It seems that Chen Shui-Bian is trying to destroy whatever little chance Frank Hsieh has of winning the March Presidential elections. Whatever Hsieh does, he needs to develop his own voice and own policies, so while Ma Ying-Jeou is going on think tank after think tank talking about what he would do if elected President, Frank Hsieh isn’t saying anything because the moment he tries to say something, Chen Shui-Bian opens up his mouth and drowns him out. Personally, I have absolutely no idea what Frank Hsieh is going to do as President. All I know is what Chen Shui-Bian would like him to do, but I don’t know anything about Frank Hsieh.
The other thing that Chen is doing is just convincing everyone that he really can’t be trusted. He’s been quoted in the China Times as saying that he has gotten an invitation to visit Washington after 5/20 by the head of the American Institute for Taiwan. This may be the case, but I doubt that AIT would have wanted that news released to the press right now. It’s this sort of thing that’s losing Taiwan allies and potential friends.
It’s also that Chen is rather out of touch with the situation. He points out that he won the election with 50.1 of the vote while the DPP won only 34 in 2004 and the DPP has increased its vote totals this year. All true, but the TSU had 9% of the vote in 2004 and got demolished this time.
Anyway, it’s already late in the day, and converting a defeat into a victory is going to be a challenge for Frank Hsieh. He has to articulate a vision for Taiwan, overcome organizational chaos among his supporters, and take advantage of any missteps by the Kuomintang. Difficult, yes. Impossible, no, and if it one thing that I learned in 2004, it’s that anything can happen in an election, and not to assume you’ve won until after the votes are counted.
However, the more Chen Shui-Bian talks, the harder the job it’s going to be for Frank Hsieh to pull off a miracle. Chen has made it extremely difficult for Frank Hsieh to portray himself as a moderate. He is also making it very different for Frank Hsieh to set the agenda for the election. For example, Frank Hsieh *could* point to his administrative experience as mayor of Kaohsiung, or campaign as the “nice candidate”, but Chen is closing those avenues off for him. Also by saying anything, Chen is making it difficult for people to imagine Frank Hsieh as President. Frank Hsieh really needs to be out there, shaking hands, giving speeches, and looking like a leader.
So keep talking President Chen…..