Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eni Admits State Dept. Ignores Him; Lays Down the Gauntlet

In a startling admission for someone who was the ranking minority member of the House Asia-Pacific subcommittee at the time, Faleomavaega conceded that in 2006 "without any consultation with either the American Samoa Government or [me]," the Department of State advised the Pacific Forum not to grant American Samoa observer status in that organization following a request for such status made by Governor Togiola. That Eni was ignored on an issue that would have been of relevance not only because of his subcommittee rank but also because it directly affected American Samoa comes as no surprise. Last year, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice held a summit in nearby Apia with the region's foreign ministers and told him he could attend but not speak. Even though he was in Pago Pago at the time, he passed up the summit, even though by that time has become chairman the A/P subcommittee.

Now Eni is laying his prestige on the line once again by writing a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking that American Samoa be permitted to have observer status at the Forum. In a press release carried in the April 22 Samoa News, Eni was quoted as saying “In my capacity as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, I am confident that with the support of President Obama’s Administration and Secretary Clinton, American Samoa and the other territories will be able to submit applications for observer status at the next Pacific Islands Forum Annual Meeting scheduled for August 2009 in Cairns, Australia."

Just last week Eni said he would move to have oversight of the Palau-U.S. Compact stripped from Madeleine Bordallo's insular subcommittee and moved to his A/P subcommittee, so we have to assume he has greased the skids with State on this initiative rather than blindside Clinton. Were the U.S. to decline to let its territories observe at the Forum and were the Deaprtment to successfully object to taking over management of the Compact of Free Association, it would be a huge double humiliation for the delegate, who despite his continued accumulation of seniority and his early endorsement of the Obama presidential candidacy, so far is showing no sign of gaining any influence or respect at all in Washington as a result.

Incidentally, this latest initiative comes hard on the heels of his governor's announcement that he believed the time had come for American Samoa to consider changing its political status to something more permanent, with details to be left to a constitutional convention to be held in the fall. Perhaps Faleomavaega is telegraphing that the change in status might including loosening ties with the U.S., which, of course, would pave the way for Forum observer status. Keep an eye on all of this. There are huge ramifications to these changes. So far, Samoa News has ignored it all.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eni to Use Palau to Test influence

Before a stunned audience at the Department of the Interior’s annual insular investment in Honolulu last week, Faleomavaega announced he would undertake an effort to move primary congressional jurisdiction from the House Committee on Natural Resources to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In effect, this move, if successful, would strip Palau issues from the Natural Resources subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, on which Eni sits as a senior majority member, to the Foreign Affairs Asia, Pacific and Global Environment subcommittee that he chairs.

Since the House would be unlikely to move jurisdiction over Palau from Natural Resources to Foreign Affairs without moving jurisdiction for the other Freely Associated States at the same time, Eni is making a real power play that has enormous ramifications for him. Were he to succeed, it would amount to a major humiliation for Madeleine Bordallo (D), his fellow delegate from Guam who chairs the insular panel, and would send chills up and down the spine of State Department officials, who prefer to handle diplomatic relations with the Micronesian states but not administer funds for them.

In light of Eni’s sneak attack, ironically launched in Honolulu, it also will be interesting to see just how enthusiastic Bordallo will be to look after American Samoa’s interests in her subcommittee from now on. After subcommittee assignments were announced following last November’s election, Eni was quoted in the news as saying that now that Madeleine was positioned to protect territorial interests for everyone on Natural Resources, it gave him wide berth to do the same on the Asia-Pacific subcommittee. Since his subcommittee has not a stitch of responsibility for territorial issues, of course his assertion is laughable on the face of it. Nonetheless, Samoa News swallowed hook, line and sinker his contention that his keeping an eye on U.S. foreign policy in the region somehow would benefit American Samoa and he would not need to be all that vigilant on Natural Resources.

