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. Obama 08

    Oh, Kathy...why is McCain not responding right on the spot?? Obama did respond and it was carried on the news.

    My bet is is that he will make a more speaking response to many allegations/half truths/outright lies that are being spread by his opponenets.

    Thoughtful, reasoned approach.

    May 16, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. v.ananthan



    WSJ: Obama's Strategy for Low-Turnout Caucuses Helps Drive Delegate Edge
    For evidence of the strategy that has made Barack Obama the likely Democratic presidential nominee, look at Nebraska, where the candidate narrowly won a little-noticed primary Tuesday. Sen. Obama's 49% to 46% victory barely got any attention from the campaigns or the press, because the state's delegates, who vote on the nomination, were chosen in a February caucus.


    SHAME ON YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    May 16, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Erik

    Is it a flip-flop if he can't remember what he said from one day to the next? This honorable has-been is in too deep. The good senator's day has come and gone.

    May 16, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. leon

    YOU Obama supporters are raelly naive. So it was good to trash Senator Clinton and destroy her image as it was not enough now you want her to save your candidate and support him. It was ok to say that Clintons used the race card while OBAMA used it all the time.

    it was racist that white people in WV voted for her 60% but if 90% of the black community vote for him it is not racist of course they are inited I am have to believe that.

    You did not even consider her as the VP well I hope she takes the nomination all the way to the Convention and open the pandora box showing what the DNC and the Party leadership and the media has done. I am sure that we will see more evidences of who Obama really is a vulgar and average politician using the status-quo to say that he will go against the status qou flip-flop or wjhat?

    May 16, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Travis

    Everyone go back and think about '04 now in your head use GW Bush's voice and say, "He's a Flip-Flopper"

    Now repeat it over and over again like Bush did in '04.

    McCain's a Flip-Flopper, Flip-Flopper, Flip-Flopper, Flip-Flopper, Flip-Flopper, Flip-Flopper.

    Mrs. McCain realease your tax records. We all now know your were investing in the middle east. Now the question is when did you start investing. I'm going to take a guess and say a few months before the war.

    May 16, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. fafa

    "Bomb. Bomb. Bomb Irak". remember who said that. Yes did. and Gorge Bush and the Nazi's. give me a break. What about Prescot Bush. So much hypocrisy. I had respect for McCain but it's all over.

    May 16, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. leon

    You stupid Democrats see the context in what McCain said what he said during the interview.

    Like Obama said that he will seat and talk and negotiate with dictators without preconditions

    May 16, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  8. L Young

    You Republicans crack me up. You're as bad as Hillary....making up a bunch of trash because you're so aggrevated that you can't the O-train! McCain doesn't know what he thinks (senior moments) and then Bush makes that crazy statement yesterday because he knows the Dems are fixing to move into the White House. Deal with it.......Obama 08!

    May 16, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    That is the problem with McCain, he has flip flopped on many issues. He has flipped on the economy, foreign policy, military benefits and taxes all the while trying to discover what will sell with the American People. The problem with McCain is that he is out of touch, and although a Vietnam war hero; it is my opinion that his life experiences have played it toll on him. The reality is he just needs to retire and enjoy his twlight years, it's not like he needs the money.

    May 16, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. Chitty Mwewa

    LOL!! I knew it!! For whom the bell tolls!! Step aside Mccain.

    "The Obama Campaign is a run-away train, NOBODY can stop it, not even John MCcain"

    May 16, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  11. L Young

    You Republicans crack me up. You're as bad as Hillary....making up a bunch of trash because you're so aggrevated that you can't stop the O-train! McCain doesn't know what he thinks (senior moments) and then Bush makes that crazy statement yesterday because he knows the Dems are fixing to move into the White House. Deal with it.......Obama 08!

    May 16, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. McThuselah The Crypt Keeper

    McThuselah is so old, he rarely remembers what he says one moment from the rest.

    Go ahead, vote for the crypt Keeper if you want.

    May 16, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. Chris from NY

    Did McCain even know that there was a video on him on this issue out there before he started to attack Obama? Now that the video has surfaced he's trying to spin it to his advantage. But Americans are smart enough to draw their own conclusions on what was said. Isn't that what he said about Obama's interest in negotiating with our friends as well as our enemies? The evil that men do lives to follow after them.

