NEW YORK.- Thousands of Republican delegates are gathering in New York for the GOP Convention that will be held in New York City at Madison Square Garden, from August 30 to September 2, 2004. The choice of New York has a symbolic meaning for President Bush, who claims as his biggest accomplishment the war on terror. September 11 attacks have played and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the cornerstones of Bush’s policy and will be at the center of the campaign.
The security risk is high and New York City is heavily guarded from thousand of policemen, National Guardsmen and Federal Agents. Many organizations have announced protests and thousands of demonstrators are expected to arrive in New York from all over the country.
President George W. Bush, who is expected to officially receive his party’s nomination on Thursday, will speak to the delegates and the nation about his vision for a safer world and more hopeful America. According to Bill Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the 2004 Republican National Convention, the Convention will showcase President Bush’s record of accomplishment, his steady leadership, and his commitment to the American people. Americans share his vision of growing the economy through tax relief, vigorously defending our country in the War on Terror, building a culture of responsibility, and ushering in an era of ownership.
Latest poll show Bush ahead both nationally and in the key states, mostly to the negative Republican campaign against John Kerry’s Vietnam war record. But the difference between the two parties is within the statistical error.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor George Pataki, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, democratic Senator Zell Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney top the list of speakers.
THE GREEK ISSUES
The names of the delegates were not released for security purposes. But according to Peter J. Pappas, President of the Greek Americans New York Republicans, our community will be represented accordingly. Professor emeritus, Theodore Pyrros, will be an alternate delegate, representing Washington D.C. Many Greek Americans, like Alex Spanos (member of the official US delegation to the Athens Olympic Games), are amongst the top contributors of the President’s re-election campaign.
Peter J. Pappas thinks the Greek-American Republicans have a good access to the president.
“I think our lobby is strong, whether it’s a Democratic President or a Republican. It’s whether or not the State Department feels that we could have access to any part of the government. But government will rule by virtue of what is good for the nation. So, they’re not going to yield to any lobbyers, any groups of Greek-Americans or Cypriot Americans if it’s not to the interest of the United States”.
Following the 2000 pattern, and the example of the Democrats, the Republican Party didn’t include Cyprus and Greek American issues in their platform.
John Sitilidis, Director of the Western Policy Center in Washington D.C. doubts either campaign will issue a policy statement on issues of Greek American concern.
“The Bush campaign didn’t issue any statement for any ethnic community in the 2000 election and so they may have already set their own precedent for not issuing statement in any contexts. It remains to be seen whether there will be anything along those lines in 2004, but it may just be that many of the issues that are going to be decisive in the election effect the entire country so comprehensively, especially national security or the economy that they don’t feel that the strategy includes breaking down support along ethnic lines”.
One exception was the announcement in support of Ariel’s Sharon’s policy on the settlements, a move aimed to help both the Israeli Prime Minister, and the President Bush’s chances to win the Jewish vote. Mr Sitilidis also pointed us out that John Kerry’s campaign just issued a statement about Albanian-American issues, including Kosovo and U.S.-Albanian ties.
Regarding the November Elections, John Sitilidis thinks Greek Americans will not make their choices based on each party’s stand on Cyprus and Greek-American issues.
“Most Greek-Americans will likely vote based on their ideology, those Greek-Americans that are aligned with the Republican Party will probably come out for Bush, given the fact that 85% of Republicans are strongly supportive of Bush. About 70% of Democrats are strongly supportive of John Kerry and those Greek Americans that are with the Democratic Party will likely vote for Kerry. There’s not much sense that Greek Americans will be voting one way or the other because of the issues in Cyprus or because of Greek-Turkish relations, it doesn’t seem to be carrying over in any decisive way, including in some of the major battleground states, like Florida and Michigan”.
This view is not shared by other prominent Greek Americans, like PSEKA President Philip Christopher, who repeatedly stated that our lobby has intensified efforts to mobilize our community in the polls, especially in key states like Florida, Pennsylvania, etc. Some strong messages were conveyed to President Bush, by Alex Spanos and others and according to a prominent Greek Americans, they played a key role in convincing the President to send in Athens, for the Olympic closing ceremony, Secretary of State Collin Powell. Mr Powell is expected to discuss with Prime Minister Karamanlis, foreign Minister Moliviatis and opposition leader George Papandreou the Cyprus issue and the Greco-Turkish relations.
Peter J. Pappas, who is of Cypriot descent and applauded the rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriots, at the April 24 referendum, thinks the administration wants the Cyprus issue to go away.
“I think they want that to go away for the purposes of satisfying the relationships between the United States and Turkey. They see them as a more important part of a relationship that they need for security in that region. I personally was not satisfied”.
Mr Pappas sees no major difference between both parties policies on Cyprus.
“I think that it doesn’t matter on the administration. It’s a very clear picture and the Turkish-American relationship is very important for the region.That’s why it would be either party to walk very delicately on that issue and favor Turkey as to the results of that. So I think it’s primarily up to Cyprus and Turkey to come up with some kind of a resolution that makes sense and from what I’ve heard Cyprus will not back down to accept some things that is not in the best interest of the Cyprus people”.
Both Pappas and Sitilidis agree that the November election will be very close.
“President Bush needs to consolidate his political support in several key battleground states that he won decisively in 2000 and then now remains the tossup column. In the days leading up to the Convention, John Kerry has a lead of 30 electoral votes over Bush, about 228 to 192. And states like Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, and Arkansas which were in Bush’s column in 2000 have not been decisively brought over to Bush’s column yet. And if he doesn’t win states like that there is a very good chance that John Kerry will become president in November”.
Regarding the campaign issues that will be crucial for the electorate, Pappas says it will be a combination of national security and the economy.
“The President will state I that the economy its doing better, with the employment improving and the financial markets doing well. As far as the national security he will promise to do anything to make sure that people feel safe here. As far as outside security issues that are war related at the present time between Iraq and maybe other Muslim nations like Iran and Syria, they are going to be played down. There’s no reason for them to get into it more. I think there will be certain, for the sake of another word, assurances that they will complete what they started, no doubt and hopefully in time as the Iraqi people are taking charge of their country they themselves will be fighting off the dissidence and the terrorists”.