Were he not to succeed in this bold move against Bordallo, Eni would suffer another major humiliation in Washington, coming hard on the heels of his recent embarrassment at the hands of his colleagues on his unsuccessful attempt to change the wording of a House Resolution on Taiwan. Of course, just as in the case of the Taiwan issue, any further loss of Eni's prestige and influence likely would be confined to Washington--which is important enough, since that is his theater of operation--because it is likely the major media outlet at home, Samoa News, will continue to suppress news unfavorable to its knight in shining armor. As noted here before, Eni’s (whose real family name is Hunkin) sister-in-law, Teri Hunkin, is an editor at the paper.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Taiwan issue, some critics have wondered if Eni were a witting front man for Beijing on Taiwan matters, with one blogger astutely noting that the roving congressman also was caught toasting Communist strongman Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in December, 2007. As we have pointed out, Eni was an early member of the radical leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus founded by enrolled Socialist then-congressman Bernie Sanders in the early 1990s and only dropped his membership quietly three years ago during a close election campaign after he was criticized publicly for his association. Eni is decidedly to the left of not only the population at large but his own Mormon political base.

Now some other blogs also are beginning to question whether he is a communist. The Doctor Bulldog and Ronin Blog, for example, republished from a list of “known socialists and commies in our government” that included Eni, although TyskNews has updated the list and dropped him. The spotlight is beginning to shine on congressional socialists because of rising conservative concern that Obama Administration budget proposals are driving the government in the direction of socialism.

Whether or not he is a socialist or a closet communist, there is no doubt that Eni is to the left of center and much more liberal than his constituency. There also is rising concern here that his support of Big Labor’s Check Card proposal will open the door to unionization of our tuna canneries. Coupled with the minimum wage increase that has been forced upon the islands, the days of the canneries could be severely numbered.

Are these seemingly separate questions somehow connected? From seizing control of Micronesia policy to minimum wage, card check and his secret amendment to permit foreign bottoms a backdoor way to fish in South Pacific EEZs, we think they may be. As events play out, we think the dots will begin to connect. Readers here will know what is happening but the general public here will remain clueless, thanks to media suppression of the news.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Taipei Times Takes Another Whack at Eni

Remember what we said about Mark Twain’s famous quote about never picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel? Well, the Taipei Times has signaled it is not yet quite through with Mr. Faleomavaega, the Samoan non-voting delegate to who found out the Taiwan lobby is a lot more influential with his House colleagues than
he is.

This time it is the turn of Johnny Neihu, the popular Times columnist. A couple of factual inaccuracies do not detract from his analysis of Eni’s fumbled attempt to water down the House Resolution designed to reaffirm U.S. support for and commitment to Taiwan.

“Countless polls have shown that only a small percentage of crazies want either unification or independence right here, right now," wrote Neihu in the April 11 edition of the Times. “Most Taiwanese want things to stay as they are for the time being. This is what they voted for. They did not vote for backroom deals between KMT hacks and the Chinese Communist Party. This is why we have Suspicious Minds. We don’t want to live under another murderous regime. Been there, done that. Why don’t people like Mr. F[aleomavaega] get this?”

Perhaps Eni would better comprehend what Johnny is saying if he would just remember that virtually no one in this territory either wants to disturb the status quo. People who want to merge with Samoa or become independent separately are scarce to find.

“Maybe deep down the congressman would be nicer to us if he read up on some Asian history,” wrote Neihu in his widely read “News Watch" column. “I am assuming this based on comments he made during a visit to Vietnam in 2007,” he wrote, noting that Eni is a Vietnam War veteran.

Neihu advises his readers that Eni “called Ho Chi Minh a ‘great leader’ in a controversial 2007 visit to Vietnam and quotes Eni as saying Ho ‘only wanted to get rid of 100 years of French colonialism and establish a better life for his own people.’ Well,” concludes Neihu, “we here in Taiwan haven’t quite healed our colonial injuries, but we have fought for and achieved a better life; freedom of speech and of the press; a good standard of living; and the right to kick out a sh*tty government. We would like to keep it that way. But becoming a special autonomous zone of China won’t guarantee these things, as the Hong Kong experiment has demonstrated. This is why we value the TRA and its advocacy of a resolution acceptable to us, and this is why we don’t appreciate fair weather friends meddling with it.”

