May 16th, 2008
10:02 AM ET
13 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. Sharon Minnesota

    Thanks for the posting CNN moderators, for a minute there I thought you deserted me.

    May 16, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. An Agnostic Democrat

    Wow! I'm surprised the Straight Talk Express is still running. It's lost so many wheels and has been outta gas for quite sometime since its inception. I think the Straight Talk Express is about as relevant as the Maverick which for those of you who remember, is a very outdated car no longer on the road. Are you listening Grampy McSame?

    May 16, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. jonathan

    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."

    Coming from the guy who voted for the war in Iraq.

    May 16, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Scott, Wichita

    "deal with them" can mean any number of things:

    you can "deal with them" like Obama wants to appease the terrorists
    you can "deal with them" like the US and the Soviet Union's war by proxy in the 50's-80's
    or you can "deal with them" with a W-80 Dial-a-Yield Tactical Nuclear Bomb

    May 16, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. carlabf


    You have to be so disconnected to America's reality to say something like that. Wow, it amazes me how you desire recession and more unjustified wars for your own country? Dont you have some love for America?
    The war lead to debt; yeah.. thank you all republicans now the country is probably going to lose its number 1 position in the world. America has to change; it needs to.
    So please do some research on whats going on in here before you cheer for Mc War and Bush.

    PS. No, the fight between Hillary and Obama is only making him stronger; he keeps winning you know. Oh, i forgot YOU DONT KNOW because you have no idea on what's going on in this country

    May 16, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. RIP J McCain

    some real whackos posting on this site. Obama supporter: you obviously are a plant. Either that or you're as dumb as a rock.

    A real Obama supporter would not post a "hate" rant. And some of you McCain supporters are just hateful little punks. McCain and Obama are both well above your level. GROW UP!

    May 16, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. k.t.

    Mc Cain is a 70 year old fool who is still suffing from trama after the butt whipping bush put on him the last time he ran .The GOP stands for Going Out Picknicing !!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. Yes we can!

    if obama looses it wont be because she doesn't represent the issues we as americans want to change so badly, it will be because these primaries have torn the democratic party in two and so much hatred and bitterness has set into a lot of the supporters on both sides. i did say that i would not vote for hillary, but if she was to get elected, i care more about the issues (war, healthcare, jobs, educations, global warming, economy etc) than my feelings for hillary. i would just pray she calm down a lil bit and stop treating everything as a cage wrestling match. even though she believes she doesn't even need the african american vote to win, i still care more about the issues that mccain. any supporter that would vote mccain out of bitterness doesn't deserve to vote. and trust me hillary would never become president because many many people would remember what happened and blame her. and i was a mike huckabee supporter at that and still am, but Obama is the best candidate to bring change and unify this country,,,,this i believe is a once in lifetime opportunity for us...i dont think we'll ever get this back for a very very long time.

    May 16, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. shelly in IL


    May 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Ellie

    Sen. McCain is nothing but a farse!!! He's flipped-flopped SO much he's getting confused when he speaks!!

    I think AGE is going to be a BIG FACTOR in his run for President!!

    May 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. The Oracle

    Lol. Awwwww. The fake Obama supporter is hurt......How cute.......

    May 16, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. Marsha

    I will never support obama because he is not white .i have the guts to say it and the rest of us hilary supporters should do the same ..Let us come out and tell the truth he just does not represent us white folk hilary does..
    write in hilary or vote McCain....

    May 16, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. The Oracle

    Sounds like someone needs to take a nap, after getting burped.

    May 16, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Baida

    By set mandatory conditions and ask Hamas to change itself fundamentally – renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept a two state solution...etc. That means we start talking we start negotiating is that true. By setting a conditions....other side will respond to the condition you set. Sending and receiving is communication. Hello.

    May 16, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Al

    McCain he doesn't know what he is talking about, he is 3rd bush

    May 16, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Tex

    So typical of McBush! The ultimate flip flop artist of American politics. People used to respect McBush for his military heroism as a POW, however, maybe now his age and his "loss of his bearings" are warpin his memory, judgement and mind. Now, I also read that he has flip flipped on his original 100 year Iraqi war boast to a five year Iraqi war. Could it be that he misjudged the American public's view on George's lies that led us to war which McBush voted on. What a clown, McBush is becoming!

    May 16, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. To Debbie

    I am over it. I'll just sit back and watch the reps do to the Obama family what they have done to the Clintons. My point was, some DEMS fell for the "Republican's" view of Hillary. Go read Mya Angelou's writings about Hillary. Go read her history. She has it right!

    May 16, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Kris In Atlanta

    I'm just puzzled as to why this obvious McCain contradiction isn't front page news on CNN and other media outlets? CNN, we love you in Atlanta but your bias is beginning to show. I still don't see how this is relegated to fourth page news when Obama innocently calling a voter sweetie somehow garnered front page news.

    Obama 2008

    May 16, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Marsha

    im not racist but us hilary supporters dont want a black man that why we will vote McCain or stay home ..Hilary supports unite

    May 16, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. louiec MO

    For those who will vote for McCain if Hillary is not on the ticket. SO WHAT!!! The rest of the Democratic Party will unite and move towards winning the General Election. Democratics watch out for the TROLL REPUBLICANS responding as Democrats with hateful messages. It is time for the Democratic to play Operation Chaos on the Republicans.

    May 16, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. icon

    bush and mccain are one and same. bush- too arrogant; mccain- too old. its so obvious how they both romance themselves and their words in public. Before it was all on home soil, now on foreign soil. I am ashamed of the GOP and the sort of "democratic lessons" they are teaching the world. please, they should NEVER tell any nation that they are not practising democracy. Afterall, they are not doing same either. "Practise what you preach" is not only sensible ,but moral. If the GOP remains in power after November, America should be ashamed of herself, and the Americans themselves should be abashed of their votes and their actions. The only action that will cleanse America's image before the world is a transfer of power to the Democrats.

    May 16, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Enough

    Deny all you want Gramps, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck.

    That darned video really nailed ya'!

    May 16, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. Berkeley

    McCain = Bush
    Obama = Carter

    Think about it!

    May 16, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. Chris

    HA!!! time to put ole McCain under the microscope!!! LOL

    May 16, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. rose, texas

    why should we unite 4 obama when no one wanted to unite 4 hillary and she the better candidate write in hillary come mccain no obama.

    May 16, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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