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

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

CNN

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. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    OMG! Hillary's helping Obama! I thought she was going to take McCain's side, like she has many times in the past.

    I guess she saw the light. Maybe she and Barack will kiss and make up after all.

    But won't Bill get jealous? 🙂

    May 16, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. chris

    cnn u make me sick u put out obama like hes fighting like a man whith his speeches against bush and hilary you just love this odnt you you make him look as good as you want and take a crap on everyone els obama is a chuuummmp he is a political puppet controll by the dnc and they still cant get things right this liberal bias is sickening and whats worse is theres nothing of value to speak of on the demecratic side but thats ok the liberals have started ruining our country a long time and now they want a well spoken puppet BOY to run our country thank you you socialist hypocrites please let me leave before you finish burning our country to the ground lit by the flags youll start the fire with

    May 16, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. Bob

    McCain a flip-flopper? Can't be so! The ultimate flip-flop is McCain in 2000 and McCain today. Night and day comes to mind.

    May 16, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. GOP Rules

    YEAH MCCAIN!!!

    Have you ever wonder why the symbol of the Democrats is a DONKEY- Because you all is that. MCCAIN GOT THIS... I Have never seen so many dumb people. LOL

    KEEP FIGHTING YOU ALL IS HELPING OUR PARTY. LOL

    WE are not even worrying about a backfire. We already know Democrats are dumb and lazy. So I hope Obama win so we can keep the Whitehouse because you all are to DUMB to go vote....lol

    MCCAIN 08

    P.S.
    we will rule for another 4years and keep you ALL in your PLACE...lol

    SORRY DONKEYS 🙁 YOU WILL NOT GET THIS ELECTION

    May 16, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Jack

    A leader we can trust

    Obama 08

    Dems unite

    May 16, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Alexis

    HILLARY ...................... CHECK!
    MCCAIN............................CHECK!
    REV. WRIGHT......................CHECK!

    and now.............. BUSH ......................... CHECK!

    I say that is about right, that makes everyone he is fighting against, I think I will vote for him because he is being hit from every direction, and he still will not fall! shows alot about his character.

    OBAMA 08

    May 16, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. WIll

    Therin lies the difference.

    To Hillary supporters unwilling to vote for Obama, take heed. This is what you are voting for. An attitude of war and division instead of an attitude toward peace and unity. We are a great power, but we need to use our strength for the good of the world and ourselves. A vote for McCain is unsafe for America AND unsafe for peace loving peoples all over the world.

    May 16, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. MD

    Naw, Bill already has had others to "occupy" his time

    May 16, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. KCD

    She is really starting to change my view on her... It is a little late, but I have begun thinking this. If it takes one action to hate, why can't it take one action to love? The more she moves her criticism away from Obama and onto Bush/McCain, the more I will like her, and the more many should. Still don't believe she deserves the nomination since she is losing, but she should be involved in our politics in some way, shape, or form.

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Alex

    Hey, it is Bush, why would you be surprised. He does not choose words when he spits them. He is the biggest moron of 21st century. McCain is foolish to follow Bush’s idiotic comment and putting himself in tight spot. I think he is saying anything that will please republicans to win them. His flip flap is significantly denting in his reputation as a straight shooter.

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. from CT

    Yes!!! I just saw this on the washington post and hoped cnn would jump on it, awsome!!! THANK YOU!!!! What a hypocrite, unbelievable!

    I was just about to send this to cnn, I'm so glad they are on top of it:

    In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post, former Clinton State Department official James Rubin said that McCain, responding to a question in a television interview two years ago about whether U.S. diplomats should be working with the Hamas government in Gaza, said:

    "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so ... 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."

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  12. fred

    McCain said ""deal with them...he didn't say set down and talk with them!! Obama wants to go over and kiss their you know whats.

    Obama is a real danger to our country!!! In more ways than 1!!

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. Wise White Guy

    Welcome back to reality and the Democratic party Hillary. This is the way it should be done. I have lost all respect for John McCain after he made his wife look completly foolish by saying his camp would not be running a negative campaign only to have it happen 3 times since her announcement. This time it was of course the yapper dog GW out there saying ridiculous things at an innappropriate time for personal gain and of course it was part of the 08 campaign. As if he was expecting it before it happened McCain had a canned response (a bad one of course) for the reporter when asked. We all know that train has jokingly been called the doubletalk express but maybe they need to have a special flip flop car attraction to that circus.

