Sunday, September 28, 2008


I ran up to Taipei yesterday to attend the Obama fundraiser at El Gallo in Tienmu. But before I say anything about that, I would like to say this:


Deadlines for registration from abroad are fast approaching. Tell all your American friends, whether Democrat or Republican, that applications are available from Vote From Abroad (, the US government site. Be especially sure to notify the tens of thousands of dual citizenship holders -- they too can vote. Don't think you can't vote from overseas: if you are American and you have a pulse, then you can vote. Doesn't matter how long you have been away from the US or where you are from. You can't change the world by grousing in expat bars.....

Before the fundraiser began at 7 I had the opportunity to meet with Terri "I'm not the author" MacMillan at 5, at Wendell's German bakery in Tienmu. Terri is the current field director for the Obama campaign in North Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), friendly, hardworking, and outgoing. Terri kept confusing us, claiming to be fifteen years older than she actually appeared to be. No one believed her.

At one point she solicited information about how people regarded Obama. There was a moment of discussion among the several expats gathered around the table (I was delighted to find another member of the Cleveland Diaspora there) and I summed it up by saying that the fear was that the Obama camp would sell Taiwan to China to get good relations with China, to which there was general agreement. Hold that thought.....

...I got to the fundraiser early and watched over the next half-hour as it filled with Americans, almost entirely from Tienmu. I can't think of the last time I had been around so many strapping, well-fed Americans. I couldn't have felt more pudgy and out of place than if I had been dropped buck-naked into a Zulu raiding party running to attack a kraal thirty kilometers away. Culture-shocked, I went off to skulk in a corner with a trio of us up from The Real Taiwan, or Taichung, as it is known to locals.

I got in line to get food -- quite strange it was, Tex-Mex food with actual nacho chips. Yes, not Doritos with mozzarella cheese spread squeezed on them and microwaved for 2 minutes on high. My body didn't know what to do with foreign food of such excellent quality: should it digest it, or preserve it for posterity? Coming back a few minutes later, I discovered that two attractive young Taiwanese women had taken my seat at the table. I've been here so long that my first thought was not WHOA! BABE ALERT! but "Whew. Taiwanese people. Thank god. Now I feel at home...."

It turned out that one of the women was a journalist for the Taipei Times sent to get some information on Obama supporters and how they saw things, a person I had interacted with on the net and long wanted to meet, while the other was an absolutely stunning reporter for the Central News Agency (CNA) there on the same mission. Eventually we fell to chatting, and she asked me what would happen if Obama won, and I said that it would probably mean that Taiwan was doomed, at which she made a face and said, yes, everyone is saying that......

......Obama folks: there's a widespread perception among people out here that if the Dems win it will mean that Taiwan is screwed. That perception is not helped by the recent pieces that have come out of the campaign's Taiwan/China people (reviewed on this blog here and here) that were essentially graceless and wrong-headed hacks on former President Chen Shui-bian's foreign policy, combined with folk tales about how the Establishment saved Asia by serving China's interests, and reassurances that EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL. Please stop talking about the past, Obama folks. What many of us expats who love this place would like to hear is words about the future: words about commitment to Taiwan's future as an independent and sovereign state, and as an integral part of the US-led security alliance in Asia, and strong reassurances that an Obama victory isn't going to be followed by a renewed attempt to shove Taiwan into Beijing's maw.

Because what the recent melamine scandal really means is that economic integration of Taiwan and China is not going to be followed by political integration as the US political Establishment appears to hope, since each time Taiwanese get closer to China, they get reminded about what China really is. Taiwanese themselves have very clear views about their relationship with China: they are there to make money, not become a satrapy of Beijing.

It doesn't help that the pro-China party now running Taiwan -- the one that the US foreign policy establishment claims it helped install -- gives every appearance of being hopelessly "wretched" that even its political opponents want it to perform better, for the sake of the common good. KMT failures at home will not be good for the party's long-term plans to annex Taiwan to China. Folks, it's not too late to conclude that the wrong Horse was backed.....


marc said...

I'm voting for the candidate most likely to listen to others -- his staff, to military experts, to regional experts, the Federal Reserve -- before making up his mind.

