Wang sounds more like an insecure teenage girl trying to slyly destroy her prettier and more popular "friend" than someone ready to take a hit for the team.
And while it's highly unlikely he will heed Acting Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung's (吳伯雄) advice to fall in line or find another party -- note Wang's failure on Thursday to attend a commemoration at Peanut's mausoleum -- one could have said the same about People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) back when he was grasping for power in 2000.
Oh yes, I haven't even mentioned Soong, who I presume will come to the pan-blue camp's rescue with his own presidential bid before too long.
I'll leave predictions of a DPP victory to Financial Times correspondent Kathrin Hille. For now, all I'll say is things are looking up just a bit for the green machine -- if it can manage to avoid its own split.
Knock on wood? The DPP had better start gathering timber.
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