22 September 2008

2599) Q&A's With Congressmen Balart, Wilson, Coleman, Sarbanes, Honda, DeLauro, HS Romanoff, LA Mayor Villaraigosa, NR Ed Crowley, ANCA' Hamparian & K

  1. Q&A With New Republic Sen Editor Crowley Michael Crowley,
  2. Congressman Mario Diaz Balart
  3. Congressman Joe Wilson
  4. Senator Coleman
  5. ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Karakashian
  6. Congressman John Sarbanes, Strong Supporter Of .. Armenian-Americans
  7. Congressman Honda
  8. Congresswoman DeLauro
  9. Colorado House Speaker Romanoff
  10. Mayor Of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Armenian Weekly: Q&A's With . . .
1. Q&A With Michael Crowley
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (A.W.)-Michael Crowley is a senior editor of the journal the New Republic (www.tnr.com). He also contributes to the Readers Digest, GQ, and Slate. On July 23, 2007, the New Republic published an expose by Crowley-titled "K Street Cashes in on the Armenian Genocide"-on U.S. politicians hired by the Turkish government to lobby against the Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress.

Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian talked to him in Saint Paul on Sept. 1, during the RNC.

K.M.-How has the RNC been affected by Hurricane Gustav?

M.C.-They have totally thrown the plans off and I think that there are ways in which it's good for McCain and some in which it's bad. He is probably very happy to have an excuse to tell Bush and Cheney, "We're very sorry but it's just not going to work out tonight." I don't think the McCain campaign was looking forward to their speeches being watched and talked about in the media. I think they were very happy to have an excuse to tell them to stay home.

The flip side is that they have very limited time to make their case. They are the underdogs here and they need to reintroduce John McCain to the public as a war hero, prisoner of war, a maverick in the Senate, and they will still have time to do that. However, they may not have enough time to attack Barack Obama, redefine him, knock him down a couple of pegs from his big night on Thursday [Aug. 28]. The feeling, particularly with the hurricane, is that they don't really want to take a nasty tone and I think that is very problematic for them.

K.M.-What is the Republicans' plan to counter the speech Obama delivered in Denver?

M.C.-I think their plan is Sarah Palin. All along they wanted to take advantage of the fact that their Convention was taking place after the Democratic Convention. They thought that with a big surprise choice like Palin they could-and I think did successfully-divert the media attention away from Obama's speech. The Palin pick put kind of a lid on the response to Obama and his balance in the polls are not as large as people predicted, so they may have had some success. But there's only so much you can do when the Democrats had a full week and Obama gave a generally good speech.

K.M.-What prompted you to write that investigative piece on the Armenian Genocide resolution last year?

M.C.- The denial of the Armenian Genocide defies the overwhelming historical consensus that the genocide occurred. What first got me interested in the story was an article I had seen, which said that Richard Gephardt had signed up on this issue to represent Turkey and that they were paying him a lot of money. It was the first time I found out there was so much money involved in this issue. I was only vaguely aware of how high the stakes were for those involved and how much money was being involved, and how they-prominent politicians or former politicians-were making a lot of money advocating on the issue [on behalf of Turkey/the Turkish government]. As I delved deeper, it seemed like a very revealing case study on how Washington works and how a deeply grave moral issues becomes yet another issue for lobbying and deal-making. I was alarmed by how a serious moral question is reduced to business as usual in Washington.
2. Q&A with Congressman Mario Diaz Balart
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (A.W.)-On Sept. 2, Mouradian spoke with Congressman Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.) at the RNC about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Hurricane Gustav, and his support for the Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress. Here are some excerpts:

K.M.-What are your thoughts on the way the media is reacting to the pregnancy of Governor Palin's daughter?

M.D.B.-If we worried about the media's reaction, we would all be depressed and there would be no election. However, the American people are the ones who make the decision. Unfortunately, the mainstream media-the left media-is doing everything to criticize her. The New York Times, for example, has taken what I would consider a sexist approach in criticizing her. The American people will see through that, will see that she's qualified, that she's a maverick, and that she's the right person for that position.

K.M.-How do you assess the impact of Hurricane Gustav on the Convention?

M.D.B.-Senator McCain has always put country before anything else. He flew there again yesterday not for political purposes, not to get reelected, but to help the situation after the storm. Now we have two days to get the message out, and we can do it. We can tell the people why Senator McCain is the right person at the right time to be president of the U.S.

K.M.-You have remained a supporter of the Armenian Genocide resolution despite all pressures.

M.D.B.-You can't deny the truth. You can't deny reality. The reality is that people were killed. And to try to hide that makes no sense. You can't hide history.
3. Q&A with Congressman Joe Wilson
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (A.W.)-On Sept. 2, Mouradian talked to South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson about Sarah Palin. He also asked him about the threat of Hurricane Hanna on his district. Here are some excerpts:

A.W.-Many commentators are questioning the experience of Governor Palin. What are your thoughts?

J.W.-I have high regard for Governor Palin. I think it is very significant that she was elected mayor and governor. She has been a reformist. She has uncovered corruption within the Democratic and Republican Parties. She has a significant record in a very large state, where she has been very popular and successful. She has negotiated in a very firm fashion with oil companies to promote energy independence. I believe she has the right background.