Bush was monumentally arrogant in this, never listening to anyone who didn't already support his disastrous policies. Even that dubious policy-maker, Greenspan, admitted that Bush was completely "incurious" about economic issues, and look were we are now.

After watching McCain in the first debate, a man who wouldn't even look at his opponent, it's clear to me that Obama is the better choice of the two. Let's bring back some brains and nobility to the White House.

Jenna said...

Thing is, the GOP is the party blocking arms sales to Taiwan and doing - so it seems to many of us - everything it can to force Taiwan into China's maw.

McCain's GOP party platform says little more about Taiwan than Obama's Democratic platform does...

...and it sure seems like the President who would put ideology (protecting one of the most functional and healthiest democracies in Asia) over pragmatism is Obama.

I'm worried no matter who is elected, but would be more so if McCain were. He'd just continue the foreign policy tack that Rice has taken with Taiwan. That's not something Taiwan wants.

Tim Maddog said...

I just hope my absentee ballot gets to me on time.

You chatted 'em up:
- - -
Eventually we fell to chatting, and she asked me what would happen if Obama won, and I said that it would probably mean that Taiwan was doomed [...]
- - -

If John "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran (but don't say anything [out loud] about Pakistan)" McCain wins, we're all doomed -- and by "all," I mean the human race, animals, plants, microorganisms, mountains, oceans... the whole lot -- Taiwan included.

Tim Maddog

marc said...

I put this on the wrong article:

I checked the FAVA website and noticed these registration dates:

General Election: 11/04/2008
Register by: 10/20/2008
Request ballot by: 10/28/2008

Return ballot by: 11/04/2008

It may be too late for any to get a ballot now.

STOP Ma said...

I'd like to second what Tim has said. And I would also like to point out that Sarah Palin belongs to a religious denomination that literally believes that the rapture is just around the corner.

May I also point out that John McCain is in his 70's with a previous history of melanoma and Sarah Palin will be president should he die during his term in office.

You would have to be suicidal to vote for McCain.

Anonymous said...

Boy, the DNC kool aid fountain must be working overtime for all you expats!

I have no insight (and neither do any of you) as to who will work out better for Taiwan. I will point out how quickly John McCain came out to denounce the Russian invasion of Georgia. Sen Obama did the same later in the day, but I suspect the delay was to consult with his 'advisors' to determine if it was more important to support an ally or piss off Russia.

I freely admit that I voted twice for George Bush, and I am supremely disappointed in his lack of fiscal responsibility, but I fully agree with his world-view: attack or be attacked. You may see this as a 'shoot first, ask questions later', but we can not return to the Clinton mode of waiting for perfect intelligence or a clear target with no collateral damage (as I believe would be the Obama approach).



Readin said...

and it sure seems like the President who would put ideology (protecting one of the most functional and healthiest democracies in Asia) over pragmatism is Obama.

Based on what? McCain gave what looked like a chance at survival, at very least getting out of a horrible place and getting decent medical care for crippling wounds, early because he put his ideology above himself. Obama talks nice, but what has he ever done that shows anything about his character?

Michael Turton said...

Bush's worldview is not "attacked or be attacked." Iraq was not a threat to us in any way, shape or form, and had nothing to do with 9-11. "Attack or be attacked" might be a naive worldview, but it is at least comprehensible.

It isn't koolade we're on, but eight years of catastrophic failure in virtually every aspect of American life, from the constitution, the judges, fiscal and financial, our broken military, the total lack of respect we have in the world, domestic spying, the disgusting and evil network of secret and illegal prisons, etc etc etc. Bush has been a colossal failure, and has done immense damage to the fabric of American life.

Yes, Obama may have hesitated before condemning the Russian response to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. In our world we call that "thinking."

I do not know which team will be better for Taiwan either. I DO know that the Dem language on Taiwan is disturbing.


STOP Ma said...


You've got to be freakin' kidding me!!!

