Waiting for Godot

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

In an election year all news channels are supersaturated with electioneering, most of the time oblivious to the fact that many other newsworthy events and developments are happening around the world which may affect our livelihood and even the future of the country.

Two wars that the Bush administration began — Iraq and Afghanistan — are continuing with the same ferocity and draining our economy. The Clinton Administration concluded its second term with a surplus in the budget. The Bush-Cheney administration left behind an abysmal deficit, on top of depleting the surplus. Since President Barack Obama was elected, every legislative initiative has been opposed by Republicans — even at the cost of hurting the country — just to hamper his reelection chances. That, of course, will give ammunition to the Republican camp that the Obama administration failed to improve the economy, which on the surface may sound true, if they can discount the Bush-era debacle. Republican president candidate Mitt Romney began his campaign at the height of the economic crisis, giving a positive spin to the campaign as a successful businessman who could inject some hope in the gloomy business climate. But as his campaign has progressed and his credentials have been placed under rigorous scrutiny, his reputation as an able and honest business leader has been dented, especially when his opponents began digging into the scandal of the Bain Capital, which had netted him $473 million.

Any president or presidential candidate may promise the sky to the public, but if they don’t have the backing of the legislature, they cannot deliver on their promises. That, in itself, is a built-in defense mechanism. In case of failure, blame the Congress. There is a plethora of issues in this presidential campaign that each camp will dissect to discredit its opponents.

Now, enter Paul Ryan, a youthful and dynamic Republican vice presidential candidate on a crusade to dismantle the Obama health care plan. Initially, the Romney and Ryan healthcare plans looked different from each other and even sounded contradictory. The two candidates quickly have been reconciling their differences, because healthcare will become — or, already has become — one of the hottest campaign issues.

Foreign policy is hardly mentioned in the campaign debates, because the assumption is that the US can and will resolve those issues at the butt of the gun. Yet defense remains a major issue, as the Obama administration tries to wind down the foreign wars and cut out unnecessary spending.

The US is not only a super power but a super-super power that can out-gun any potential adversary with its stockpile of state-ofthe- art weaponry. Yet, security and the strong posture of America have become euphemisms for fueling the military-industrial complex, something President Dwight Eisenhower had warned against in the waning days of his administration.

Americans vote with their pocketbooks, except some ideological zealots in both camps. If the economy shows some signs of improvement in the remaining days of the campaign, that will favor the incumbent administration. If it deteriorates, citizens will look for change, for saviors, regardless of the outcome of their choice. Interest groups have their own agendas to pursue in this election year. Leniency advocated by the Obama administration with regards to the 11 million illegal aliens here will certainly have a positive impact in the Hispanic community. On the other hand, leniency towards Cuba’s new ruler may jeopardize the Florida vote, a key battleground in this campaign. Therefore, the administration has to calibrate its policy to the tune of the public sentiment to assure a second term for President Obama.

The Jewish vote is crucial for any candidate; wooing the Israeli lobby is not enough — Benjamin Netenyahu will not settle for anything less than complete surrender. The two-state solution for the Palestinian issue advocated by President Obama did not jibe well with the friends of Israel. Despite his solid commitment to Israel’s security, Mr. Obama may end up receiving a cold shoulder from his Jewish constituency.

On the other hand, the Republican hopeful offered the maximum, by visiting Israel and making an outright play for the Jewish vote. He declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, pre-empting the traditional US policy of recognizing Tel Aviv as the capital. That would bias any future settlement of the conflict, as Palestinians have been vying for East Jerusalem to become their own capital. Considering the Arab world is in enough turmoil for any retaliation, Mr. Romney threw another incendiary barb, comparing unfavorably the accomplishment of the Palestinians versus the Israelis.

He suggested that the Palestinians have not prospered as well as Israelis because of cultural differences, i.e., inferiority, neglecting to mention a chokehold on them by the Israeli government, while praising the thriving Israeli economy, again neglecting to mention that US taxpayers are pouring money into its economy. That laughable statement drew winces even from the Israeli hosts, not to mention riled up Palestinians, who justifiably called Romney a racist.

Since every ethnic or interest group is guided by its own interest, Armenians are also entitled to the same rights. For us at issue are the Genocide, the US assistance to Armenia and the thorny problem of the Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict.

Thus far, neither camp has addressed those issues and time is running out. Republican vice presidential-hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan is on record as having co-sponsored the latest House Resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. But that does not mean too much, since President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been vocally supportive of the Genocide issue until their election.

Since their election, they have been dancing around the Gword, as they have become captives of the political system. In all fairness, we need to be mindful that President Obama came closest in defining the Armenian Genocide and he dared to remind Turks to come to terms with their grizzly history, in a speech delivered in Ankara, at the Turkish parliament. Yet that does not match his official written commitment made before his election. Once elected, even the most moralistic candidate seems to compromise his or her moral compass for political expediency.

However, Armenians have learned the convoluted course of political machinations and will never give up on this critical issue. We are reminded of the French precedent, when the parliament had almost criminalized the denial of the Armenian Genocide similar to the Gayssot Law, which has criminalized the denial of the Jewish Shoah. Yet, despite then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s passionate speech at an Armenian rally, he let the time elapse and failed to sign the resolution, allowing the opponents of the resolution to muster enough votes to claim the resolution unconstitutional.

The new president, Francois Hollande, has made the same pledge, but a recent interview by his foreign minister casts some doubt on his commitment; indeed, in an interview conducted by the French weekly l’Express, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was asked how the president is will make good on his pledge to pass the Genocide resolution without offending Ankara, when France needs Turkey’s support on its Syrian policy. The minister answered in an equivocal fashion: “We are seeking ways to reconcile the two issues.” If we have learned enough history we can safely assume that is also another betrayal in the making.

Coming back to the US elections, neither camp yet has addressed the Armenian concerns. That does not allow the Armenian voters to take a stand.

In President Obama’s case, any pledge is worth less, since he could — and he still can — deliver on his pledge while in office. Mitt Romney can sway some Armenian votes if he comes up with a lastminute positive statement.

Contrary to our beliefs and our campaigns, not all Armenians take the Genocide issue seriously in voting.

Currently, there is a vicious campaign against President Obama, with racial overtones, and many Armenians are shamefully taken in; the president’s skin color and his advocacy for the middle class seem to have alienated those Armenians.

At this time, there is no decision for Armenians — we are waiting for Godot.

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