Letters to Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist Outline Specific Armenian American Policy Concerns
ANCA Chairman Praises Republican Friends of Armenia in Congress
WASHINGTON–DC–In letters sent this week to Congressional leaders–the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) voiced the disappointment of the Armenian American community over the Bush Administration’s record on Armenian issues. In its correspondence–the ANCA called for renewed efforts by the leadership of the legislative branch to urge the White House to adopt more constructive policies on issues of special concern to Armenian American voters.
Included with the letters–signed by ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and sent to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist–were copies of the ANCA’s 2004 Armenian American Presidential Report Card–which gave the President generally low marks on a range of fifteen different Armenian American issues. These issues were grouped into three general categories as follows:
1) Unfulfilled commitmen’s: Most notable among the unfulfilled commitmen’s were the President’s failure to honor his campaign pledge in February of 2000 to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide–and his decision this February to abandon the 2001 White House agreement with both Congress and the Armenian American community to maintain parity in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
2) Opposition to community concerns: In terms of active opposition to community concerns–we have seen the White House block Congressional legislation concerning the Armenian Genocide–waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–propose reductions in US aid to Armenia–and mistakenly place Armenia on a Department of Justice/INS terrorist watch list.
3) Failure to prioritize Armenian issues: The Administration has failed to prioritize either US-Armenia ties or the White House’s relationship with the Armenian American community. An example of the former is the failure of the Administration to take meaningful proactive steps to foster increased US-Armenia commercial relations–or even to press Congress to move quickly to adopt Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status for Armenia. An example of the latter is that the President has not invited the collective leadership of the Armenian American community to a meeting at the White House despite repeated requests for such interaction.
Both the Senate and House letters included more than a dozen specific recommendations by the ANCA about how the Congressional leadership could encourage the White House to improve its standing among Armenian American voters.
The ANCA letter also stressed that–while disappointed with the President’s performance–the ANCA "highly values our many close friends in Congress and throughout the country and wants to ensure that they can effectively reach out to Armenian Americans this election season–confident in the knowledge that their national leadership has been supportive of Armenian issues."
Hachikian highlighted that Armenian Americans "have great respect for the tremendous leadership of Congressman Joe Knollenberg as Co-Chairman of the Armenian Caucus and appreciate his spearheading of the adoption of legislation in the House granting Armenia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. This important measure–which is awaiting Senate action–was provided crucial Committee support by Chairman Bill Thomas of the Ways and Means Committee. Our community deeply appreciates the efforts of Congressman George Radanovich in introducing and advocating tirelessly on behalf of the Genocide Resolution–and those of Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner for moving this important measure out of Committee. We admire the efforts of Congressman Mark Kirk–who has worked with Congressman Knollenberg and Chairman Jim Kolbe of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee to address Armenian American concerns in the foreign aid bill. Throughout the nation–Armenian Americans value their friendships with Republican legislators–from David Dreier in California–Eric Cantor in Virginia–Chris Smith in New Jersey–Mark Souder in Indiana–to New York’s John Sweeney–who is of Armenian heritage–and many others."
In the Senate–Hachikian made special mention of "Senators Mitch McConnell–John Ensign–George Allen–Elizabeth Dole–and many others," noting that the ANCA wants to "ensure that they can effectively reach out to Armenian Americans this election season–confident in the knowledge that their national leadership has been supportive of Armenian issues."
In a similar letter sent last week to the Chairman of the Bush-Cheney-04 campaign–Marc Racicot–the ANCA included a copy of its Bush Administrations’ Report Card and suggested "a number of steps that the Administration can take to improve its standing among our nation’s one and a half million citizens of Armenian heritage." The letter went on to note that–"these issues are of profound importance to our entire community–Republicans–Democrats–and independents–all of whom–sadly–are united in the view that this Administration–despite its early promise–has fallen far short of their expectations." Racicot–in addition to being the former Governor of Montana–was the immediate past Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
For the full text of the ANCA 2004 Armenian American Presidential Report Card visit: http://www.anca.org/anca/pressrel.asp?prid=540&pressregion=anca
For the National Organization for Republican Armenia’s perspective on the Bush Administration’s record visit: http://www.nora-dc.org/nora_pr040108.htm
The Armenian American Leadership Council’s (AADLC) review of the Bush Administration can be found at: http://www.aadlc.org/pressreleases.asp?prid=51
A review of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) record on Armenian issues is located at: http://www.armenia’sforkerry.com