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. Holliwood

    The writing is on the wall people. We have a chance with Obama, maybe even Clinton. McBush, I mean McCain. Please people see through the shameful antics of the Rep party and give change a chance. Stop the hate because we cant wait!

    May 16, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Gubby Rao

    Obama is shining and getting all the attention at the cost of Hillary's message and sincerity towards americans. Once she is out, he and his idealogy (if he has one) will be exposed. Let media praise him, put him at the top, but the americans will decide the best person as president.

    I really love Hillary is nominated that is not happening. The whole democratic party is working against her. Let me say one thing all Clinton Democrats will vote McCaine in fall.

    May 16, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Moses, Ca.

    thanks Hillary, it's about time.

    May 16, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. Bob (Pittsburgh, PA)

    Hillary is in no position to accuse anyone of flip-flopping.

    May 16, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. Peggy

    Why is CNN, and MSNBC in the toliet for obama ?

    May 16, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. Shane

    19 rogues flew planes into the WTC, Pentagon from Saudi Arabia. Yet, Bush went to SA and danced with them -holding hands (swords) and side by side...that is a typical Appeasement! Iraq did not do anything to US on 911.

    May 16, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. Jed in Texas

    Manchurian candidate?I hear Rove is in deep dodoo finally and no one is reporting it.Did Rush Limbaugh over dose yet?These are things we need to know .

    May 16, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Hilda

    The video of McCain flip flopping has been shown twice this morning. Atleast about this issue. There is not enough time to show how many times he has flip flopped. Now he promises the war in Iraq will be over in 4 years another lie, what does he care. Another 4 years of losing our young people over there, geez why do you think that is a good idea?

    May 16, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. Roger

    CNN, and MSNBC (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 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    These last 4 years, John McCain has come to epitomize and personify "flip flopping" as the GOP grooms a new talking head in hopes of keeping their multi-billion dollar gravy train steaming along. Tax cuts for the wealthy as America staggers under record breaking debt and a debilitated military due to a failed attempt at empire-building, blood money for the likes of Blackwater and Halliburton, record profits for oil companies.....McCain MUST flip flop to appease his handlers who got every thing they could have dreamed of when Bush got shoehorned into the White House despite losing both elections. "Democracy" is only for the super wealthy.

    May 16, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. Jed in Texas

    Manchurian candidate?I hear Rove is in deep dodoo finally and no one is reporting it.Did Rush Limbaugh over dose yet?These are things we need to know .

    May 16, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. AJ, IL

    kay, is shameful to attack the candidate's wife! It was done in 1992 to Hillary and many people thought is was shameful. Obama is running for president not Michelle. Just like McCain is running for President not Cindy.

    Obama in 08!

    May 16, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. Viva Obama 08

    John McCain for Hamas. Flip-flopped hamas support John McCain for the white house.

    May 16, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. OH, my

    Ok, you BO supporters who are all of a sudden saying "Good Job Hillary" for her recent comments about Bush.... WHERE have you been the entire last year? She makes ONE statement now and all of a sudden you think what she's saying is NEW? OMG....SHE is the strongest democrat in this race and has been from the beginning. If you hadn't been so blinded by your candidate, you would have seen what she's made of a long time ago. She has NEVER given any indication that she is in this for herself. She has worked her enitire life for OTHER people! She has defended democrats over and over....unlike Mr. O's wife, Hillary has ALWAYS said she will support and campaign HARD for the dems nominee.
    It's hard for me to believe that so many democrats have fallen for the image of Hillary that the REPUBLICANS have tried to put forward for years! Shame on you! You now defend Michele against the TN ads demeaning her, what do you think the republicans did to Hillary for YEARS????

    May 16, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. Genevieve

    To have a dialogue with Hammas or any of the groups, "does not mean" you don't have previous talks by your advisers and preconditions. I believe it was during one of CNN's moderated debates, in which Sen. Obama stated he would speak to these entities without preconditions. I clearly recall Sen. Clinton clarifying her position and saying that a President does not go into talks without preconditions. The debate in which these statements were made came up when the question as to negotiation with Cuba, since Fidel Castro had stepped, and would the candidates be willing to begin talks with them. I also recall a contributing commentator on Lou Dobbs program stating the Cuban community might have problems supporting Sen. Obama since they didn't believe talks with Cuba should be initiated unless they addressed their human rights policy. Maybe everyone should ask CNN to replay that portion of the debate?

    May 16, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Obama Supporter

    This story is huge! In a nutshell, he has done a complete 180 from his previous position.

    McCain said Hamas is "a new reality"
    Regardless of how his camp tries to spin the whole preconditions argument, I don't think anyone should let this one slip by.

    May 16, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |

    I am curious if anyone responding to any of these posts have ever changed their mind on something, err I mean flip flopped.
    So Clinton Aide, it's not ok to Flip Flop but it is ok to blatantly lie??? Watch out for those snipers...
    These Politicians are pathetic... but the people that follow and believe their every word are even more pathetic.

    May 16, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  18. Anna

    Smart guy.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    May 16, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. james Pa

    Sent McCain >>> bushed 3ad term presents

    Flip side he is too old don’t even know what hell he talking about Hama’s or Hezbollah
    Sunny or Shiite, he doesn’t know what different retired is and Idiot and he is one of this
    May be he is moron.

    May 16, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  20. LaShanda

    Senator Obama has praised Bill Clinton's presidency. The race card was pulled when Bill likened Senator Obama to Jesse Jackson in South Carolina implying that all black candidates are the same. Research before you type! I'm sure all those black people in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, Indiana, and on Tuesday Oregon have pulled out the stops for Senator Obama. Oh wait...those states have a black population of less than 5%! Senator Obama's vision for his campaign is one that transcends race.

    May 16, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. Mel

    It is just a pity that so many of the people can be fooled all the time. The bramble bush and McCain are counting on it. We have been told so many lies that it is full time that we go for real change instead of the same old spin and double talk. McCain is holding on to the bramble bush when it is
    in his political interest, but tries to give the appearance of some distance between them when it is obvious that the master spinner is losing it too.

    The Democrats will allow us to own our government again.

    May 16, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. kathy

    Why cant obama EVER respond on the spot . He ALWAYS takes days to respond to anything he actually answering anything or is he a puppet.......................could be why he is getting certain endorsements

    May 16, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. bill in Oklahoma

    Wow mccain doing another flip flop. I thought that mcbush was the candidate with all the experience in foreign policy. Not only a flip flop but a hyprocritical flip flop.
    , Too bad that the only person wiht a consistant foreign policy is Clinotn and she will not be running in the fall. At least now obama is making his talk to everyone plan closer to what Clinotn espouses

    May 16, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Ian

    No way, not McCain. He's nothing but a straight-talking maverick. A very very old, straight-talking maverick. And he's old.

    May 16, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. "The Great Elephant Is Wounded"-Kareem From Hampton, Va


    DEMOCRATS '08!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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