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. Mcbush, the poor little kitten

    mcbush is a little kitten waiting to be slaugtered in november. sometimes, i feel sorry for this crazy old man.

    May 16, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. Nicole in NE

    Yes – McCain is a total flip-flopper.

    Remember when he said Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans went against his conscience? Now he is for them! The last 8 years has made the rich richer and the rest of us Americans feeling the pain of our economy.

    We have to Vote DEMOCRAT!
    A LOT can happen in 4 years, we should know that by now! Please think people!

    May 16, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  3. 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 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Michael

    I'm an Obama supporter and have been critical at the Clinton campaign's conduct over the past couple months, but thanks for pointing this out. It seems to me that McCain is flip-flopping as an attempt to pander to the far right of the Republlcan party. Bush's speech from yesterday and McCain's Al-Qaeda, Iran gaffe shows that they both don't understand the difference between a terrorist and a dictator. Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban are terrorists. Syria, Iran and Cuba have dictators. Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator, not a terrorist.

    May 16, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Sharon Minnesota

    John McCain isn't a dreamer. He knows that a realistic approach to extricating US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is going to take more than a wink and a nod to the terrorists. I trust him way over the democratic nominee or supposed nominee, Barack Obama.
    With Sen Obama, his military and diplomatic proposals would be a disaster. He is involved in too many negative things. He even has phone banks over in Gaza campaigning for him. What's that all about. It used to be that American political elections were for Americans. Don't be hypocritical in condemning Sen. McCain for pointing out Hammas' endorsement of Barack Obama.

    There will be much more to come in the near future to think about so don't make up your minds yet. There's a long road ahead and much more information to open the eyes of America before November's election.

    Barack Obama has changed his stories so many times during the primary race, I can't believe he's accusing John McCain of Flip Flopping. Silly very silly retort.

    May 16, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. NickNas

    LOL flopping and flipping like a Mackeral on the Pier. This is just ONE of the FLOOD of things that will Bury McSame in the General. You can't be ONE person for 50 years and then try and be a whole NEW person just to get elected.

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. A.Masabo Canada

    waouw...what can i say????MCcain flip floper...hahahahh.
    Now it's coming to u old man ....oh no maybe Alzheimer.
    u'll never be suited to be PREZ,can't u understand that?

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. World Angel

    I don't think OBAMA should have taken President Bush's remark personal. I, personally, don't think that what he said was wrong. I would've agreed with him. He didn't specifically say OBAMA or Clinton, he said some Democrats. My response would've been, "President Bush you are exactly right, I don't believe any Party would ever take the position to try to compromise or appease with any TERRIROST leaders, because you already know that they are not listening, they only want to KILL period. So Mr. President I would like for you to be a little more specific as to WHO you are referring to woud do such a thing." I don't think it's necessary to defend statements unless they are directed to you, you can show guilt by your defense.

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Monica B

    As a Republican I always found Mr. Rubin's press briefing informative. He is articulate and knowledgeable. His awareness of world events is no doubt enhanced by his relationship to Ms Amanpour(sp) who is the one person I know who provides objective reporting...facts and analysis. No spin!! It's good to see Mr. Rubin, step forward and call Mr. McCain out on his hypocrisy. There was a time when the argument was made for us not talking to dictators. Mr. Bush however, found it useful to speak to the Pakistani president in the post 9/11 world. So we are not puritans...we adjust our Foreign Policy to advance our needs. We all need peace in the Middle East. Right? Do we get there by aiming our Military arsenal at everyone who disagrees with us or do we engage them in serious diplomacy? If we continue on the path Mr. Bush, McCain and the GOP are espousing, America will be the nation isolated.

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Jamaal Kansas

    Expose Mcsame for being a liar He a is Bush Cloan and should never reach the Highest office Mcbush it is over for you Obama 08

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. is ain't a word?

    what does it say when the pro McCain comments are so full of grammatical and factual errors that they end up making West Virgina look like Harvard square?

    I must say, in the 2000 primaries, I voted for McCain. I am a Texan that is ashamed of Bush and I have NEVER voted for him. More than that, I am an American that is proud of the future that Obama can help us achieve.

    May 16, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. FactCheck

    And with that, HRC and her campaign shows far more sense than many of her voters. Oh yeah, you GOPers, please look up the definition of "appeasement" in the dictionary. You clearly have no clue.

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Tired of W, OH

    Dialogue never hurts. The democrats are not advocating negotiations with terrorists. Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are sovereign countries with recognized leaders. We may not agree with the views and actions of these leaders, but it is childish to put out the message: "I don't like you, so I'm not even going to talk to you."

    Other administrations have used this policy of non-dialogue and look where it has led us. Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. If no one has the guts to try a different approach, nothing will change.

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. adrian

    three cheers for MAC THE FLIPPER

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Obama responded yesterday in what seemed to be a telephone conference call. I guess he wants to make a statement in front of cameras.

    GOP supporters still have no answer to the fact that Bush broke all principles of diplomatic protocol by taking domestic politics overseas. The GOP just lost any chance they might have had for those voters who really support Israel. He showed the Knesset no respect.

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. Peggy

    How many super "D's" will obama have to put out today?

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Viva Obama 08

    We all democrats and more deepply we are families. That was very nice that Hillary stood for Barack and Barack would do the same thing if he has too.
    No Democrats should live the party nominee to vote Republicans. This would not be a toughful reaction for some Democrats to vote McCain against Barack or Hillary because they do not like the party's nominee. Yes we can, Yes we will, Yes we will be united as one Democrat party, one America not two.

    May 16, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. bill pike

    mubush is the best promotion to get obama president i know of–it is almost too easy. WAR,ECONOMY,AGE,STUPID, WAR, ECONOMY, AGE, STUPID. WAR...............

    May 16, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. Gerald London, UK

    Besides Mccain's hypocrisy, Bush is negotiating with North Korea as we speak. Is North Korea not a part of the axis of evil, along with Iran & Syria ? He is offering them incentives to stop their nuclear program.

    Bush struck a deal with Libya – a country that blew up american airliner over scotland killing americans. As we speak, He is paying and negotiating with the Iraqi insurgents to stop the war in Iraq.

    Is George Bush not the greatest appeaser and hypocrite of all times?

    May 16, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. La Raza.

    Where is Osama Bin Laden?

    May 16, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  21. jone

    bush stop this nonsense,you are not good leader

    May 16, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. mitchell from arkansaw

    how do you like kissing saudi arabian butt,mr. bush?will you teach mccain,if he wins?

    May 16, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. Jamaal Kansas

    Mcsame is a Flip Flop he will say anything to win and he does not care about the American People

    May 16, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  24. Mark



    OH YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. Bush, your a sick sick man

    "chris May 16th, 2008 11:06 am ET

    cnn u make me sick u put out obama like hes fighting like a man whith his speeches against bush and hilary you just love this odnt you you make him look as good as you want and take a crap on everyone els obama is a chuuummmp he is a political puppet controll by the dnc and they still cant get things right this liberal bias is sickening and whats worse is theres nothing of value to speak of on the demecratic side but thats ok the liberals have started ruining our country a long time and now they want a well spoken puppet BOY to run our country thank you you socialist hypocrites please let me leave before you finish burning our country to the ground lit by the flags youll start the fire with"

    Whoa buddy, take your time and think before you type. You're just another uneducated racist who thinks Bush is God. Why aren't you in Iraq fighting his dirty war? You sir are the puppet. Absolutely no mind of your own.

    May 16, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
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