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. 58 white old ladies for OBAMA





    May 16, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. Belle

    To the O supporter challenge:

    Quotes from Barak Obama's face....I watched the speeches!

    "Clinton is divisive; Clinton is NOT to be trusted; 60% of Americans don't trust Clinton; She is willing to say or do anything to get elected; She represents "Old Style" politics; he mocked her, he laughed at her and he called the Clintons Racists." Now...I'm sorry that I have named more than ONE instance.

    Clinton's ONLY remark was McCain was better prepared to be Commander in Chief. That is correct. It did not mean he would make a better means with his EXPERIENCE he would be able to lead the Armed Forces Better. She has stated she feels she would make the BETTER President, and I agree.

    Oh...she did call Rezko Obama's "Slum Lord" friend. He is. The better question would have been why Obama was accepting Campaign Donations from Rezko in 1997 when the City of Chicago was SUING to get the heat turned back on in Rezko's buildings. Winter 1997....11 of Rezko's buildings WERE in Obama's State Senate District, and HE DID NOTHING. 8 buildings were foreclosed. His official position at the time was the staff would check into the allegations.

    Really does show his commitment to the poor....don't you think?

    But CNN won't post this, even though everything is verifiable through the Chicago Sun Times......

    May 16, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. Dave

    Nice work CNN and the like who keep up with the true flip-flop tendencies of all the candidates–not just McCain, although his are the most glaring since he apparently underwent a frontal labotomy since 2000. Let's stay focused on the best opportunity this country has–ending the Iraq war strategically and using that $10 billion a month to improve our schools, health care system, financial sectors, and the end of our military capabilites being stretched to their limits. And whoever you are 'chris'–that "puppet boy" is about to be our next president and continues to prove he's the best pure politician this country's seen since JFK. I pray you are the true 'minority' in the Republican Party–but as an Independent I'm beginning to have my doubts about that.

    May 16, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. hey Biff

    BIFF. Did you take your medicine today?

    May 16, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  5. Peggy - Texas

    I use to respect Senator McCain, but recently he has pandered to those stuck in a post WWI mentality. It is a new world that has different, but equally dangerouse and we need smart leadership – We need OBAMA

    May 16, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  6. NoMcSame

    McSame in two years. What's my name? People, he does not remember saying that. He is flipped out. John McWhat's My Name.
    By the way, what is wrong with his arms? He gives me the creeps.
    He's open game just like Obama. He's John McSame as Bush. McSame is no saint.

    May 16, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. 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!
    We mean it. We're moderates, not liberals. McCain is moderate. This is why Hillary would have won in Nov. Liberals do not get elected in the GE's. We've learned from the hell of the Carter years.
    Chris in Middletown. I produce medical exhibits for court cases like Edwards took on. You should be VERY thankful that some of the things I see daily do not happen to your family. You should also be THANKFUL there are trial lawyers (not ambulance chasers) like Edwards out their fighting for people and their injuries.
    Some things are just awful. Don't ever feel sorry for the Insurance Companies, or the Dr.s that get sued from time to time. MOST and I mean MOST cases that get to trial are VERY legitimate and also very sad. Picture the doctor taking out your wife's bladder instead of her uterus, picture your child being sent home 5 times from the ER to end up dying at home from a ruptured bowel, after a simple test could have confirmed the proper diagnosis and wasn't done b/c insurance said no….I could go on forever, but just be thankful for the lawyers like Edwards.

    May 16, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. Texan for Progression

    If not Hillary, then McCain!!! I believe Hillary is absolutely, unequivocally the best choice and only hope for this nation. Her years of experience have provided her the wisdom to see clearly what is best for this nation. Why don't you Obamaniacs get it!!! She knows best…except for when she says that Obama is the better choice over McCain of course. But everything "else" about Hillary is right.

    May 16, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. Mmimi de la cruz for OBAMA






    May 16, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. Crush Rush

    This flipper makes Kerry look good.Could he be the manchurian candidate?

    May 16, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Peggy - Texas

    Regarding Bella's comments- Senator Clinton CAN NOT BE TRUSTED – polling shows that, by a large percentage, most Americans believe this! Obama's connections to Rezko are tangential at best- Maybe he did make a mistake in 1997 of accepting Campaign Donations from him, but this hardly taints Obama as almost all politicians have had to go back and return unwanted Donations from questionable sources. The very weak and often repeated accusations against Obama INDICATES THAT OBAMA HAS ALMOST NO NEGATIVE BAGGAGE – Unlike Hillary and McCain.

    May 16, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Justin, Columbus, OH

    Doesn't CNN screen these comments? How does this Chris schmuck who is apparently functionally illiterate, is completely incoherent, uses no punctuation, misspells every third word, and calls our first legitimate black presidential candidate 'BOY' get posted on this website? Oh right, any time someone accuses you of having a liberal bias (one of the most bogus right wing flim-flams in the history of politics) you panic and let hate speech in to prove you're balanced. For shame, CNN.

    Chris, read a book. I'm surprised you even learned to use a computer between throwing poo and grunting.

    I was going to respond to the substance of your argument, but I couldn't find any...

    May 16, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Make Love Not War

    i need somebody who feels me so Obama is my man.

    all you haters out there will have to excuse me while i kiss the sky.

