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. Sol

    CNN Please show the video of McCain flip flopping on this issue. If it is true – Now that would be news- Thank you

    May 16, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Jeff

    The republicans ARE out to lunch on foreign affairs but that won't stop them from thumping Obama in November should he get the nod. Hillary for president NOW will put the Dems in power! I don't want to have to say I told you so!

    May 16, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  3. Proud1of 26% in WV

    And if anybody knows a flip-flop when they see one it would be a Clinton supporter.

    May 16, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. Dave W.

    At first I thought it was a very bad idea, but I think Obama should ask Hillary to be VP. (as long as big mouth Bill stays the hell out of the Whitehouse) Obamas supporters say that McCain is 4 more years of Bush, which exactly what the USA and the world do not need. If that is the case, and Hillary can bring her supporters on board, then you have to do whatever it takes to defeat the republi-goons. Remember, it is not what you want, but what the country needs.

    A Canadian for Obama

    May 16, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  5. JP

    I am glad that Hillary Clinton and her supporters are attackig the true enemy- John McCain and the reckless Republicans.

    Just say not to pro-life pro-war candidates.

    May 16, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  6. NoMcSame

    Don't you just love it. How has so may people fallen for the lies and tricks of the GOP over the years. FLIP-FLOP I remember them using that on Kerry and now lets see how they spin this one for McSame. This is GREAT. Stay tuned folks.

    May 16, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. Mike - Texas

    Why did CNN omit some of McCain's comments and NOT post ALL of them.

    Are you "SENSORING OUT" all of the relevant comments that clarified what was said?


    CNN is deffinitely biased in favor of OBama.

    May 16, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  8. kay, NM

    Why is Obama campaign calling attack on Obama's wife by GOP shameful? After all, they attacked Hillary's husband with shameful race card! He won the nomination on racial votes!

    This is the real FLIP-FLOP.

    May 16, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  9. Ken

    Who are these people that have already rejected McCain back in 2000 when they chose Bush over McCain, but now want to support McCain? Bush is clearly the worst president in 2 lifetimes, and by their own standards and choices, they think McCain is worse - yet they want to support him and the McBush policies for another 4 years? This is delusional. These people are McMorons.

    The people in Miss. have already seen through the [R] garbage - and the [R]s know if the people that far imbedded in dumbf**kistan can see through them, they are REALLY in trouble. Watch all the [R] rats start to scatter now. If they had any brains, they would have stared the scattering much ealier.

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

    Here's Reagan about negotiating with Iran (of course this only occurred after selling them weapons first):
    "A major impediment to those goals has been an absence of dialog, a cutoff in communication between us. It's because of Iran's strategic importance and its influence in the Islamic world that we chose to probe for a better relationship between our countries."

    "Our discussions continued into the spring of this year. Based upon the progress we felt we had made, we sought to raise the diplomatic level of contacts. A meeting was arranged in Tehran. I then asked my former national security adviser, Robert McFarlane, to undertake a secret mission and gave him explicit instructions. I asked him to go to Iran to open a dialog, making stark and clear our basic objectives and disagreements. The 4 days of talks were conducted in a civil fashion, and American personnel were not mistreated. Since then, the dialog has continued and step-by-step progress continues to be made. "

    May 16, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. Ding, Washington, DC

    Thanks mr. Rubin for calling on McCain. McCain flip-flops on almost everythings. From Immigration, tax cut, talking to Hamas, and God knows what!. Republican party misses the opportunity by nominating McCain. There are a lot of brilliant candidates in that party, but they went for the lowest road with the guy who speak from both sides of his mouth. Where is the real John McCain? The one for immigration or the one against it. the one against tax cut before it, or the one against talking to Hamas after he previously was for it

    May 16, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Matt

    This bum called fred keeps bashing Obama

    pretending to be a clinton supporter.

    But he is a Repub

    Don't fall for their tricks

    Dems Unite

    May 16, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. FedUpDem

    Hope you obamidiots actually read everything rather than blathering.
    McCain has clearly stated the differences between the positions. This is a position that I as a moderate Democrat support. You don't talk or negotiate with such entities without conditions for those talks.

    Not making a dangerous left hand turn with a politcally naive novice!!

    Not voting for a man whose wife is trying to deny her own words.

    Not voting for a pandering hypocrite who NOW wears a flag on his lapel.

    Not voting for arrogant condescending lying racists!


