0

The Tragedy of President Chen

Taiwan’s Public Prosecutor has indicted the wife of President Chen Shui-bien for embezzling public funds. Chen, as a sitting president, cannot be indicted even though the prosecutor says that he has evidence to prove his guilt. But Chen’s legacy was already in tatters.

Chen can remain in office until his term ends in 2008, or he could resign now in order to let his vice president and pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rebuild to win the next election. Whatever his decision, Taiwan’s first DPP president will go down in history as a pathetic failure, because he used his office to divide the island’s citizens, as if his domestic political opponents were Taiwan’s mortal enemies.

The root of Chen’s moral demise is something the classical Greeks identified: hubris. Chen’s popularity among his party followers, whose fervency often bordered on fundamentalism, changed him from a person with deep democratic instincts into a textbook case of a man who regards power and its prerogatives as being his by right.

Chen once had political courage. Jailed years ago for his anti-Kuomintang (KMT) activities, he stood up at great odds to the Chinese Communist Party, which sought in vain to subjugate him in cross-Strait relations and in global politics.