There were many reasons for the Democratic Party’s mammoth Senate loss in Massachusetts. In trying to elaborate on the importance of this loss in my recent columns, I emphasized that many of the Democratic voters, as well as the independents, were dissatisfied by what they came to view as a failed Obama presidency during the first year.
They wanted to punish him severely for seeing none of the sort of change Obama promised.
The state of the American economy, the ongoing wars and the ever-increasing budget deficit annoyed the American voters, as did the health-care debacle that has become a nightmare for all, as it seems it will never get passed in the American Congress, nor go away.
For Obama, like every other politician, there were many great obstacles to fulfilling his promised “change” mantra, and he can explain them quite marvelously, as seen once more in the recent State of the Union speech.
Therefore, Democrats and the Obama administration suffered a huge blow in Massachusetts, which was felt heavily in Washington, D.C., especially by the lifting of the Democratic Party’s super-majority in the Senate. The American media heavily faulted the Obama presidency for this loss, along with the flawed campaign of the Democratic Party’s Massachusetts Senate candidate, Martha Coakley.
However, the Massachusetts loss was reported in the Hürriyet Daily News with a very different touch than many could have predicted. According to a recent report in the Daily News, the Armenian-Americans played a big role in this Massachusetts election, and wanted to punish the Obama presidency. As a self-described political junkie, I must confess that I have never seen such analyses in any of the American media organizations or columns. I think that if the Armenian-American community was such an important factor in such a vital election, one that has changed the political calculation deeply in Washington, it would have been a nationwide topic and discussed overtly.
A letter featured last week in the column of David Judson, editor in chief of this newspaper, and written by Ergun Kirlikovali, the president-elect of the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations, or ATAA, a “30-year-old nonprofit umbrella organization with 60 components, fielding 5,000 members nationwide,” also attracted some attention.
The ATAA, unfortunately, has not had a good reputation among the Turkish community living in America until recently for its internal fights. It has become mostly a grassroots organization that uses almost all its energy, time and money to fight the Armenian diaspora’s efforts, especially before and during the April 24 fever every year – when the American administration announces how it considers and words the tragic events that happened to the Armenians during World War I.
Although I understand the logic of this struggle, seeing a Turkish nonprofit organization being tied to this struggle only, in addition to the never-ending internal fights – until recently – painted a picture of a narrow-minded and reactionary organization that turned me, along with many others, off over the years.
When I saw the letter that Kirlikovali, president-elect of the ATAA, sent to Judson, claiming that the Hürriyet Daily News uses “a persistent anti-Turkish, pro-Armenian slant” in its reporting over “the past few years,” I was caught by surprise. I was saddened at hearing a point of view that usually would not be expected from a person who will assume an important position representing the Turkish community in America.
So I wanted to get in touch with Kirlikovali, and then with current president Gunay Evinch, to talk about the assembly, but also to ask about this letter. I wanted Kirlikovali to explain to me his remarks calling the Hürriyet Daily News’ coverage “pro-PKK, and anti-Turkish,” with which I totally disagree. I made it clear over the conference call between the three of us – Evinch, Kirlikovali and myself – that I disagreed with his complaining about the Hürriyet Daily News just because it gives space to different opinions, including opinion pieces that run contrary to the official Turkish state policies in many matters. I think the reflection of such tolerance, by giving a wide variety of perspectives in a Turkish paper that functions as a window to the outside world, in a time when Turkey’s image is in despair in terms of press freedom, lifts some hopes.
Apart from this disagreement, however, both presidents’ complaint about the recent reporting on the Armenian effect on the Massachusetts loss should be taken into consideration. This time, I disagree with my own newspaper’s reporting on the issue, for it does not exactly overlap with the realities of local and national politics in America.
And second, it was a great pleasure to listen to both presidents at the same time and hear them getting along so well, when it was only a few years ago that this kind of compatibility seemed impossible. I hope that the outreach programs designed in recent times by the ATAA will be continued by the future president, Kirlikovali. The presidents’ excitement over the phone urged me to accept Evinch’s polite invitation to visit the ATAA as soon as possible.
Turkish-Americans comprise a relatively small community when one compares them with others, especially the Armenian and Greek communities. However, after a long battle, the assembly is now getting into a preferable shape by better learning the spirit of advocacy day by day. And I think they also have right reasons to complain when they are not consulted over the grassroots issues in America that are serious concerns for them, as people who do this work day in and day out.
ATAA tries to do better work and I am ready to give the group the benefit of the doubt, even if I disagree sharply with some of its perspectives.
I believe this spirit of endurance and indulgence is needed to appreciate the Hürriyet Daily News better.