    May 16, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. R.I.F.

    So much for the Straight Talk Express. That bus can't decide if it's going east or west.

    What's good for the goose... They cooked Kerrys goose for being a flip-flopper so ding...Mccain your goose has been cooked. We also remember your stance on taxes in 2000 as well, and your "no time-table on withdrawing troops" statement. You're trying to play both sides of the fence...a independent maverick who happens to be an ultra conservative and its falling apart before our very eyes.

    May 16, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. Bob

    Obama has no choice but to add Hillary as his VP. That seems to be the direction things are going. She is already doing what a VP does while running for Office.

    Now is the time for us to Unite. Obama and Hillary supporters. UNITE! ONE UNSTOPABLE TICKET!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  16. proud army and navy mom

    we will praise hillary when she deserves praise, because she is a member of the Democratic Party's family. when democrats crosses the lines and start behaving like Republicans, they need to be called out on it.
    good looking out Hillary

    May 16, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. Marc

    Thats right. McCain once said that we should hold talks with Hamas. Now he is talking on the other side. Is this who we want as our President?

    May 16, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. kevin from alaska

    All McCain does is flip-flop. And with the exception of global warming, it's always for the worse.

    America 08
    Democrats 08

    May 16, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. lavell glover

    I guess we should standby to see how Lieberman will fix this one.

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. All American

    How quick people forget. Have you forgot 9-11 have you forgot all the terrorist that have been arrested in this country with plans to blow something up. Have you closed your eyes and ears to the hold the terrorist have in other countries and what they have done in England,Spain ,Irland Are you so smug and sure of your self that you feel safe from anything happening here? Are you so involved with your self that you over look your countrys safety? Then what are our troops doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? This is not a party issue. This is an issue that will allow our children and grandchildren to grow up in a free America..

    I lissoned to Presidents Bushs speech. He didn't give any names . what makes you think he wasn't talking about Carter or someone else? Whats Obama so worried about. Guilty thoughts and feelings on the subject of tarrest maybe. I reserached Africa. I went to Kenya then I put in Odinga. There were a lot of articles on this subject by various reporters and magizines. I think all of you have a P.C. so use it get some facts for your self. And quit your hate letters. Start loving your country. As J.F.K. said :Ask what you can do for your country,not what your country can do for you." A strong America will solve your personal problems. A weak America will fall.

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. dmw

    I must say I love all of this and I look forward to how it plays out.

    Hillary is the strongest, most qualified person still in the race because she understands all issues facing America. But, no, the Democratic left-wing liberals did not want her. Now the Democrats will be stuck with Obama as the nominee. The same old far left-wing liberals they have been running for years, just in different clothing, only to lose to the Republicans. It will happen again this year.

    George Bush makes a statement, not even mentioning Obama's name, and here goes Obama as usual, I am so upset, how shameful, same old politics, and waiting a day or so, thereby he can get with his speech writers to figure out what to say, rehearse it, then get in front of the media and pretends he knows something....what a joke! After a year of this, we all know the game and it does not hold up to the light of day any longer.

    The Democrats are the strangest group. The are the perfect example of the same thing over and over again, then expecting a different result.

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  22. Frank

    Please do not post any more comments referring to Barack Obama as BOY.

    The Republican party may be reading to fall back on racism, but CNN should not aid and abet.

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  23. Wayne Philips

    How can Barack meet with a Ahmadinejad when the Iranian denies the Holocaust happened and has called for "Israel to be wiped off the map."?

    Ahmadinejad craves US recognition. For Barack to agree to meet unconditionally face-to-face with Ahmadinejad for a photo-op and where the Iranian leader has to give up nothing...that IS appeasement.


    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  24. Mel

    So we can see that the reputation of being a straight-talking maverick is just the perception. It is either that the wiring in the old express is shorting out or the integrity was never really there.

    Democrats '08!!!!!!!!!!!!! and for a very long time thereafter, because the Republicans have the ongoing knack of behaving like autocrats and like to spy on others: from "tricky dick" to the "bramble bush".

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  25. Democrats UNITE!!!


    OH, my: IT doesn't matter!

    Clinton SUPPORTERS< Obama SUPPORTERS, UNITE!!! It would be a betrayal against Clinton and/or Obama to vote for McCain or write-in!!!


    DEMOCRATS 2008!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
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