April 24 is the National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man, during which the president of the United States is invited to issue a proclamation honoring the victims of the century-old Turkish massacre of Armenians. As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama was unequivocal about how April 24s should be run:
[T]he Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy…. [A]s President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Predictably, that promise did not survive past Inauguration Day, because it turns out that using such language would really piss off NATO ally Turkey, thus making U.S. interventions in the Middle East and the Muslim world much more difficult.
Another presidential candidate who made and broke that same promise was Hillary Clinton. As I write in today's L.A. Times, the dissonance of having the politicians they otherwise prefer being brazen hypocrites on an issue they care about deeply has prompted many activists to either give up genocide-recognition as a single-issue litmus test, or—as in the case of George Clooney—go on raising "obscene" amounts of money for Clinton anyway.
Excerpt from my piece:
Few politicians can top [Hillary Clinton's] about-face on the issue. In January 2008, locked in a primary-season dogfight with Barack Obama, Clinton issued a statement bragging that "alone among the presidential candidates, I have been a long-standing supporter of the Armenian Genocide Resolution." […]
"As president, I will recognize the Armenian genocide," 2008 Clinton continued. "Our common morality and our nation's credibility as a voice for human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the president …."
Yet when handed a golden opportunity to live out her morality as secretary of state, Clinton punted.
In July 2010, Washington's top diplomat visited the genocide memorial in Yerevan, but refused to use the magic word, and had the State Department refer to the occasion, absurdly, as "a private visit." She lobbied Congress to ensure that the genocide resolution never reached the House floor. Asked by a State Department staffer at a January 2012 town hall whether such verbal sidestepping had "to do with our relationship with Turkey," Clinton answered the question like a Turkish politician: "This has always been viewed, and I think properly so, as a matter of historical debate and conclusions rather than political."
Such was Clinton's turnabout that the great Armenian American commentator Harut Sassounian last June, even while urging his compatriots to drop genocide-recognition as a political litmus test, included the caveat: "It is important to note that those candidates who have already deceived the Armenian community during previously held elective or appointive positions should be eliminated from all consideration. One such candidate is Hillary Clinton."