    May 16, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. Marc

    John McCain has changed his stance on just about every topic he had addressed in the past few years.

    Barack Obama is 100% correct. John McCain has lost his bearings.

    May 16, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Tired of all the Flap

    So John McCain, I guess that wasn't you on tape making the statement of dealing or talking with Hamas. How hypocritical can you get?

    May 16, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. Adam C

    McCain is just Hillrary, and just like most corrupted people at Washington, they will say or do any thing for their own benefits, was not he the one that said " We going have to talk to Hamas"

    Flip Flop McCain!!!

    May 16, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Linned

    McCain flip flops on a lot of things or can't remember. Makes you wonder.

    May 16, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. J.W. of Mississippi

    Hey Chicano I to served (U.S.M.C.) in the VietNam era and you. I'm sorry about you severe head wound. I know that if not for your injury you would not be uttering such ignorance. Dude, it's a good thing that you don' speak for all the Chicanos. Get some rest and don't forget to take your medication.

    May 16, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Mike

    What politics has taught Senator McCain is the art of pandering to the electorate. When he stood for his convictions while running against George W. Bush 8 years ago, he was obliterated by the far right of the Republican party. The same occurs for candidates who pander to the far left of the Democratic party.

    Maybe our problem with politics is ourselves. A healthy democracy requires collective intelligence from the voters. With the mainstream dumbing down of society to the least common denominator and our consumer culture of instant ego gratification, we will continue to get what we deserve from our elected officials. George W. did not elect himself into office, therefore maybe we need to blame ourselves also for the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the falling dollar.

    American culture is in a death spiral. True patriots would care about this. True patriots would rely on their brains a little more and the emotional jingoism a little less.

    May 16, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Tired of all the Flap

    I hate to complain about the people in this forum, but I must respond to (chris) the second person to make a comment. I hope that you read this. Get a life and take some courses in grammar and English. Your sentences are running together, you do not have sentences or punctuation marks and your spelling is worse, furthermore, you sound like a racist. America does not only belong to the white people of the world, it is a nation of immigrants and all colors or are you still living in the world of confederacy. I must respond to the people in your forum about Bush and Clinton, they're both white and the first is an idiot by all means possible and the second one is a liar and destroyer of the Democratic Party to achieve her goals. So (chris), if you feel that the U.S. only belongs to white people and if the liberals will burn it down then by all means, do it.

    May 16, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. Rob, Maryland

    I am wondering if Bush had preconditions when he met with Saudi king to beg him to increase oil supply and got rejected. FYI, Osama bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia, as most of 911 hijackers. SA is one of the biggest supporters of extremist islamist groups. Saudis hate Israel as much as Iran does.

    May 16, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. nerakami

    What is the Mc-Flip-Flop camp denying? That the video we are seeing and hearing has been doctored... that they dubbed someone's else voice over his? Or maybe he didn't hear the question correctly and was responding to something else?

    How far are these people going to go in thinking we are a bunch of morons? The Republican party needs a quick awakening to the realization that the American public is participating in a new approach to politics where the lies and deception are the old ways and no longer effective on our renewed minds.

    We have eyes that now see and ears that now hear.... your forked tongue makes no sound to our new way of being...

    May 16, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Jo

    Another example of Clinton fighting for the democratic nominee and Obama making a speech. Obama may be the nominee but he absolutely needs Clinton on the ticket to handle the fighting of the election. All Obama ever does is say "it is politics as usual" and "i am presenting a change to a new brand of politics" Apparently he is the only one and if he wants to win in Nov. he needs a fighter and someone who is not afraid to face down negative attacks and to dish them out when necessary. He also needs her because 50% of the democrats in this country support her.

    May 16, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. Dave B.


    Those of you who think McCain is a moderate are in for a big surprise. Maybe he was a moderate in 2000 but up until, I'd say 2 years ago he has flip flopped on ever major issue that gave him the persona as a moderate. He's currently a neo-conservative shill and he's walking lockstep with GWB.

    So if you like Bush...You gonna love McCain.

    I don't think there's a major issue that McCain hasn't flip flopped on. If you don't believe me...just google McCain flip flops.

    If you thought Hillary was a moderate than you'd be surpised to know that her Healthcare plan is extremely liberal. Obama's healthcare plan is more moderate. Obama is for a trasparent government and more benefits for Veterans...these issues (for some odd reason) fall under the Liberal category.

    May 16, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. A Non-Voter observing the 08 Elections

    A Non-Voter observing the 08 Elections

    Conscience : "The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action "

    John McCain has a good conscience, but he a very bad habit of never following his conscience.

    McCain knew in his heart the the Bush Tax cuts where wrong, He voted against it in good conscience, But for political gains he changed his mind and didnt follow through with his conscience.

    McCain knew in his heart that we need a comprehensive immigration plan, he sided with Bush to create one, Then he lost contact with his good conscience again, and changed his mind on a comprehensive immgration plan to appeal to conservatives and because it was unpopular.

    McCain in good conscience also said previously that sooner or later we would have to talk to Hamas, Now he is bashing Obama and other democrats for saying the same.

    Most importantly McCain knew in his heart that the current war in the middle east is a WAR FOR OIL, I believe he spoke from his good conscience recently when he said " we would never again put our troops in harms way for the sake of middle east oil" , But he voted for the war and championed the war.


    May 16, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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