Neihu made a couple of inconsequential factual errors, such as noting that Eni was chosen for a part as an extra in an Elvis Presley movie because of his body length tattoo. The Hawaii-raised politician only got that tattoo later in life as he was gearing up to win votes in American Samoa elections later in his career, which is why he did notmincur the wrath of school administrators.

Moreover, while Neihu is puzzled why Eni would try to sabotage U.S.-Taiwan relations at the same time he is trying to promote the Taiwan ship building industry by making it easier for Taiwan-built boats to fish in U.S. and South Pacific EEZs, it is not because the bill he is supporting in Congress would aid American Samoa’s canneries. If anything, that bill, if enacted, may hasten the canneries’ departure. This deal is purely financial, with Eni getting heavy campaign contributions from special interests backing his bill. Some have suggested that if he were to leave Congress, he also might wind up as a well-paid adviser to those interests as well-—-if the bill were to go through.

So, at least based on this little secret amendment Eni tried to pass last year, Mr. Neihu makes a faulty assessment that “like any good congressman, Mr. F spends his time trying to ensure his constituents have jobs.” As readers of this blog know all too well, Eni spends most of his time traveling and very little time on ensuring his constituents have jobs. Had he been at his duty station when the critical minimum wage policy decision was been made, American Samoa might have continued to receive the exemption that is crucial to keeping the canneries in place.

Our speculation: Expect Eni to come charging back to “correct the record” on his tattoo and his fishing fleet bill further to divert attention from his humiliating defeat on the TRA resolution.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taiwan Academic Suggests Eni Step Aside

In a letter to the editor of the Taipei Times, Michael Turton, a university English instructor on Taiwan, has called for Faleomavaega to step aside as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, saying “It is high time that the US had for itself a Chair . . . who evinces a robust and nuanced understanding of US commitments in Asia, US policy toward China and who can tell the difference between an ally and an opponent of the US.”

The Cleveland-born academic, who writes a highly respected and widely read blog on Taiwan politics, The View from Taiwan, said Eni’s latest letter to the Taipei Times attempting to soften the blow of his humiliation when the House reversed his amendments to a resolution on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) “shows the kind of champion chutzpah that separates the truly pathetic from the happily ignorant.”

“Unfortunately,” continued Turton, “this is not the first time Faleomavaega has displayed an unseemly ignorance on the TRA, Taiwan and US policy toward Taiwan. Last year, as the Taipei Times noted in an earlier editorial, he attempted to have language that said China threatens Taiwan removed from a resolution on the last Taiwan presidential election. In 2007, Chris Nelson of the well-known Washington insider sheet The Nelson Report said that “Faleomavaega stated that it was US policy to agree to ‘one China,’ and he stated it in ways that tracked the PRC [People’s Republic of China] position. In fact, the official US position does not accept China’s definition, but rather straddles the issue with deliberate ambiguity.” Nelson was one of the Democratic staffers on the drafting of the TRA.”

Like Mr. Nelson, Eni also is a Democrat. Turton also says that Eni is simply regurgitating Beijing’s propaganda. That should come as to surprise to anyone who realizes Eni is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of the most radical leftist senators and congressmen. He quietly left the group only when one of his opponents pointed out the group's agenda to American Samoa's electorate in a recent campaign but that did not stop him from offering a toast to the late Communist dictator Hi Chi Minh on a trip to Hanoi in 2007.

Mr. Turton better have handy a steel helmet that he can strap on tightly because he can expect retaliation from American Samoa’s peripatetic delegate who, if Turton is correct, seems to know little about Taiwan politics, despite countless trips there over the past two decades, including one in 1991 as an election observer at a time a deadly hurricane was tearing apart our territory. He would have been forgiven had he asked to cut that trip short to come home to assess the need for emergency federal relief, but we suppose he preferred to remain on Taiwan to make sure voters’ rights were fully protected.