A.W.-Talk about the threat of Hurricane Hanna.

J.W.-I represent the second district of South Carolina and the last hurricane to hit the district was in 1959. It's very infrequent that we have hurricanes, but Hurricane Hanna is projected to possibly hit the region that I represent. But our people are prepared. I served on the National Guard for 31 years and I know our National Guard is preparing to help with the evacuation, to provide relief and recovery. We understand that this should be a state issue, a county issue, and a municipal issue. We have got excellent elected officials who know what to do and the people are prepared.
4. Senator Coleman Chats
ST. PAUL, Minn. (A.W.)-Mouradian and ANCA legislative affairs director Raffi Karakashian caught up with Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman on the first day of the RNC. Coleman spoke fondly with Mouradian about his trip to Yerevan and his commitment to supporting Armenian-American concerns.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Coleman was an outspoken opponent to the State Department's efforts last year to appoint Armenian Genocide denier Dick Hoagland as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. Coleman explained, "I am of the Jewish faith. I cannot imagine an ambassador to Israel being effective without talking about the Holocaust. I am not sure how we can continue to have ambassadors to Armenia who can be effective, unless they give recognition to the genocide."
5. Karakashian Shares Impressions from RNC
ST. PAUL, Minn. (A.W.)-The Weekly talked to ANCA legislative affairs director Raffi Karakashian, who was in St. Paul for the RNC.

A.W.-Talk about your impressions on the first day of the RNC.

R.K.-This is the first time that I have attended a political convention. The level of excitement demonstrated by all delegates and guests is very impressive. Nowhere does one find such passionate individuals who are dedicated to their party and their candidates.

As part of a small group of Armenian-Americans who are here in the Twin Cities, I feel that it is important to reach out to both political parties. The Armenian-American presence at the RNC is necessary to ensure that our issues are heard by both parties.

A.W.-Talk about our Republican friends in key races and how we can support them.

R.K.-We had the opportunity to meet today with Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is one of our most dedicated Republican friends in the U.S. Senate. Given this year's political climate, Senator Coleman is facing a tough reelection challenge from a political newcomer. Our community must do everything to support friends such as Senator Coleman to ensure victory in November.

Several other Republican supporters of our cause are in very tight races this year-especially co-chair of the Armenian Caucus Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Earlier this year, Rep. Knollenberg led an effort, supported by Rep. Kirk, to zero-out all military aid to Azerbaijan for its continued war rhetoric.
6. Q&A with Aram Hamparian
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-The Weekly talked to ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian about the Obama/Biden ticket and the DNC Convention.

A.W.-Talk about the significance of the Obama/Biden ticket for Armenian-Americans.

A.H.-The choice of Biden as running mate is a very favorable development for Armenian-Americans. Joe Biden has a 30+ year track record of supporting Armenian-American issues and has consistently been strong on Armenian Genocide recognition. He is strong on U.S.-Armenian relations and an advocate of a durable Karabagh settlement that respects the right to self-determination.

He brings a powerful moral dimension to American foreign policy, which is, at the same time, both realist and deeply anchored in our common values as Americans. Most recently, a couple weeks ago, he was able to secure from the Bush Administration-unfortunately a largely antagonistic administration-a significant concession on the question of the Armenian Genocide, forcing the administration to retreat from the question mark they had put over the facts of the Armenian Genocide and making it very clear to all that U.S. policy is one of recognition and that the only reason why the administration has remained silent has been because of Turkey's threats. His hard-nosed abilities as a political leader, combined with his commitment to idealism, in this instance was able to effectively squeeze water from a stone.

I don't think we could have asked for two friendlier legislators to serve on a national presidential ticket. If you read Barack Obama's remarks to the Armenian community this January and you add to that the speech that Joe Biden made at the Marie Yovanovitch confirmation hearing, you will see that those two have a deep and profound understanding of genocide and a very clear sense of the imperative of recognizing the Armenian Genocide. They compares very favorably with the Republican ticket, led by John McCain, who has made it very clear that he has no intention to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and has made no secret of that fact.

A.W.-Talk about the role of ethnic groups in the Democratic Party.

A.H.-The Democratic Party has historically been very open to ethnic groups and recent immigrants. The Armenian-Americans are, of course, represented across the political spectrum-and we welcome this diversity and the strength it represents-but I think that most observers would agree that the Democratic Party makes a special effort to welcome Armenians and other ethnic groups into the process. One of the ways they do that is through the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Committee, which is a group of European and Mediterranean organizations and leaders. Arabs, Poles, Italians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, all of Europe and the Mediterranean are represented in this group and they are both a voice to the DNC and the DNC's voice to these various communities. We had a meeting with this group today and we are going to have another meeting on Wednesday. We are part of the fabric of this party, just as we are part of the broader fabric of American life.
7. Sarbanes: Obama has Innate Understanding of Community Struggle
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-Mouradian Talked To Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.), A Strong Supporter Of Issues Of Concern To Armenian-Americans, on Aug. 27 at the Convention Center in Denver. Here are some excerpts:

K.M.-How do you assess the importance of the ethnic vote in the November election?

