New York.- In a statement to the Greek News, Greek-Americans for Obama, National Committee Director General Endy Zemenides replied to a message to the Greek American Community by Peter J. Pappas Sr., Chairman New York State Hellenic American Republican Association. Mr Zemenides calls the letter an act of desperation and points out that even the promises offered are made by Peter J Pappas Sr and not Senator McCain, who keeps a hostile policy against Greek Americans and their concerns.
Mr Zemenides Statement to Greek News follows:
“Mr. Pappas is in an understandably difficult position in having to justify support for a candidate that shows no support whatsoever for issues of concern to ALL Greek-Americans. But that difficulty looks like desperation in a letter that stretches facts and in some cases completely distorts the truth.
Mr. Pappas argues that Senator McCainʼs “broad foreign policy and national security standards and principles” would be of benefit to Greek issues. Senator McCain has repeatedly taken positions that mirror the Bush Administrationʼs “Iraq first” foreign policy. This is a foreign policy orientation that rewarded Skopje for contributing 80 (yes, eighty) soldiers to the grand international “coalition”, and that keeps us hostage to Turkey because of the northern exit route from Iraq. And, despite Mr. Pappasʼ assertion that McCain views Greece and Cyprus as key allies and partners in international security, this is an assertion that comes from Mr. Pappasʼ pen and not Mr. McCainʼs mouth. If this were indeed the case, you would expect at the very least that Mr. McCain – with his “I know how to win a war” experience – would put pressure on Turkey to (if nothing else) stop vetoing Cyprusʼ accession into international security organizations. Does Mr. Pappas, or anyone else for that matter, believe the U.S. is safer when Turkey prevents Cyprus – and its strategic geographic position – from being part of the Missile Control Technology Regime or the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies? Does Mr. Pappas believe that continues that Turkeyʼs strategy of blocking any EU – NATO cooperation that includes Cyprus is good for international security? Unfortunately, Mr. McCainʼs general foreign policy stances reflect merely more of the last eight years when it comes to Greek issues.
Second, Mr. Pappas completely swings and misses on Obamaʼs record. Senator Obama supported initiatives on the Patriarchate BEFORE his campaign. The letter Obama signed along with 72 other Senators (and originated in part by Obamaʼs running mate, Joe Biden) was much stronger than the very recent letter sent to John McCain to President Bush (that letter came at the tail end of his presidential campaign, after several stories in the Greek and Greek-American press about how he had disappointed Greek-Americans, and in advance of an attempt to raise money from Greek-Americans for a mid-October event.
In his first year in office Obama also responded to requests by his Greek-American constituents to question the (then) new Ambassador to Turkey on the Patriarchate. Finally, as chairman of his subcommittee, he was one of the original co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 300 (on the Macedonian name issue), and has publicly repeated his support and played a role in securing additional co-sponsors (including the second highest ranking Senator, Dick Durbin). Letʼs not even include Joe Bidenʼs record and 30 years worth of consistency on Greek issues. John McCain has been actively hostile to Greek issues – even refusing to sign onto the Greek independence day resolution year after year.
Third, Mr. Pappas selectively analyzes the records of previous Democratic presidents. The disappointment in Jimmy Carter is well documented, but we should be honest about the substantial progress during the Clinton years. There was a reversal of both the U.S. and EU position that Cyprus could not enter the EU without a political settlement, and Skopje made no headway in unilateral recognition under Clinton. If we were able to building on that progress — rather than having Bush reverse it completely — the Patriarchate, Cyprus and FYROM issues would be very different today. There is also another critical distinction between Carter and Obama/Biden. Carter was a governor who was introduced to Greek issues during the campaign. Obama and Biden are both Senators who not only have already been introduced and established a record, but in their present capacities (Obama as chairman of the Subcommittee of European Affairs and Biden as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) have had jurisdiction over Greek issues. Their “statements” are matched by their actions, some of which have already had demonstrable effects on U.S. policy.
Finally, there is a dangerous myth being promoted by Greek supporters of McCain – that somehow the community is at fault for not engaging McCain. This argument was most recently made by Governor Charlie Christ, who notably refused to help lobby for McCainʼs support of Senate Resolution 300. Well, you canʼt have it both ways. Donʼt ask us to trust you that McCain will support the issues we care about because you know him when you have NEVER used that relationship to help a single one of those issues. Yet, on one very memorable occasion, at the May 2007 Coordinated Effort of Hellenes Conference in Washington, D.C., John McCain was one of several presidential candidates that addressed over 200 Greek-American leaders. While Obama, Clinton and Biden spoke in detail about the issues, John McCain responded to Andy Manatosʼ entreaty to tell these leaders something on his stances on Greek issue with (to paraphrase) “I remember making port calls in Greece when I was in the Navy and how much I enjoyed ouzo.” The community has engaged, it is just that the Greek-Americans closest to McCain have not made Greek issues a priority in any way, shape or form.
If Greek Republicans want to vote for McCain because of taxes or Iraq, they should just say so. But donʼt sugarcoat his abysmal record on Greek issues, it harms the ability for the rest of us to truly advocate and lowers the bar in gaining the support of Greek-Americans. If we really care about Greek issues, letʼs keep our eye on the ball, because someone who counts Henry Kissinger as one of his closest advisors wants our vote.
Greek-Americans for Obama, National Committee