    Dem for life voting Republican!

    May 16, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Bill Brown (Dallas, TX)

    If anyone on the planet would know a flip-flop when she saw it, it is HIllary Clinton. She has said she wasn't standing by her man and then she was, has said she was for the waar In Iraq before she was against it, and has said Obama is not qualified to be Commander in Chief and now he is.

    One more flip flop: last fall she told ABC News, "I'm going to be the nominee." I'm guessing odds are pretty high she'll flip flop on that, too.

    May 16, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. DannyCali

    I don't know who flip-flop......I think John McCain might flip-flopped but remember who said that when he get elect for President he willing to talk
    to Iran and Cuba leader? let see what he going to respond maybe he going to respond same as John Kerry.

    May 16, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Ezana

    I think Obama said it well in the situation room with Wolf Blitzer McCain "LOOSING HIS BEARING" this man soon will forget he is running for the presidency of the USA

    May 16, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Roger

    We are shocked, shocked, to find the media (again) derelict in its duties. Barack Obama has run his campaign with numerous advisors who the campaign would have everyone believe are just not that plugged in to the campaign. Additionally, Obama refuses to divulge who these people are. Inevitably, however, word gets out that Obama has, yet again, surrounded himself with an undesirable.

    This time the undesirable is Robert Malley. Coming on the heels of the Obama campaign saying it was “flattered” by terrorist group Hamas’s endorsement, the foreign press - in this case the London Times - pointed out Mr. Malley has close ties to Hamas.

    May 16, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Learn from your mistakes

    To all of the people who voted for George Bush and the Democratic deflectors why would we ever vote for another president who does not believe in diplomacy? People who believe that we can fix the economy, education or anything else while spending billions of dollars on this war are delusional.

    Look at John McCain's health (don't) care plan. This man is not the maverick he once was. He is another 3rd term Bush. I know Clinton supporters are dissapointed but you need to vote with your head not with your heart. HRC is a loyal democrat. She will not run as an independent or encourage this ridiculous write-in notion. She will support the democratic nominee as should everyone who cares about our country!!

    May 16, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. dwho

    Congratulation McCain for flip-flopping. You know, in 2004 general election, President Bush accused John Kerry for flip-flapping. Now the ball is turned on the Republicans. McCain, are you still congratulating Hillary for your expected win over her?
    President Bush's dancing for you victory has turned into groaning. His joy that his next successor will be a war runner is sliding away as Obama is close to the nomination for the Demoncrats.

    May 16, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  20. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Bush needs to be impeached. After Bush's lack of international diplomacy while in Israel is under scrutiny now he brings Bin Laden's picture up as another fear tactic to back him up. We know Bin Laden is a threat but spreading propaganda as an excuse for Bush's stupidity is not good. Bush hasn't captured or killed Bin Laden in his 8 years so why use this as a ploy for ignorance.

    May 16, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. Donna in ID

    I hope that all the delegates that jumped in so early for Obama don't have to say "My God what was I thinking and doing" in the next 16 to 18 months. Hopefully some will smarten up since they aren't locked in.

    May 16, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Moses, Ca.

    How can anyone vote for McCain. He flip-flops when it's to his benrfits. And so many people beleive in him. " AMAZZZZZZING

    May 16, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Tina

    I just don't understand why the President and McCain are so against The Democrats speaking with Iranian Governments. It's probably because they've never accomplished anything but "War" which is not what the American People wanted in the first place. Maybe, our President didn't have a problem speaking and Had better Communication Skills with "ALL People" whether you like them or not, War could've been avoided. That's why Commucication is so important rather you agree with someone or not. Obviously, McCain's words are not worth anything if he' s flip floping. We don't need another Bush in Office. We didn't want him in the first place. How he won the election in the first place is unspeakable. I'm an OBAMA08 supporter, however if he isn't nominated...Clinton will be 2nd choice because I believe in the Democratic Party. The Democratic party is the answer. It's going to take awhile for Us to Clean up The Mess Bush and his Father has Created.

    May 16, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Educated Black Female

    I was a Clinton supporter in the beginning. When she started with the "kitchen sink" approach, and when her husband showed his true colors, I switched over to Obama. If she'd ran a positive campain I think she would be our nominee. I like what I see in her now but I'm afraid it's a little to late.

    Maybe in 8 years Hillary.

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Peggy

    Welcome back Hillary, may be you can iron obama's shirt.

    May 16, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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