[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/04/art.blitzer.cnn.jpg caption="Candidates are focusing their fire on Hamas, not the former President."] WASHINGTON (CNN) - When it comes to former President Jimmy Carter and his recent controversial meetings with Hamas leaders in the Middle East, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seem to be on pretty much the same page. They say they didn’t like the meetings and they, themselves, wouldn’t meet with leaders of a group the U.S. government brands as a terrorist organization. Still, they are clearly uncomfortable in criticizing the former President.
Obama and Clinton do suggest that they would have a dialogue with the leaders of North Korea, Syria, Iran and Venezuela, but only under the right circumstances and with the appropriate advance preparation. They differentiate between meetings with these kinds of state leaders as opposed to leaders of Hamas.
John McCain says Barack Obama should have gone further in condemning Carter’s meetings with Hamas. “He should repudiate President Carter, reprimand him, and specifically tell him he should not have that meeting,” McCain said.
Now, President Bush has also weighed in on the controversy - though, he, too seems uncomfortable in directly criticizing a former president. At a news conference at the White House Tuesday, he hammered away at Hamas, not Carter. “They’re the ones who are undermining peace. They’re the ones whose foreign policy objective is the destruction of Israel,” he said. “That’s the reason I am not talking to them.”
Jimmy Carter has strongly defended his meetings, insisting such a dialogue could help the peace process by moving Hamas toward a more reasonable stance toward a two-state solution – Israel alongside a new Palestinian state. He says he did in fact win such a commitment from Hamas leaders while in Damascus, Syria.
What do you think?