Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the largest Orthodox Christian jurisdiction in the United States, compared President Obama to Alexander the Great at a Greek Independence Day celebration at the White House. Politico, noting that the president got “a little unexpected flattery” from the hierarch about his crisis management skills, said the archbishop told Obama: “Following the brilliant example of Alexander the Great…you will be able to cut the Gordian knot of these unresolved issues.” The unexpected flattery was so over that top that it embarrassed the president and earned the archbishop a link on the Drudge Report.
In the video, someone can be heard hailing the president as an “honorary Greek.” Just a hunch, but I bet that little hosanna came from one of the Obamakis and Bidenopoulos set.
Back story. In the last few days, the Greek Lobby has been in overdrive over a report in Hurriyet that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to meet with Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat in Washington later this month in advance of Obama’s pending trip to Turkey.
On March 23, the Greek Lobby issued a “warning” to the president and vice president of the United States about the pending meeting.
Your Administration has not yet held high level contacts with either the President or the Foreign Minister of Cyprus. Thus, we are shocked to learn from a statement by the Turkish Cypriot spokesman in Cyprus that they are now on the verge of establishing this Administration’s de facto recognition of an illegal entity in Cyprus’ militarily occupied area, while ignoring the internationally recognized Cyprus government. We understand that they plan to do this through high level Administration meetings with the leader of the pseudo-state before meetings with the President or Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus.
Archbishop Demetrios, then, swung into action. He may have already been en route or in Washington for the Greek Independence Day event, but the GR Reporter news service said said that Clinton welcomed the archbishop at the State Department for a meeting that was “arranged at lightning speed, after the information about Talat’s visit to the US came out. Dimitrios repeated the Greek stand point regarding the Cyprian problem, the name of Macedonia, and the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchy in Istanbul. According to the archbishop himself, the Greek point of view will be taken very seriously from the US administration.”
And yesterday, the Archdiocese issued a press release about the meeting in which the archbishop said:
It was a good meeting held in a cordial and sincere atmosphere where the issues of concern that are pending and relate to the Patriarchate, Cyprus and the issue of the name of FYROM were clearly addressed. I can not go into details, but I can tell you that the issues that were raised and our positions were considered very seriously and therefore we leave with a clear hope that there will be a serious attempt to resolve these pending issues.
Don’t underestimate the resources that the Archdiocese pours into these lobbying efforts. In fact, the advocacy of Greek national interests by the Greek hierarchy and associated ethnic associations in the United States really defines the social and political work of the archdiocese. This is the official “vision” of the Greek church today. In an interview last year with the Greek paper Proto Thema (Lead Story) the archbishop made this plain. “We exercise pressure constantly,” he told the interviewer. He also points to the rampant anti-Americanism that exists in Greece today but does so more because this is an impediment to the lobbying effort — not because the anti-Americanism should be repudiated. The interview was published on November 8 by The National Herald (subscription required). Emphasis added:
P.T.: What is the vision of the Archbishop of America?
A.D.: The vision I have is relevant to the fact that we have huge power and influence and that we ask not to put boundaries to the dynamism of this entity. We do not want anything to happen that will block it and in that respect allow me to tell you that there is a sensitivity with what is going on in Greece. When, for example, we had the terrorist attacks on September 11 and there were some voices in Greece which said, “The Americans deserved it with everything they do,” that caused a deep trauma here. Whatever happens in Greece has a reflection here.
P.T.: You seem to be expressing some bitterness.
A.D.: It is true that sometimes the Omogeneia would like to have something more powerful and more essential coming from the Metropolitan of Greece. We are undertaking a huge effort to solve the Macedonian issue. You cannot imagine our struggle, pressures and direction. You know something? We have to make efforts because there are people who are in official positions whom you do not know, but are the ones who make the recommendations that the government officials sign.
When such an effort is completed, we feel terrible seeing Greece, which fought along the side of America in two World Wars, treated the way it has been treated. On the other hand, we have those nonexistent states, which are artificial, that are treated in a propitious way, and that causes us bitterness. And someone asks what should be done on behalf of the Greek government in order to get the maximum from the U.S.? Recently, we paid for the veto that Greece exercised in the [NATO] conference in Bucharest concerning FYROM’s use of the name Macedonia. The issue of the visa waiver was actually an act of vindictiveness on behalf of the American government. “You did that? We will show you.” That was retaliation.
Here we have a dynamic presence, a huge power, but it plays a huge role to know that we have a solid base in Greece.
Exactly a year ago, I was invited by the archdiocese to the White House celebration of Greek Independence Day. The invitation, which I gratefully accepted, came after an article I wrote in defense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate got wide circulation. Last year, the event at the White House involved a brief appearance by George W. Bush, who was not compared to Alexander the Great. The invitation was a surprise to me because I had never been involved in anything like this with the archdiocese. But I’m glad I went. It was a close up look at the concentrated power of the Greek Lobby marshaled for a big day in Washington. You wonder, however, just what this Church could accomplish if it put as many resources into, and developed a “vision” for, evangelizing an American culture that so desperately needs it.