NOV. 2 - In a significant move, Senator John McCain’s Presidential campaign reached out to Polish Americans in an October 31 conference call with a select group of Polish American activists. McCain’s National Coalition Coordinator Aaron Manaigo represented the campaign. The leaders represented the Polish American community in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, New York and Maryland.
Responding to questions from the Polish American leaders, Manaigo reiterated McCain’s support for strengthened relations with Poland and for Poland’s participation in the Missile Defense Program. He also noted a recent letter from McCain that declared the Senator’s support for Poland’s role as a U.S. strategic partner and a fellow NATO member and praised the country for its support for Georgia’s freedom in the face of Russian aggression.
Manaigo referred to McCain’s strong support for Poland’s entrance into the Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Poles to travel for short visits to the U.S. without visas. In an October 29 letter to Frank Spula, President of the Polish American Congress, McCain stated that ”requiring visas from Poles seeking to travel here is inconsistent with our current relationship, not to mention the deeper and broader relationship we must work together to foster. I support the inclusion of Poland in the visa waiver program and will make it a top priority of my administration to make it happen.”
Responding to a question on McCain’s views on the contribution of the Polish American community to the United States, Manaigo stated, “John McCain absolutely recognizes the contributions of Polish Americans.” He added that in considering appointments “as an important partner, you can bet that he (McCain) will listen to Polish-American leaders.”
The Polish American activists who participated in the discussion with Manaigo generally agreed that the meeting was in many ways ground-breaking. Some noted, that it was the first time that there had been an opportunity to have a real discussion with representatives of either Presidential candidate.
One Polish American political commentator remarked that the conference call and McCain’s letter to the Polish American Congress “represent the opening of a new front in the last days of the campaign … up until now only Obama, or rather his staff, has paid any attention to the nearly 10 million Polish Americans in our country.” He added, “it may not pay off for McCain, as historically many Polish Americans have been strong Democrats, but it shows that McCain is determined to fight down to the wire.”
According to the 2000 Census, the leaders participating in the conference call represented states with over 30 percent of the Polish American population (NY - 986,000; PA - 824,000; NJ -576,000; CA - 491,000; MD - 184,000). A representative of the Minnesota Polish American community (240,000) was scheduled to take part, but was unable to do so due to technical difficulties.
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Is this an on-the record or off-the-record statement by the Obama campaign, or something from the sidelines from one of his obvious supporters?
The credentials of the writer-Marilyn Piurek in terms of having the interests of Polish Americans at heart and Poland's security in general as a priority are beyond question. She played a singularly important role in facilitating delivery of the Polish American message on NATO enlargement to the Clinton Administration over a decade ago. But, like her comments about the Bush policy on visas, this side-steps present question.
Are Senator Obama's comments of 15 months still today a part of his platform? Has he said anything about this issue since declaring his present candidacy?
This is not a mere technicality, as one sees with Obama's position on missile defense deployment in Poland. The fact is that he has conditioned further progress of deployment on missile testing or more specifically, on what he as President may judge as adequate in terms of degrees of accuracy in missile technology. One could quote several sentences spoken and recorded on-the-record by Obama supporting the idea of the missile base, but omitting this caveat (also on-the-record) in characterizing his position would be highly misleading.
The future prospects of that base becoming a reality versus remaining in limbo, as Senator Obama suggests it is, is a very, very significant factor in determining whether Poland today or in the future enjoys full NATO security guarantees.
1: THE QUESTION IS WHAT THE WOULD-BE PRESIDENT WILL DO ON VISAS FOR POLES. While Senator Obama may support including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program, it's not clear if the 2007 remarks still hold or if this issue has any place in his present platform. Conversely, the fact is, is that Senator McCain has made this an issue in his campaign (based on the recent letter to Polish American Congress) omit last part?
2. THE ACCURACY OF MISSILE TECNOLOGY IS NOT THE ISSUE. THE ISSUE IS POLAND"S SECURITY. In fact, Senator McCain has not tried to introduce conditions regarding Poland's security and has been very clear about what he would do in the event Russia attempts another ‘test' of a U.S. President. He specifically cites Poland’s security in this connection.
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