By Seto Boyadjian–Esq.
The presidential election next Tuesday will be of crucial importance. It will determine the nature and direction of our foreign and domestic policies for the coming years. The American electorate faces a clear choice between two opposing platforms proposed respectively by President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.
Armenian Americans also have to exercise their civic duty in choosing between the two presidential candidates. But we have to be fully aware of our choice–and we have to make the right choice. Our choice has to be the candidate who will best advance our country’s international stature–empower our armed forces–enrich the economy and promote social welfare–AND who will further expand US support for Armenian American issues.
John Kerry has outlined realistic and rational programs that aim at reestablishing respect for America abroad and strengthening the nation at home. In the realm of international relations–recruitment of allies and maintenance of America’s prestige are viable targets for Kerry. He is determined to bring qualitative and quantitative improvemen’s to our armed forces stationed in Iraq; at the same time–he plans to garner international participation in bringing a speedy resolution to the Iraqi quagmire. With such projects in mind–he proposes to concentrate our intelligence and defense potentials on the obliteration of international terrorism.
Kerry gives special attention to the nation’s economy. He proposes to balance the budget through gradual decrease of the unprecedented deficit created by the Bush Administration. He plans to provide tax cuts only for the middle class and low income people–and abolish the tax cuts for the wealthy and for those earning more than $200,000 a year. In an effort to decrease unemployment–his program provides for the creation of new jobs by giving tax incentives to manufacturers and businesses. In this respect–he also proposes to reduce the outsourcing of US jobs. He plans to maintain the Social Security system; to this end–he promises that he will not increase the Social Security taxes–raise the retirement age–privatize the system–or cut benefits. He also plans to make health insurance cheaper and more affordable to everyone.
John Kerry’s position on Armenian issues has always been consistent and supportive. During his tenure over the past two decades in Congress–he has been a staunch advocate of issues of concern to Armenian Americans. He has provided his unwavering leadership to all initiatives acknowledging the Armenian genocide. He has been one of our strongest allies in the fight for US economic–political and military assistance to Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh.
Armenian Americans have always had access to Sen. Kerry. We have held numerous meetings and consultations with him. We have–together–agreed on important initiatives benefiting the Armenian cause. As a presidential candidate–his friendship toward us has not altered. We are certain that as President–the White House will be made accessible to Armenian Americans–as it once used to be under the presidency of Bill Clinton.
However–it will be hard for us to entertain a similar positive attitude toward President Bush.
Based on his record as President over the past three and a half years–George Bush presents himself with a failing report card on American as well as Armenian issues. During his tenure–he eroded our country’s international prestige and squandered our nation’s economic wealth. Instead of a steadfast pursuit for the elimination of international terrorism–he diverted the course of our country to a vindictive policy toward Saddam Hussein. To justify this diversion–he exaggerated the evidence for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Then–instead of coordinating the Iraq operation with our closest allies and seeking their cooperation–he shunned them and encumbered the American people with the entire burden of the war. Given the fact that the Iraq operation was a war of choice–he failed to plan for its aftermath in terms of securing the peace–establishing the security–and setting an exit strategy. To date–the Iraq operation has cost the American people $150 billion; more than 1,080 American soldiers have been killed; and over 16,000 Iraqi civilians have died.
The economic sector was not spared of failures under the Bush presidency. The President stubbornly pursued his plans for tax cuts and for expensive programs. The tax cuts benefited only the richest class that constitutes one percent of the population. For the federal government–fewer taxes translated into reduced income. Reduced income forced our government to decrease the funding of numerous economic–social–and educational programs that benefited the people. As a result of these policies–one million jobs were lost since Bush assumed the presidency. During the same period–four million more Americans sank into poverty and home foreclosures jumped 50%–talk about Bush’s "ownership society."
Under the Bush Administration–more than six million Americans lost their health insurance coverage; today–there are over forty-five million people left without any insurance coverage.
The crown jewel in all these is the unprecedented budget deficit. When Bush took office–he inherited from President Clinton–a $236 billion annual surplus; in three and a half years–Bush unbalanced the nation’s budget and turned the surplus into a $520 billion annual deficit. George W. Bush not only ignored virtually all of the issues of concern to the Armenian American community–he actively opposed them. In February 2000–during his first presidential campaign–he promised in a declaration that "If elected President–I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes" the Armenian Genocide.
After the election–he reneged on his campaign pledge and–instead–in his annual April 24th statemen’s he resorted to evasive terminology in order to avoid any direct reference to the Armenian genocide. When the Senate and the House of Representatives initiated legislation–respectively S. Res. 164 and H.Res. 193–to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the UN Genocide Convention–the Bush Administration actively blocked their adoption–because both legislations made specific references to the Armenian Genocide. Last July–in response to the House passage of the Schiff Amendment that prohibited Turkey from using US aid to lobby against the Genocide Resolution–the Bush Administration unleashed the State Department spokesperson and the House Republican leadership to trivialize the Schiff Amendment and prevent its final enactment into law. Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which restricted US aid to the government of Azerbaijan for its blockade of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh–became one of the first victims of the Bush Administration.
In November 2001–taking advantage of the prevailing mood in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks–the Administration aggressively pressured Congress into easing the restrictions of Section 907–which had been in effect since 1991. The Congress gave in and granted the President the authority to waive the section. Armed with this waiver authority–the President provided Azerbaijan direct economic aid and military assistance–irrespective of the fact that Azerbaijan was serving as a haven for Islamic terrorists and resuming its blockade of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh. During the next three years–the President’s proposed budgets registered annual reductions of economic aid to Armenia coupled with annual increases of aid to Azerbaijan. This situation deteriorated further this year–when the Bush Administration blatantly attempted to disrupt its agreement with the Congressional leaders in maintaining the military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In its proposed budget for 2005–the White House tilted the balance of US military aid in favor of Azerbaijan–whereby the proposed Foreign Military Financing to Azerbaijan was the quadruple of the amount proposed for Armenia.
The list of Bush’s opposition to Armenian American issues is very long. During his presidential term–Armenian Americans were denied any possible access to him; the doors of the White House were closed before us. Suffice it to state that President Bush has set a new record in ignoring the Armenian American community and its issues of concern.
Taking into account the programs and positions of both presidential candidates–our choice is very simple. Senator Kerry comes across as the knowledgeable leader with a promise for hope–optimism–and real achievemen’s–whereas George W. Bush reveals himself as a limited person with a promise for fear–intolerance–and limited achievemen’s. Such a person is dangerous for America and damaging to Armenian American issues.