May 16th, 2008
10:02 AM ET
14 years ago

Clinton aide says McCain ‘flip-flopped’ on Hamas talks


Watch James Rubin's interview Friday.

(CNN) - John McCain’s campaign said Friday that claims by former State Department official Jamie Rubin that the presumptive Republican nominee had advocated unconditional dialogue with Hamas were misleading.

Rubin, who supports Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, wrote an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post relating an interview he conducted with McCain on the British network Sky News shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006.

"Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?" Rubin asked.

McCain said the United States would not be able to avoid a dialogue with the Islamic militant group. "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another,” he said. “And I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice …

“But it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

The Arizona senator has criticized Barack Obama for both his willingness to speak with hostile nations like Iran, and repeatedly raised what he has described as Hamas’ approval of Obama’s candidacy.

On CNN’s American Morning, Rubin said McCain’s criticism of Obama’s position was “the ultimate flip-flop in American politics.”

“When he was in Davos amongst the European crowd and I interviewed him there two years ago, he was talking as if it was appropriate and natural and reasonable to negotiate with Hamas, the new government of the Palestinian territories,” said Rubin. “And then two years later, he's taking a very, very different position… smearing people for suggesting that one ought to talk to Hamas when it was he himself who was prepared to talk to Hamas two years ago.”

The McCain campaign said that his position had remained consistent: no dialogue with rogue or suspected terrorst nations or parties without pre-conditions. “There should be no confusion, John McCain has always believed that serious engagement would require mandatory conditions and Hamas must change itself fundamentally – renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept a two state solution,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. He sent reporters a 2006 McCain statement in which he called on Hamas to renounce violence - though he did not say that requirement would be a pre-condition for dialogue.

“John McCain’s position is clear and has always been clear, the President of the United States should not unconditionally meet with leaders of Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah. Barack Obama has made his position equally clear, and has pledged to meet unconditionally with Iran’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the leaders of other rogue regimes, which shows incredibly dangerous and weak judgment.”

But in a January 2006 CNN interview, McCain had stressed conditions Hamas would need to meet before establishing a working relationship of any kind with the United States. “Hopefully that Hamas now that they are going to govern will be motivated to renounce this commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel. Then we can do business again. We can resume aid, we can resume the peace process,” he told CNN’s Betty Nguyen.

On a conference call Thursday, McCain said that Obama’s position was “unacceptable” and shows that he “does not have the knowledge, the experience, the background to make the kind of judgments that are necessary to preserve this nation's security."

After President Bush seemed to suggest Thursday that Obama’s foreign policy vision that included engagement was fatally flawed, the Illinois senator said again that his position had been mischaracterized. “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel,” he said in a statement.

He is planning to respond to attacks on his position at a speech Friday afternoon in South Dakota.

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Alonzo Demetrius - FL

    Obama, out of his mixed-up imagination, took offense from Pres Bush's remarks to the Israeli Knesset. Pres Bush was NOT speaking about Obama but out of Obama's guilt thing,his knowing he is an appeaser, he raved and ranted in disagreement with the President's condemnation of what happened just before WW II.

    Obama is out of it! President Bush is not running for office this year.

    May 16, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. Alonzo Demetrius - FL

    ...typical democrat half-truth. Rubin seems like a nice man, but apparently he is just another nasty politician....

    May 16, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Concord

    YOU may be a moderate. Your Dem neighbor may be a moderate. Hell, your mom may be a moderate.

    The leaders of your party... not moderates.

    I used to be a Dem. A proud Dem. Did I leave the party? No. It left me.

    May 16, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Texan for Progression

    To Oh My: We can both make arguments for our respective candidates, but the simple fact that you and other Hillary supporters are going to have to come to terms with is that Obama will soon be the Democratic Nominee. So now the question to you and your's is – are you going to take your own advice and listen to Hillary's latest comments that Obama is the better choice when compared to McCain? I mean, you say we should have been listening to her for the last year or so, so are you going to listen now???

    May 16, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. 58 white old ladies for OBAMA


    May 16, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. David Goldman for OBAMA



    May 16, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Steve

    >>As usual…………the remarks that McCain made were MISLEADING.

    Couldn't have put it better myself, E.C. The difference between us is that you seem to see misleading remarks from a politician as a GOOD thing.

    May 16, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Mmimi De La Cruz for OBAMA




    May 16, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. mike

    The republicans are so desperate with these feeble attacks. Bush has no credibility. He lost it a long time ago. McCain is showing his ineptitude more and more each day. He is a hypocrite and does not talk straight. He also has lied about what Obama has actually said about speking with enemies. Obama NEVER said he would NEGOTIATE, but he would speak. There is a big difference. Americans will not buy this trash from the republicans this year. They have finally realized all this negativity does nothing for them. It is unfortunate it took so long. McCain doesn't even realize that his agreement with Bush will cost him dearly. Why vote for someone who doesn't even understand that? Obama has shown he will respond quickly to all of these attacks. The more he responds, the better he comes off as a leader.

    May 16, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Mike O.

    Dear McCain Apologists,

    Have you watched the video of McCain's interview? What specifically was misleading or distorted? Simply put McCain '06 had a different view of dealing with Hamas than McCain '08. If the two McCains really agreed with each other, then one of them needs to do a much better job of explaining himself. As it stands, McCain is either a very poor communicator or McCain is a "flip-flopper". As I recall, in 2004 "flip-flopping" was the equivalent of a political "capital offense". What's different now?

    May 16, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. Sharon Stratton

    I am a lifelong democrat and I remember another great orator, inspirational leader who was inexperienced in foreign affairs. Remember the Bay of Pigs and the nucular stand off with Russia. I do and the liberal will have you believe that Obama did not say HE would sit down with the enemy, Remember the debate Hillary killed him on this issue Now he wants to debate Bush and McCain when he will not debate Clinton.

    You Obama supporter cannot see he will never be elected, he is a cry baby when asked the hard questions, gets the answer wrong and he made a mistake or is having to explain himself in a prepared speech with no questions asked. He can only talk, has no ideas, and he is dividing the party.


    May 16, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Texan for Progression

    I agree with Clinton supporters that Obama isn't likely to win in November without their support. I just don't see the math working. But Clinton supporters must be retarded if they think Clinton can win in 2012 without Obama supporters. If, on the off chance, you think I will support Clinton in 2012 – after you have supported McCain in 2008 – you are definitely retarded.

    May 16, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Efi, Hutschison MN

    Mcain is such a hypocrite. He offers more of the same. We are tied of the polariztion. Can he explain to us why he has people on his team who have worked to protect the images of the worst dictators like the Myanmar government, Mobuto of Congo. What a shame!

    May 16, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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