Mr. Turton should be prepared to withstand a withering fusillade of verbal abuse and insults and a questioning of his credentials to offer such a judgment of a sitting chairman of subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives. Eni can’t help himself. Not only does he not understand Taiwan politics or U.S. policy towards Taiwan and PRC, he also does not understand proportionality of response. Nor is there any criticism of him too small to let go by.

This will be interesting to watch continue. In the meantime, read Turton’s letter in it entirety here:

Sunday, April 5, 2009


As we explained earlier when we described the responsibilities of non-voting delegates, it is not like they have nothing better to do than battle with the press. But Faleomavaega must have some time on his hands -- perhaps at some airport awaiting a delayed plane on his next excursion out of Washington.

Howard Berman must not have called him in because, as we predicted, he came roaring back at the Taipei Times and, in true form, beat the dead horse yet again! Let's take apart his latest skirmish with the Times in his second letter to the editor on April 8. Keep in mind as you are reading this that his sole objective is to deflect attention away from his humiliation at the hands of his own Democrat colleagues who reversed his Beijing-backed revisions to the TRA resolution on which he had insisted at the subcommittee he chairs, over which he has full control.

Faleomavaega response No. 2

Eni: Once again, Taipei Times has inaccurately reported on the workings of the US Congress and my position regarding Taiwan and Beijing.

ABCDEFG: Deflection. The fact is the Times accurately reported that the House reversed Eni's amendments to the TRA resolution. Workings of Congress are not at issue. It's the results.

Eni: Most recently, Taipei Times published my rebuttal on March 31 to a guest editorial [sic] printed in its paper on March 25 in which an anonymous author misrepresented my involvement with the TRA [Taiwan Relations Act] legislation.

ABCDEFG: As the Times notes in the use of the term [sic], this is not a guest editorial. The Times made that point in its editor's note following his first letter, which he must have read in order to write this second letter. This was the paper's own editorial and in standard journalistic practice, editorials are not signed.

Eni: To be clear, Taipei Times falsely states that I cannot support my claim that changes I made to the TRA legislation [sic] had the full backing of Committee members. If Taipei Times understood the workings of Congress, it would have understood what I already stated in my previous response — that the changes I made were supported by our Subcommittee members, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the full Committee, as well as the bill’s author, each of whom approved the measure to go forward by unanimous consent.

ABCDEFG: Eni arrogantly insults the Times about the paper's knowledge of how Congress works but makes a fool out of himself in so doing. Note that the Times again employs the term [sic] as a gracious way to put him down. What they are doing is demonstrating that Eni has made an error in calling the TRA resolution legislation. It is not. It is a resolution. Thus he is demonstrating that it is he who does not understand how Congress works, not the Times.

Eni: The bill then moved from the Subcommittee to the full Committee, as this is how the process works in the US Congress. Although the Chairman and Ranking Member of the full Committee had already agreed to the Subcommittee changes, other Members, which is their prerogative in a democracy, asked for the word “cornerstone” to be put back in the legislation to replace the word “vital,” which I had used instead. Upon the advice of the US House of Representatives’ legislative counsel — which argued that the word “vital” (which means “essential,” “critical,” “most important”) was legally stronger than the word “cornerstone” (which means “foundation,” “starting point,” “beginning”) — Republicans and Democrats of the full Committee reached an agreement to make the change back to “cornerstone,” and the bill was then sent directly to the House floor, with no further changes.

ABCDEFG: This is a time tested Eni tactic: over explanation. If you can't beat them, confuse them. Buried in all his verbiage is the concession that the "full committee reached an agreement to make the change back to 'cornerstone.'"