Attack or be attacked?!! LOL!!! Who was "standing guard" during 9/11? Hmm? That's right. George W. Bush. The same George W. Bush whose NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER was briefed by a document entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." 3 months before and did absolutely nothing. The same George W. Bush that took a one-month vacation immediately preceding 9/11. And the same George W. Bush that tried to block an investigation into 9/11 (which turned out to be a whitewash) and demanded that his interview with the 9/11 Commission could not only be NOT recorded but had to be in the presence of VP Dick Cheney.

If you read your history, my friend, you'll discover that the U.S. is usually the first "attacker", be it a military attack, a CIA sponsored coup, or an economic attack. The "Bush Doctrine" has been part of American foreign policy for decades. The only difference is that it is now a blatant, in your face shameless foreign policy that cares nothing about international law or international treaties.

George W. Bush is a war criminal, along with most of his administration and should be tried at The Hague. It's as simple as that.

STOP George.

Readin said...

The same George W. Bush whose NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER was briefed by a document entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." 3 months before and did absolutely nothing.

I'm no fan of Bush (anymore). He's screwed up a lot and aside from excellent Supreme Court picks he has hardly acted as a conservative. But this particular charge against him is unfair. I remember seeing many years ago, probably the early days of the Clinton administration, an interview with Bin Laden that showed him living in a secret cave (the news crew was blindfolded when led to hin) where he had already "declared war" on the United States and the reporters were talking about how much money he had to make things happen. That Bin Laden was "Determined to Strike in U.S." was hardly new information. The U.S. had been after the guy for years without success.

STOP Ma said...


With your own words, you have made my point. Of course Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were well known to U.S. officials in the Clinton administration. In fact, the former chief NSC staffer Richard Clarke warned Rice and the rest of the Bush administration in big bright neon letters that they better not underestimate Al Qaeda's threat on the U.S. He was quickly demoted and the Bush administration did NOTHING to prepare in any way for the looming threat that they posed. This after a previous attack on the World Trade Center.

And guess what Cheney was conducting in the White House bunker shortly before the events of 9/11 while bush was clearing brush in Texas? A war games exercise where planes were flown into buildings. Soon after, the most secure airspace in the world was compromised by amateur pilots with commercial aircraft.

Soon after, Condoleeza Rice lied to the American public saying that "no one could have predicted aircraft being used as weapons".

And I haven't even begun to summarize what we now know that they knew before 911. And they did NOTHING.

How anyone can cover for the Bush administration's complete and utter failure to protect the U.S. from 911 (after what we know now) is simply breathtaking! And there certainly needs to be another 911 independent investigation ASAP to get to the actual truth at what happened in the lead-up to and during this tragic day. But I'm not holding my breath for that.

For some reason, Americans enjoy holding on dearly to the myths that the government and media tell them. Truth be damned.

Anonymous said...

The candidate most willing to AVOID using "global tests" and the United Nations would be the most reliable to defend Taiwan. China has a veto there, and will simply stonewall everything.

Taiwan actually benefits from an American cowboy unilateral foreign policy. (or please, show me any EU diplomacy that has ever helped Taiwan if I am wrong.)

McCain as a naval aviator who has actually fought communism in Asia is probably a safer bet than Obama in this regard.

Its a small quandary for pro-Taiwan democrats, but Obama would probably do okay, too. See what you can do from the inside.

(p.s. in another sign of this quandary, you will note Tom Tancredo is mentioned in this blog in a positive light, well, Pro-Taiwan at least.)

red A

Wulingren said...

"I do not know which team will be better for Taiwan either. I DO know that the Dem language on Taiwan is disturbing."

But there is a difference between saying their language is disturbing and saying an Obama win "would probably mean that Taiwan was doomed." I have to agree with Tim and Stop Ma on this one. I am no foreign policy expert, but like you I have seen what eight years of Bush/neo-con foreign policy has achieved. China is mightier than ever. What did their beligerent treatment of Iran achieve--a more influential Iran. They destablized the Middle East. I'm just not sure how continued neo-con policies would be good for Taiwan or anywhere else. Sure, there might be some reasonable China specialists advising his campaign, but are they going to be the main influence? What were the Middle East specialists in the Bush administration (if there were any besides Chalibi) saying before we went into Iraq?