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. Debbie,NJ

    Hillary's supporters need therapy. Instead of Obama supporters paying for her debt lets pay for therapy for her supporters.

    May 16, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  2. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Looks like the wheels are flyin off the "Straight Talk Express".

    May 16, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. Dave

    these people will say whatever they have to so they can be elected. they are all flip flopping. no use for any of these puppets.

    May 16, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. CW4Barak

    McBush is old, archaic and has lost his bearings....he prob. sometimes wake up thinking he is still a POW!! We can't elect this senile, robotic looking replica of Bush....PUHLEEZE!!

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. If not Hillary....then McCain

    Once again, Obama makes a headline by "responding". This guy is unreal! What Bush said is shameful, and makes him look like a pandering fool...but that is nothing new. Why does Obama feel the need to respond directly. Bush never mentioned his name, he did say "some democrats". Suddenly Obama can't get enough primetime coverage so he is "responding" to something that Bush said? Now Hillary, on the other hand, responded like a leader. Made her statement and moved on. No need to call a press conference ( oops I mean a campaign event). Talk about pandering!

    May 16, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Franky

    I'm not gonna lie guys but doesn't it seem like "The Dems" are focus???? You know, like they got each other's back??? The behavior is interesting, to say the least.

    May 16, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. Stu Smith, CA


    You think you're clever calling Obama a boy?

    You are a stupid bigot and nobody with a brain cares what you think.

    Read a book.

    May 16, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. Ivar

    I think its a great gesture. Its now time for the democrats to solidify their campaign for Nov. I have no problems with Hillary staying on till June as long as she does not resort to any negative tactics.

    In my opinion, Obama shoulkd be free to choose his running mate, and it should not be Clinton. After this damaging primary, it would seem very superficial alliance

    May 16, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  9. Debbie,NJ

    McCain doesn't flip flop. His 72 year old brain actually forgets. At 72 you know some of your brain cells die.

    May 16, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Farewell

    Interesting that even now some supporters of Mrs Clinton do not realize she cant win. In my estimation its a direct result of being misinformed or not informed at all. Obama has won this fair and square and I dare anyone to show me or direct me to any speech he made where he belittled or insulted Hillary on any level. He has run a clean efficient and strong campaign . So much so that its the envy of some Republicans. Hillary's supporters take an objective look at the odds against Obama at the beginning of this process and its final outcome. Like him or not, he has achieved what most people didnt think possible.
    If you can do that, ask yourself why?.....

    May 16, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. Jim

    Beware of republicans on this blogg acting like they are democrats saying they'll vote for McCain if Hillary is not the nominee. Again, we have republicans playing dirty tricks, instigating infighting among us Democrats. Democrat must stay together, who ever the nominee is.

    May 16, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Ray Ito

    Of course Bush-McCain flip-flops.
    First, he said 100 years in Iraq, then yesterday he "crafted" it to 2013.

    And you know what? 2013 = Mission Unaccomplished.

    Never trust the Republicans. Just look at the country – gas prices, Iraq war, America's reputation, economy – just everything.


    May 16, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. After further review,Texas

    Google false flag and John McCain.They will do anything to get elected.

    May 16, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Yasriel

    Wonder why Bush made those comments he made yesterday? Check your gas price today for the answer.
    McBush made those comments knowing it is going to stoke tension in the Middle East and as such drive the price of crude oil higher. Thus, Halliburton and his oil buddies would be able to make more profit from the high price of oil. The is the same why he sent us to war in Iraq.....
    Tension in ME = Higher Crude oil Price = Record Profit for Oil Companies = Higher gas price for us her at home.
    Bush is a complete disgrace.

    May 16, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. kenny cole

    TO Jan from Boca Raton FL,obama never said is gooing to go and sit down and have tea with the enemy,since you are illetrate did you still want to be a rasict?open your blind mindand get the fact

    May 16, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |

    YOU NAST ANTI-OBAMA FREAKS.... We are going to have something in the Whitehouse that we have not had in 8 years... A STATESMAN.

    all the nasty little CHEAP shots.. hope they make you feel better. but meanwhile GET USED TO SEEING "PRESIDENT OBAMA"...


    I am actually LOVING all the venom, vitriol and hate I see coming from the right and hillary supporters..... I may need a cigarette soon!

    May 16, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. lol

    UNITE AND WRITE campaignt is up and running. the dnc doesn't deserve our support after the horrific way they treated hillary clinton, during the primaries. if her name isn't on the ballot write it in for the general. NOBAMA!

    May 16, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. CNN Post This -(

    chris...I think you are as ignorant as you write.

    May 16, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  19. Anna, SW Missouri

    Watched the video on Huffington Post. Now the Dems need to focus on the flip by McCain on womens right to choose in 1999 to today. Then he was for it and now he pledges to appoint judges that will overturn it. I hope Hillary Clinton supporters become better informed on this because he is pledging to appoint judges like Roberts and Alito,(made the pledge during his primary run). Women say this is not an issue, I am a Republican woman, white, 58 y/o, that will vote for either Democrat for this very reason. I hope the Democrats start pointing this out. It would be rediculous for women to be angry at Obama and vote for the one that will do them more harm than any President has had the opportunity to do in the last 35 years.

    May 16, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. Lets get Rush Limbaugh

    Limbaugh is the most anti- American there is.Lets get him off the air like we did Imus.

    May 16, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. Tangie

    Sounds like the Flip Flop Express has lost its bearings.

    Bush is shooting out his mouth again...with his GED from Walmart!

    Obama 2008!!

    May 16, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. R.I.F.

    Jan from Boca Raton FL May 16th, 2008 11:10 am ET

    When you wirte down Hilary Clinton on your ballot this fall also make sure you wirte down the names of all 4,000+ troops that have died in Iraq thus far and leave about 4000 more spaces blank so you can write down the additional troops that will lose their lives under McCain's plan. He madeit clear that he's staying in until we "win".

    Wake up!

    May 16, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  23. MCcian support

    John MCcain you should know better. Why did you get yourself in this mess.
    You know is because of the negative attack that we lost three site in the whitehouse.
    Please do not do negative attack because if you do I will not vote for you. I bet you we will loss.
    Please repect your age.

    May 16, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Nora

    Show " the video " CNN , as others have done. News is about flip-flop McCain not Hillary`s aide.

    May 16, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  25. Shannon from Washington

    McCain who??? I don't even know who he is. He is certainly not the same candidate that run in 2000. I wonder when he sold his soul? Or maybe he never had one. Nonetheless, Obama is the real deal. No flip-flopping, no wish to continue sending our troops to fight an unnecessary war. Obama will prevail in 08 and McCain can go get some therapy on his memory.

    May 16, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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