Eni: Finally, regarding Taipei Times’ assertion that I am confused about the TRA, I would kindly point out that the Taipei Times should review the TRA, as contrary to your assertions, the TRA absolutely implies that the US wants peace — peace between Taipei and Beijing, peace in the Western Pacific and peace for US troops. This is why the TRA plainly states that it is the policy of the United States “to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan, as well as the people on the China mainland and all other peoples of the Western Pacific area.”

ABCDEFG: Once again Eni employs one of his favorite tactics. He admits in the previous paragraph that he lost the battle over cornerstone, so now he wants to change the argument to what the TRA means to the concept of "peace." Moreover, "absolute implies" sounds like one of those oxymorons like "jumbo shrimp," "guest host" and "army intelligence."

Eni: While I have always supported the people on Taiwan, my first priority will always be to prevent as much as possible a gross misuse of US military forces to fight any unnecessary war and, for this reason, I will continue to support the long-standing position of the United States on the issue of Taiwan, which is to support peaceful relations across the Strait and to maintain the One China policy. Every President since 1979 has affirmed this position.

ABCDEFG: Another Eni tactic: here he infers that the Times does not want peace. He is standing as a noble and lonely guardian against the wicked agenda of the Times.

Eni: And no matter how Taipei Times twists the truth, or contorts the words of Senator Richard Lugar or President Ronald Reagan, the fact remains “that the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve.” Hopefully, the Taipei Times and FAPA [Formosan Association for Public Affairs] will do their part to support peace more than ever in a manner that is respectful of America’s young men and women who do not deserve to be dragged into another war, now or in the future, just because sensible people refuse to get along.

ABCDEFG: He goes on to imply that the Times and FAPA want to drag American troops into war over Taiwan.


Oh, this is so classic Eni. You just have to love it. If you have the time, go back to Samoa News archives. It's filled with all sorts of jibberish like this on a variety of issues large and small. The Taipei Times demonstrated that it understands that Eni is trying to draw them into a debate on his terms and won't fall for it. They contented themselves with a footnote saying they stand by what they have written. That's the only way to handle this idiot. Read it all here:

This should be the end of this skirmish because Eni is too dense to understand how the Times put him down with classic subtlety. That is the only reason they published his second rebuttal. Remember Eni, the Times buys ink by the barrel.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Faleomavaega Problem

In addition to the comments that have been posted here reacting to Faleomavaega’s stupidity about Taiwan, there have been a lot of messages directly to this blogger by e-mail. So let us answer questions posed by numerous writers.

First of all, do not make the mistake of dismissing him as nothing more than a non-voting delegate. What that means simply is that he cannot vote on the final passage of legislation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. That is because the U.S. Constitution restricts voting to Members from the states and American Samoa is not a state. Article I Section 2 quite clearly says “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several states.” For all other purposes, Article I Section 5 of the Constitution says “each House shall be the judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members . . . and may determine the rules of its proceedings.”

So the office of delegate (there are six of them) is established under the rules of the House and privileges of membership accorded to the Members from the states are accorded to the delegates by House Rules. Because the fate of very few measures is determined by a vote on the Floor, the loss of this vote diminishes only slightly the power a senior delegate who has been there long enough can wield.

The House has avoided controversy because people have taken little notice of these delegates since turnover has kept most of them from becoming senior enough to acquire power and the ones who have been fortunate enough to get to that level have tended to stay with subcommittees dealing with territorial issues. Faleomavaega’s predecessor was on the verge of breaking out of this pattern in the mid-1980s with a the chairmanship of a public works subcommittee but got into legal trouble and had to resign before he really could do anything with it.

Faleomavaega is considered a loose cannon in Congress, even by his own caucus, but they consider themselves fortunate that he has shown an interest in foreign affairs because that means his chairmanship is on a committee where he can do only minimal damage to his party’s agenda in the House. While that may be of little consolation to those whose interest is U.S. relations with Asia, the fact is the House Foreign Affairs Committee has very little real influence because the Constitution vests in the President the sole power to conduct foreign policy. The Senate can exercise some influence because it has the power to ratify treaties and to confirm ambassadors and the secretary of state. The House, however, has no formal powers at all over foreign policy except through the appropriations process, and that involves a separate subcommittee on appropriations, not the foreign affairs subcommittee. That is why non-partisan groups who annually rank the power of House members rate Faleomavaega unusually low.

