Is AIT as Dumb as the KMT Thinks That They Are?

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Wednesday January 02, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

In early December, Raymond Burghardt, Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), visited Taiwan to speak and listen to the presidential candidates from both major parties as well as to receive assurances from President Chen Shui-bian that Chen would do nothing drastic before the end of his presidential term. To speak to the two major presidential candidates would be natural for the AIT head in order to get a feeling for the priorities of each. To be concerned about President Chen doing something drastic is a bit over the top and another indication that the US has never had good communication channels with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). While the fault of this lies on both sides, it also continues to show how many in the USA's bureaucratic ranks not only don't have an ear to the ground in Taiwan but that they also still rely on their past wining and dining buddies of the past Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) era for information. Examine the laughable but oh-so-typical of media hype that followed Burghardt's visit.

Shortly after Burghardt's departure, there came news of the "great leak." Taiwan's media were filled with the fact that Burghardt had privately met with Vincent Siew, the KMT vice-presidential candidate and that Siew felt obligated to convey at least 15 dirty tricks that the KMT expected the dastardly DPP to pull before the elections were over.

Siew's accusations and innuendos were straight from "Tales of the Bizarre," a characteristic ploy of the KMT. Knowing that their own hard core members delight in such tales and bhagwa (rumors) the KMT often hope that others may do so as well. The most spectacular of these tales was the scenario where Chen Shui-bian wished to have the DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh assassinated so that his alleged favorite Su would have the inside track. Shades of 2004, the KMT (a party with a long history of political assassinations) was still trying to pin an assassination attempt on the DPP.

In this case, however it was first a shame that Siew, a man with a long record of public service would allow himself to be dragged in and used as the messenger boy in this regard. It would be one thing for the KMT to have one of its numerous media minions say it, but their VP candidate? Perhaps the KMT had no choice since Burghardt would only see a limited amount of people and the pseudo image of Ma Ying-joke had to be preserved that he would never stoop to such.

Second this was also an insult to the intelligence of AIT that the KMT would consider it so dumb as to fall for such a storyline. Stephen Young AIT Taipei Director had already shown himself astute enough to see through the antics of James Soong during the 10/10 celebrations back in 2006. But since AIT was supporting the US State Department opposition to the UN referendum, perhaps the KMT thought they would bite on another "mad Chen, the trouble maker" scenario.

Even if the KMT did not feel AIT was that dumb as to be rattled by their scare tactics, the KMT may have been simply seeking an occasion to continue to cast dastardly aspersions on Taiwan's president. For any long time resident of Taiwan, such is a standard ho-hum ploy of the KMT. Nevertheless this still would be an insult to AIT for the KMT to use it for the purposes of its own mud-slinging. So goes life in the city of Taipei. Regardless of the KMT's motives, as the elections approach, one thing we can rest assured of is that we have not seen the last of the KMT Tales of the Bizarre.