VP Joe Biden Keeps Low Profile in DC


WASHINGTON—It wasn’t bad enough that President Barack Obama again declined to properly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in this Centennial year.

Bad enough, too, that he skirted the ceremonies in D.C. this month and failed to acknowledge the visiting President of Armenia Serge Sarkisian.

But when Vice President Joe Biden was sent as a courtesy gesture and said nothing—that could be the ultimate breaking point.

Vice President Joe Biden sandwiched between Armenia President Serge Sarkisian and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
Vice President Joe Biden sandwiched between Armenia President Serge Sarkisian and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

Some 2,500 Armenians piled into Washington’s National Cathedral May 7, including two Pontiffs and an entire cadre of visiting priests representing various denominations from throughout the United States, along with dignitaries and community leaders.

It would have been a perfect opportunity to deliver a message of understanding, compassion, and support—a perfect time to give this country some backing toward genocide recognition.

But nothing! The Vice President didn’t move from his seat during the entire two-hour Ecumenical Service. He took his place between Sarkisian, and Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, who also remained reticent.

VP Biden attended under his own terms: No voice. No photographs from the floor. No formal introductions. Those were the stipulations, which drew some resentment from the gathering.

Could be the State Department cautioned him against making any public statements after President Obama once against failed to use the “G-word” and reneged on a promise he had made in 2008 when he first campaigned for the White House.

Biden made no hesitation in contacting the Armenian National Committee of America at that time, soliciting support from the Armenian community. He called Chairman Ken Hachikian asking for an endorsement of the Obama-Biden ticket.

“I remember the conversation,” said Hachikian. “Promises were made from this administration and were not fulfilled. Efforts to meet with the President have been futile. All calls have gone unanswered.”

The president was officially invited to the commemoration months ago, according to Hachikian, and was told he had a conflict and couldn’t attend.

“Many believe it was an act of cowardice on his part not to show up,” added Hachikian.

As for Biden, Hachikian and others welcomed the Vice President to our midst, exposing the official to an eclectic program that included a talk by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, among other luminaries.

“It’s always good to have a U.S. government official understand not only a community but world perspective on genocide,” Hachikian pointed out, “to have all the world powers express solidarity over genocide. Nobody said it better than the Vehapar.”

Aram I made a remark that drew resounding applause: “Silence is a continuation of genocide.”

Upon entering the cathedral, Sarkisian was met on the staircase by Biden. The two exchanged pleasantries for the first time—but nothing more. A White House meeting between the two dignitaries would have conformed to proper protocol and perhaps some resolve over legislative issues.

“Biden certainly could have addressed the crowd had he wanted to,” Hachikian brought out. “This was not a liturgy but a commemoration. The Vice President chose not to speak. It was a policy decision to make an appearance and not speak. He could have overruled that.”

The ANCA requested a meeting with him, and again, no response to the offer.

“He could have made a remark to the press or TV media, had he chosen, instead of an address from the pulpit,” said Hachikian. “I also made a personal request to talk to him with no answer.”

Biden showed up under heavy guard one minute prior to the start and left promptly after. Security had him tightly covered by choice.

Those seated in the pews would have never known of his attendance had they not been seated within close proximity. One or two priests grabbed a shot of Biden with a cell phone, but otherwise, photographs were off-limits.

It took the press one hour to clear security measures. Every piece of apparatus was checked by radar equipment before a drug-sniffing canine was brought in. The press was escorted to the upper balcony out of clear view from the Vice President.

“President Sarkisian also requested a meeting and all he got was a cursory conversation by the door,” said Hachikian. “It was not the way we expected things to turn out.”


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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  1. what a wasted seat by biden seating there ; someone IMPORTANT could have taken that seat {too bad]

  2. This is the Vice President’s legacy, his last act in politics – to be a money hungry sellout. Not long ago he was given $700,000 from an Azeri lobby. How cheap he sells himself.

    He will not go down in history as anything.

  3. what do you expect from Obama – he will die denying Armenian Genocide same as his colleague Erdagon. As for Biden, another coward, OUR GREAT LUMINARY His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, NO ONE COULD SAY IT LOUDER & BETTER. Thank you Aram.

  4. why do Armenians without fail continously approach the Obama administration? have the Armenians of America, Australia and Britain not understood how these governments react and insult the Armenians. Come on, please leave them, diplomacy is one thing but to be insulted is another thing – leave them alone, they have no understanding about the sufferings of the Armenians – leave them alone and do not invite them in future for any memorial. They are fed by the Turkish loby it is as simple as that.

  5. It’s amazing to me that the United States continues to be Turkey’s “bitch” when it comes to the Armenian genocide and its denial. I believe VP Biden is a good man and his conscience made this situation particularly difficult. My admiration for Samantha Power has seriously eroded. As the author of A Problem from Hell, one would think she would be the last person in the world to go along with Turkey’s monumental lie. Simply shameful.

  6. Sad, but what else was expected? VP Biden pissed off Turkey last year when he asserted Turkey was allowing ISIS recruits to transit their country without issue. True that…but he was forced to issue a verbal apology. He’s also contemplating entering the race for President so his handlers must be telling him to keep the same low profile witnessed by 2,499 other people that day. He’s always been an odd duck.

    Many of our elected officials are self-serving or so reluctant to take a potentially controversial stand that they appear self-serving (and effectively useless.) We call them leaders, but leadership has a very inward-looking definition for many of these people. They’re no different than leaders in industry, non-profit, etc. Selfless leadership is rare.

  7. Since I have been a young man fifty years ago it seems that every year I hear of our people’s efforts to get the US to officially acknowledge the fact of the Armenian Genocide, but it always ends with failure.

    We need to face reality: the US elites will never turn it back on Turkey which feeds a lot of money into US politicians pockets. Turk and US NGOs are deeply intertwined. In America are truth and justice stronger than money? Of course not.

    The fact is that the US and the EU would cry crocodile tears after Turkey destroyed Armenia while quietly planning to run oil pipelines over rotting Armenian corpses.

    Today who is Armenia’s best friend in an imperfect world? Russia, of course. Who is the best friend of Armenians and other Christians in Syria? Russia that is helping a Syrian army of mostly Muslim young men that are fighting and dying to liberate and protect Christian villages while the West aids and abets the jihadi head choppers and liver eaters.

    Several years ago I found out that many Armenians in Lebanon are allied to Hezbollah. Then I couldn’t understand it but now I do understand. The facts on the ground impel me to support Syria and its Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies.

    I am an Armenian born in the US and used to believe in America but that is over and done with. How can I believe in an America that aids and abets jihadis and fascists in the MENA, Balkans, and Eastern Europe?

  8. Armenia should not wait for anyones help, we should strive to build our nation strong and prosper have nuclear capabitities to better defend our nation….

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