So, a succession of administrations has found Faleomavaega but be an irritant and annoyance but little else. And when he does come up with any of his hare-brained pet projects, like adding to the House four at-large seats for American Indian tribes, they just ignore him. Or, as he has become more senior and can advance legislation, they just smack him down, as they did with the Armenian genocide resolution the Speaker pulled from the calendar last year and the reversal of his amendments to the Taiwan resolution last month.

Obviously, we share the view of most of you who have written: the time has come to pull the plug on this joker. It’s not funny any more. Despite his lack of power, some day soon he could cause some real damage. That is no doubt why Hillary Clinton did not invite him to accompany her on her maiden trip to Asia. The only way to him where it hurts is with the voters, and that is a tough job because he has the local media in his pocket, the unwavering support of a loyal base of voters among his fellow Mormons and unlimited financial resources from U.S. trade unions and Chinese Americans who many believe are fronting Beijing’s interests.

The local media issue is particularly vexing. There are only a half dozen stations and only one on them has a news person. That station only does a few five-minute news feeds a day. The television station is owned by the government and its news operation is largely a propaganda tool for the governor, with “newscasters” reading press releases written by the governor’s office. Cable TV is expensive, has little penetration in the market and the one community access channel that did news has gone dark. One newspaper that publishes twice weekly, is a shoe string operation with no news gathering capacity and limited circulation.

That leaves Samoa News, the only privately run daily newspaper in the territory with wide circulation. It also has an on-line presence. But Faleomavaega has that covered. His sister-in-law is an editor and negative coverage of his activities is almost non-existent. There certainly is no negative editorial commentary. This current Taiwan controversy illustrates the point. Since he amended the TRA and caused the backlash, there has been absolutely no coverage of it, despite it being quite newsworthy, especially the fact that he suffered a humiliation at the hands of his colleagues. The readers should know that. That’s part of the way his fitness for public office should be measured.

What doe we get instead? This:

Now you see what we face down here. Samoa News not only thinks it is newsworthy to write a story about Faleomavaega’s radio show today but also carries a photograph of him with two adoring reporters from the paper! The boys in his press shop back in Washington will be high-fiving when they read today’s paper and breaking out the champagne and victory cigars again. Got away with another one.

Right now, this blog is about the only way we have to let the people know what their delegate is up to and our on-island readership is not that large either. Bandwidth is slow (we don’t have fiber optic cable yet—but soon) and the phone company has an ISP monopoly. The cost is high so internet penetration is low.

However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. As you saw if you opened the link above and read the story, you saw that Samoa News provides for on-line comments. So you can use that as a vehicle to complain about the paper carrying non-news like this instead of writing about Faleomavaega’s humiliation in the House, war with the Taipei Times or his past controversies. The editors moderate it so we are skeptical they will carry what you write (we have been blocked in the past) but at least you can see for yourself. You also can try to write to the only independent radio news operation: However, as you can see from the list of stories (this is the text of what the anchor reads on the air), the news is pretty much local.

And, of course, to vent your frustration, feel free to continue to comment here and cross post our blog to your own and to others. He can be stop as the blow back from his TRA resolution amendment demonstrates. At some point someone will challenge Faleomavaega for election next year and there is a wealth of ammunition in our blogs to help their research. The public knows hardly any of this. Sad, isn’t it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Faleomavaega at War with Taiwan

Although we like to settle disputes here by developing consensus, Faleomavaega has been quite successful through the years using a U.S.-style adversarial and confrontational approach. Perhaps he developed his methods early in his congressional career by watching Bill Clinton, who organized a rapid response team to deal with any political attacks he might suffer on the way to his successful 1992 run for the presidency.