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    A one on one, face to face, talk means you tell the brutal honest truth straight to your opponents face. Lay down the law. Then you conclude by telling your opponent don't make me have to come back and repeat this.

    I guess the other candidates are too scared to do such a thing. It's exactly what Ahmadinajad needs to told straight in the eye.

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. Jan from Boca Raton FL

    Obama thinks he can go in and talk to terriorist leaders and maybe have tea. Here is a man that has absolutly no experience and now
    he thinks he can take on the world and make peace.

    Bush has made a mess of this country and that is why we need
    someone with experience and someone that truly is pro
    America.
    That person is Hillary Clinton and as a VP, lets do Biden as the
    dream team.

    WRITE HILLARY ON THE BALLOT

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. Faith

    LOL!!
    FLIP-FLOP MCCAIN!!!

    May 16, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  17. Obama 08

    Obama's address is a clear sign that he will not ignore any attack or smear to go unanswered. To all you naysayers that seem to think he will shake in his boots with any Republican attack, he is proving that he will respond swiftly and clearly.

    Now let's hear McCain's response to his earlier words on talking to Hamas..

    May 16, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. matt from NY

    Read the Huffington Post article. They have video of McFlipFlip-Bush talking about how it is a new era of gov't and eventually you must deal with groups like Hamas... via diplomacy, not war.

    May 16, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. 2 Cents

    I am an Obama supporter, but Hillary has gained my respect. I want her on the ticket. Obama supporters need to put their personal feelings aside.

    May 16, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. American Girl

    DEMOCRATS UNITE.
    FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THIS ELECTION SEASON, I AM REALLY PROUD OF MY DEMOCRATIC PARTY!

    STAND UNITED

    I THINK AT BARACK'S SPEECH...EVERY CANDIDATE THAT RAN FOR THE NOMINATION SHOULD STAND IN ATTENDANCE WEARING FLAG PINS, NAVY SUITS, WHITE SHIRTS AND RED TIES (FOR HILLARY WEAR A BEAUTIFUL RED SCARF)!

    AMERICA WE CAN NOT LET BUSH AND MCCAIN GET AWAY WITH THESE NEGATIVE ATTACKS AT FELLOW CITIZENS AND OUR COUNTRY.

    BUSH IS ONLY TRYING TO START TROUBLE BEFORE HE LEAVES SO THAT HILLARY OR BARACK WILL HAVE A MESS IN FOREIGN RELATIONS AS SOON AS THEY GET IN OFFICE.

    AMERICANS UNITE AND GIVE THE DEMOCRATS A LAND SLIDE IN NOVEMBER.

    May 16, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. democrat

    Great interview – CNN keep this kinda stuff coming! IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO CHECK THE VAULT to see what McCain, Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld and others have said in the past.

    Republicans are famous for "smear and run" tactics. And most of the time the media lets them get away with it.

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Chief lagosboy, NJ

    Grandpa McCain is one scary old man. He does not even look presidential. A vote for Grandpa = Bush 3rd Term. America, we can’t afford to make this mistake.

    Our President Obama 08' & 12'

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  23. Ron

    What is wrong will all you liberals. Do you learn nothing from history. You do not negotiate with states who sponsor terrorism without expecting something to result. I hate to see the Obama administration–an administration run by egg heads who were in power under both Clinton and Carter. Ah yes the old hostages, and we did NOTHING. Ah yes, the bombing of the Cole, the Kabar Towers, Black-Hawk down in Somolia, etc. Really great foreign policy coups.

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Sheldon

    Bush is claiming that someone else's foreign policy is fatally flawed?!? That's rich!

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. true demorcrat in monterey ca via memphis tn

    WOW!!!!!!! DID I JUST SEE HRC COMING TO THE AIDE OF A FELLOW DEMORCRAT WHO IS THE PRSUMPTIVE NOMINEE... IF THIS KEEPS UP I THINK ILL FALL BACK IN LOVE WITH HRC (AND REALLY LIKE THAT WHOLE DARE I SAY IT DREAM TICKET IDEA). KEEP IT UP HRC IM LOVING IT AND SO IS THE DEM PARTY

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13