Saturday, November 08, 2008

Washington Changes: Obama, Congress

The Apple Daily announces "America's First Black President!" with whites on one side of the picture frame and blacks on the other.

Charles Snyder of the Taipei Times reports on the changes in Congress, as several supporters of Taiwan lost their seats....
In any event, Taiwan lost several of its leading supporters in the House in Tuesday’s elections, and lobbyists for Taiwan are scrambling to find replacements.

A significant loss will be Republican Steve Chabot of Ohio, a co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, who was defeated in his re-election bid.

In addition, the 150-member caucus lost 10 other members.

Four of those retired from the House, including Republican Tom Tancredo of Colorado, perhaps the most steadfast of Taiwan’s advocates in Congress.

Another former caucus member, Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado, was elected to the Senate, and is expected to be an additional Taiwan supporter in that chamber.

In the Senate, where only a third of the incumbents were up for re-election, the fate of Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican and strong Taiwan backer, has yet to be decided.

The other three co-chairmen of the House caucus — Robert Wexler, Dana Rohrabacher and Shelley Berkley — all won re-election handily, as did the co-chairmen of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

It was not immediately clear which of the newly elected members of the House or Senate will join the caucuses or be friendly toward Taiwan.

But, as they look for a replacement for Chabot, lobbyists are looking at representatives such as Republican Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who took on US President George W. Bush on behalf of Taiwan in the Congress, and is expected to be willing to continue espousing Taiwanese causes, Blaauw says.

As for the Obama team, all indications are that it will be a very centrist-oriented team with strong pro-China biases but fairly supportive of Taiwan on the whole, or so I have heard from my friends in Washington. Remember that the Obama Asia team comprises more than 70 people, so pinning anyone down for a future position is hard. But here are some things I've heard.

The Obama team's Asia director is former State Department and NSC official Jeff Bader. He is likely to be a key player in the next administration. Search this blog for his name for some of his writings on Taiwan. Bader may wind up in a high state department policy post, or perhaps (less likely) as ambassador to China. Bader comes out of a China background.

Frank Januzzi, who has close ties to Biden, may end up high in the State Department or in the Vice President's foreign policy office or similar position. Januzzi is an Asia expert with some expertise in military issues.

Richard Bush, former AIT director, longtime Hill staffer, former NIO for East Asia, and Taiwan expert, may also play a large role. Bush authored the "assent of the people of Taiwan" formula and stuck it into our policy. He's written articles and books about Taiwan, and is very supportive of the island.

Other names mentioned include Mike Lampton of SAIS, Ken Lieberthal of the University of Michigan who worked in the Clinton NSC, Evan Medeiros of RAND, Kevin Nealer, former State Department official (Economics) and Japan specialist Matthew Goodman who is at Stonebridge, the consulting firm that helps US corporations in China, with Bader and Lieberthal. Most are big names and there may not be enough seats at the high table to go around.

Other possible contributors on Asia security could be former DASD Kurt Campbell, and former Feinstein staffer Michael Schiffer who now directs Asia programs for the Stanley Foundation. Campbell put in better military to military contacts when he worked in the Clinton Administration. Also mentioned is Jim Steinberg, a candidate for National Security Advisor, who is a good friend of Hsiao Bi-khim, the DPP legislator and foreign affairs official.

People say it is an experienced, centrist, team with many old China hands. Taiwan people on the Hill say that there are people in there who can be worked with.

UPDATE: Taipei Times argues differently today, concluding:

Supporters of Taiwanese democracy must have listened to Obama’s invocation of Abraham Lincoln with a mixture of admiration and wistfulness. Based on the evidence available, despite the warning signs from China and pro-China forces in Taiwan, and despite all the energy that hope can generate, no one can really say if an Obama administration would act to stop a Taiwanese government of the people, by the people and for the people from perishing.

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