Eni is viewed by many as having a “thin skin,” and typically fires back whenever someone criticizes him publicly for some action he has or has not taken, particularly during campaign seasons. And his counterattacks usually are lengthy diatribes--some would say overkill--laced with invective and personal insults. He has had some memorable feuds with Lorn Cramer (over Eni’s Hanoi toast to Ho Chi Minh), Togiola, Aumua Amata and an especially juicy one with Afimutasi Gus Hannemann, which bordered on abusiveness. Google the names (e.g. Faleomavaega and Hannemann) and you can will see the exchanges that were carried out in public.

His method has worked well for him because the territory’s largest and most influential medium, the Samoa News, which employs his sister-in-law as a top editor, has served as his lap dog over the years, mostly giving Eni the last word in any dispute. Typically, someone will make an accusation, which the News will print and then Eni responds with a lengthy press release or letter to the editor, which the News prints in full. It may last for another cycle but then that is the end of it, with Eni pronouncing the final word. There are several occasions on which the target of Eni’s counter assault has replied a second time but the News has declined to print it.

So Eni, who prides himself in being a seasoned diplomat, can be forgiven for thinking his method will work elsewhere but this time he may have bitten off more than he can chew. As we reported in a previous post, the Taipei Times last month ran in editorial labeled “Faleomavaega: no friend of Taiwan” in which the paper criticized our wandering delegate for attempting to water down a House resolution saluting Taiwan on the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

In a follow up letter to the editor, Eni accused the paper of having a political agenda because the editorial was “anonymous.” Of course, it is well known that most newspaper editorials are not signed because they are intended to reflect the views of the paper, not an individual. But Eni knows that. That’s one of his favorite tactics. He was using the editorial writer’s “anonymity” at as a pretext for charging the paper with having a political agenda, thus attempting to shift the focus away from his unsuccessful effort to dilute the resolution and back onto the paper, so that the Times would be on the defensive. Classic Eni: when you are losing the debate, change the debate.

If this were American Samoa, Samoa News would have curled up into a fetal position and sucked its corporate thumb and that would have been the end of it. But this is Taiwan, a major actor on the world economic and political stages. So, the old adage “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel” applies here. Unlike Samoa News, the Taipei Times gave it right back to Faleomavaega in comments that appeared right after his letter, letting him know that his tactics, which one political opponent has labeled a “thumb-in-your-eye” approach, were not welcome in Taipei. And his response set off the blogosphere as well.

Let’s take Eni’s contentions in his letter and measure them against the responses by the Times and by bloggers:

Eni’s letter: I am writing in response to your recent editorial (“Faleomavaega: No friend of Taiwan,” March 25, page 8). No name is attached to the editorial, which suggests that either the author or your newspaper has its own political agenda.

Times response: The March 25 article Congressman Faleomavaega refers to was a Taipei Times editorial and therefore carried no byline.

Foreigner in Formosa Blog (FFB): A brief list of OTHER papers which print unattributed editorials: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and Taiwan's China Post. Conspiracy theorists in congressmen's offices: You may begin connecting the dots . . . now.

Eni: . . . one might conclude that your newspaper stands in opposition to the will of your people [the Taiwanese], who voted in 2008 for a change in Administration and for a more honest government.

FFB: Heh. The Taiwanese may indeed have voted for a government which they thought was more honest. What they received however, was a president who is described (by his own media DEFENDERS) as a liar who would say anything to get elected. By the by, I see from a recent post by Tim Maddog over at Taiwan Matters! that Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou's approval rating is currently floundering below the 30% mark, while his Chinese Nationalist Party colleagues in the legislature plumb the depths even further -- below 20%. Let's be generous, and say Taiwan's legislative and presidential branches enjoy 20 and 30% approval ratings, respectively. So, what was that you were saying about, "the will of the people," Mr. Faleomavaega?