J.S.-I think it's going to be critical particularly in some key states. We have to figure out which ethnic communities in which states will have a sizeable role to play in the outcome. New Hampshire is an example: The Greek-American community that I am very connected with has a large representation in N.H., so depending on what direction that community goes in N.H. could affect the outcome.

K.M.-What is your message to the Armenian, Greek, and other ethnic communities?

J.S.-Well, I believe that Barack Obama has an innate understanding and sense of what it means to struggle as any community. He understands the story of many ethnic communities: All communities at some point in their history have experienced obstacles that they have had to struggle to overcome. My sense of Barack Obama as a person, as a human being, is that he relates very well to the struggles that people face, and that implies to any communities we are talking about, including the Armenian community, which has both struggled and experienced severe tragedy in its history. I think that's something he understands and it will make him relate very well not just to the Armenian community, but to many other ethnic communities. That is why I am hopeful that when it comes election day, those folks will step up and support him.
8. Congressman Honda: It's OK to Cross Over
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-Congressman Michael Honda (D-Calif.), a Japanese-American, is a vice chair of the DNC. On Aug. 27, Mouradian talked to him about the importance of the ethnic vote and the possibility of Republicans voting for Obama. Here are some excerpts:

K.M.-Talk about the importance of the Asian-American vote and ethnic vote in general.

M.H.-If you take all the ethnic votes in this country, it's a big number. I just look at the Asian-American votes and we're something like 3 percent of the population of votes. And when you lose an election by a fraction of a percentage point, we become important. All the ethnic votes become very important. But ethnic communities need to let the people know that they exist, that they are registered, and that their turnout is increasing. Since 1992, Asian-American Democrats were something like 31 percent and in 2006 they were over 70 percent. In 2008, we should reach somewhere around 75-80 percent turn-out and registration of Democrats among Asian-Americans.

K.M.-What is the probability of crossing over and voting for Obama in this important group?

M.H.-When ethnics see that issues are correct for the family and their children, they will cross over from the other party. We speak to all, including Republicans, and ask them to think about the issues, think about their children, and then vote, because if you do that you won't go wrong. You'll end up voting Democratic, you'll end up voting for Obama. It's a secret [anonymous] vote, if you are Republican. It's OK.
9. Congresswoman DeLauro: The Ethnic Vote is Critical
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-On Aug. 27, Mouradian spoke with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) at the Convention Center in Denver. Here are some excerpts:

K.M.-What is your message to ethnic groups?

R.D.-Ethnic communities need to understand the importance of electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Both Obama and Biden share the immigrant experience. They understand it. They understand the values that are derived [from it]. Hard work and values are all part of what makes up the immigrant experience and what our ethnic communities are about. We have two people who are running for president and vice president who understand this, know what it means, and want to work hard with these communities so they can achieve economic success and they can achieve success for themselves and their families and create the opportunity which is the American Dream.

K.M.-What is the importance of the ethnic vote in this election?

R.D.-The ethnic vote is going to be critical for a win. People are going to be looking very hard and listening to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They want to know that their president has walked in their shoes, understands what their lives are about.

This is a nation of immigrants and ethnic communities. They need to be organized, they need to listen, and they need to ask questions. And they need to vote. They need to come out and vote in what is their best interest.
10. Q & A with Andrew Romanoff
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-Mouradian talked to Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) at "Exhibit Darfur," a photo exhibition dedicated to the genocide in Darfur held in Denver on Aug. 25.

K.M.-How can ordinary Americans get involved in the Darfur issue?

A.R.-As a first step, people can log on to www.SudanDivestment.org, which is a website that tells you which of your own holdings are invested in companies doing business in Sudan. We could divest whatever holdings they have. I have done that. The second step would be to call Members of Congress and encourage them to pass more aggressive legislation aimed at the Sudanese regime.

K.M.-You have championed Armenian Genocide resolutions in Colorado. How important is the recognition of past genocides in preventing future ones?

A.R.-It's critical. It is said, "Those who ignore the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat them." We still see denial, disinformation on the Armenian Genocide. We see people who don't even want to call it what it was. They are trying to erase a stain on their country's history, they are trying to rewrite history, blot it out. That's a very dangerous Orwellian trend, which is very useful to future perpetrators of atrocities.
11. Villaraigosa on the Ethnic Vote
DENVER, Colo. (A.W.)-On Aug. 27, Mouradian Spoke With The Mayor Of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.

K.M.-Talk about the ethnic vote in the presidential elections.

A.V.-When you think about what America is today, it has always been a place of hope and opportunity-a destination for those who want freedom. Those people come from every country in the world-the black, the white, the Asian, and the Latino-and for all that this country has to offer. They're Greek, Armenian, Italian, Lebanese, and Israeli. If we [Democrats] are going to continue to move forward, we should not only be the party of the big tent but the nation of the big tent that embraces all of us. Every community has to be able to participate and we all have to be able to benefit.


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