Eni: Given that your paper published false reports from Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), on March 21 and again on March 26, in which he twisted the truth about my involvement with the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), and also given that your newspaper never bothered to contact my office for a response to his untruthful comments, one might conclude that your newspaper stands in opposition to the will of your people, who voted in 2008 for a change in Administration and for a more honest government.

Times: William Lowther, the Taipei Times’ Washington correspondent, did not contact Mr Faleomavaega’s office because he spoke directly with Mr Faleomavaega at the end of the subcommittee meeting, together with a number of other reporters.

Eni: In view of the fact that this language is straight from the TRA, why would your anonymous writer, your reporter, or Mr. Blaauw take issue with this language? I submit they take issue because it is their desire to turn the TRA into something it is not. . . . Such an approach is wrong, and our American troops deserve better from FAPA and the Taipei Times.

Times: The Taipei Times has no connection with FAPA, though we do occasionally run opinion pieces by FAPA personnel. These pieces do not necessarily represent the views of the Taipei Times.

Eni: Prior to the Subcommittee’s markup, Chairman Howard Berman and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the Foreign Affairs committee agreed to the changes I offered, as did the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. Manzullo, and the bill’s author. All other Subcommittee members agreed to the language by unanimous consent.

Times: Mr Faleomavaega’s claim that changes he made to the resolution had full backing from fellow committee members cannot be sustained in light of the reversal and, in substance, repudiation by committee members of the amendments on the floor of the House of Representatives, as we reported on March 26. Nor does Mr Faleomavaega refer to his most contentious amendment to the resolution: replacing the words “the cornerstone of” with “vital to” in the sentence “[Congress] reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act as the cornerstone of United States relations with Taiwan.”

Eni: The TRA came into existence only after the United States established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Since 1979, US policy regarding Taiwan has remained unchanged. The Joint Communiques, together with the Taiwan Relations Act, are the foundation of our One China policy, which implies, as Republican President Ronald Reagan once said, that “the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve.” Every US President since 1979 has stood by this assertion. As Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2001, said, “For many years, successive US administrations have affirmed that there is one China and that the people on Taiwan and the people of China should work out a plan for peaceful unification.”

Times: Mr Faleomavaega seems confused about the content of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Nowhere does the TRA imply, for example, that Taiwan and China “should work out a plan for peaceful unification.” These words from Senator Lugar reflected and still reflect the policy preferences of certain politicians, but they derive no authority from the TRA. Three years after Lugar made these comments, then-secretary of state Colin Powell made a similar comment, which he later retracted.

Taiwan Matters Blog (TMB): Yes, Lugar said "unification" , but the fact behind the US' policies is that the word should be "resolution." Actually, that same CRS Report for Congress which quotes Lugar ("China/Taiwan: Evolution of the 'One China' Policy — Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei") states this quite clearly: President Reagan's 1982 statement on arms sales to Taiwan declared that "the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese people, on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, to resolve." Moreover, "settlement" or "resolution" — not stated as "unification" — of the Taiwan question is left open to be peacefully determined by both sides. Big difference. What does Faleomavaega know about what's "better for the people of Taiwan"? Not a damn thing, apparently.

Eni: The TRA is not a platform for independence, as they would like it to be, and the American people, as well as the young people on Taiwan, deserve to know the truth about the history of the TRA.

Times: Mr Faleomavaega says “the TRA is not a platform for independence.” The wording of the TRA does not support independence or unification. The key expression is “peaceful means” in determining Taiwan’s future.

You can read Faleomavaega’s amazingly combative and insulting letter in its entirety here:
Links to previous stories are provided and readers also can navigate to the various bloggers to get the full text of their comments.

Now we just wait to see what Eni’s next move is. If this were our local media, we could expect another blast from Washington. But because it is Taiwan, there may be silence. And if there is, you know it’s because the full committee chairman, Howard Berman, called him in and told him to cool it or lose his travel allowance. Now, that is something that really would get Eni’s attention.