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. Kenneth M

    "Her people spent all of 2008 making lists blaming each other (but never themselves) rather than lists of solutions."

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. Jim

    You may not like Mr Bush, but he is very smart. Obama had to wait two day for his speech writers to tell him what to say because he does not have a clue, and there fore obama lost two days in which he could have been talking about the economy. This is letting Hillary's case get stronger, and stronger.

    May 16, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. DC Insider

    The flip flopper is Barack Obama. Mr Appeasment Obama was backing the Palestinians just 18 months ago, until one of his aides reminded him of the strong Jewish vote in Florida.....

    May 16, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. Jane

    So many people have been scrambling to spin Obama's naive debate gaffe early on when he said he'd talk directly to enemies. But the fact still remains, Obama had no idea what he was talking about, and he said nothing about preconditions or what he now refers to as "preparation" for such talks.
    Our country will be left wounded by the Bush administration only to be led now by an unqualified amateur. But at least, it will be a democrat unqualified amateur;I guess that's something. Just pray that he doesn't refer to some world leader's wife as "sweetie."

    May 16, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. R. I.

    This is a clear example of a sitting U.S. president kissing the behind of Israel.
    Why wouldn't he go to the knesset and trash America? Bush went there to bow to Israel to show that America is forever a puppy to Israel even at the cost of sacrificing the reputation of American citizens.

    The politics is: who can bow more to Israel and be the greatest puppy? It's finely wrap up in "defence of Israel" God's chosen people" and all others are "rejected people." Wake up America.

    Mel Gidson was right when he said that the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Just consider it – he's right.
    Love the Jews, and love everybody equally. There'll be peace. Everybody is special.

    May 16, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Vietnam Veteran

    Mr. McCain,

    You are a great American hero. However sir, with all due respect, it's past your bedtime.

    May 16, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Jenny, Oregon

    Note: to Hillary supporters, a vote for McCain will keep our sons and daughters in Iraq for over ten years. A vote for McCain will help him take away the rights of women (Roe vs Wade) so please think about it. I know it frustrating but we can not allow another 3rd term of Bush.

    Vote Obama!!! Thank you.

    May 16, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. Kojotaga, Dublin, Ireland

    McCain just doesn't remember.....I am 38 and with age one tends to forget some of these things.

    May 16, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. Greg Pa

    Do the words sooner or later, or would not be able to avoid , sound like he is pushing. To me it sounds like he dose not want to legitimize people that use terror as a political tool. Obama dose want to do just that . If they would renounce violence that would be the way to go . This is just one more example of Obama not being able to deal with a violent nation.

    want to talk about spin !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. vicki

    If Obama is the nominee...he is going to be in a knife fight with the Republicans and who better to have on your side in a knife fight than HillRock! If he has learned anything in this campaign I hope it is that Hillary is his best choice for V.P. Please you Obama crazy people don't point to John Edwards...he is a wimp! No Guts No Glory John! Play it safe John...not good enough.

    Obama got sucker punched twice yesterday...he never saw it coming. Check one (or two) off for the Republicans. While Obama is running around being blindsided by the Republicans he needs Hillary to work her magic with the voter constinuency that loves her. I have personally seen her do this and she is totally incredible at it. Any reservations her constinuency had about Obama she can turn it around.

    If Hillary was the V.P. and she told me to vote for the Obama/Clinton ticket I couldn't say no to her. If she wasn't on the ticket and even if she told me to vote Obama I wouldn't do it. It is just the way it is!

    May 16, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. KAP-Atlanta, GA

    You think if I give McInsane a call, he could give me the winning numbers for the lottery. Since he can predict the future, and disclaim the past; maybe he can pull those six digits out of his crystal ball or bag of tricks.

    May 16, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Ray

    The same thing is happening that happened back in the 04 election. The Republican have begun their fear tactics campaign. Telling everyone that the Dems will make America weak. Joe Biden put it as best as anyone can. We are weaker now than before Bush. our military is stressed and we are so far in the red that it is ridiculous. People talk about how we shouldn't care about how we look to the international community, but unfortunately we share this world with many powers. We need to work together and we need our allies. Bush has alienated many of our long standing allies. We need to get back to the table and work things out, and show the world what a great superpower America is.

    May 16, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. Shawn, Takoma Park, MD


    McCain is just a typical, pandering, flip-flopping career Washington politician representing a desperate political party with no ideas, no values and no hope.

    I support Obama and I think he's the better candidate, but this is a reminder that we do need Hillary's machine. They're tough and smart.

    May 16, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Mike D

    McCain sucks

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Sheila

    McCain can flip-flop all he wants. If not his war-mongering talk, then his age will be enough to defeat him in November.

    The Democrats have much work to do in the coming years to straighten out the mess the Bush administration has foisted upon the people of this country and the millions of dead and displaced people of Iraq. All for a war that had no reason to be. Where does the blame ultimately lie? I think the buck stops with Bush, Cheney, Rove -–

    Question: "Who is best qualified to lead the American people back to the peace and prosperity of the Clinton years?" Another Clinton, of course. Experience counts, and Sen. Hillary Clinton has it!

    May 16, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. Bukky

    McCain Lie and Flip Flop... GOSH NO!!! you dont say...

    May 16, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Observer from Nigeria

    This is what they did to John Kerry. We do it to Mc bush. Mc Bush is a flip flopper.
    He changes position with time

    May 16, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. E. C., Houston, Texas

    As usual............the remarks that McCain made were MISLEADING. Does anyone know anythint NEW? Obama and Clinton are so unqualified to even comment, it's all absurd. Thank goodness for Senator John McCain.......'08.............who will be the next President, for he's the only qualified and experienced man for the office.

    May 16, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. A.J. in Fla

    Nr. Rubin

    Like a good liberal jouyrnalist you interpret other peoples commets and spin it to acommodate your misguided thoughts. I heard what Mr. McCain said and have a totally different undestanding. The problem lays on the fact that I do not have the same platform you have to express my views.

    May 16, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Peter in St. Paul

    McCain is a liar of flip flopper.
    This proves it.
    Why is it that some in the gop are so angry and make racists remarks?

    Hillary made me angry,but she is re-gaining my respect.

    May 16, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Well said GOP!

    cus its the truth!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. Billary

    I agree with everyone who has said that Obama is a fake.

    I too will write Hillary's name on the ballot if Obama wins the nomination.

    Lost all respect for Edwards. I am very glad he won't run as VP.

    May 16, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. Observer from Nigeria

    Wew have to use this tag on Mccain till the general election. BIG Flip floper

    May 16, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. Dumb Mcain and Bush

    2006 Mcain says talk to hamas...then now doesn't
    Condi Rice has urged Bush to talk to Iran
    Gates wrote a letter on 5-14 saying we need to talk to Iran
    Today we send 500,000 tons of food to North Korea

    And Obama is wrong...people who don't follow the news and rely on tickers and blogs always get it wrong....

    Obama is right and if you don't say he is right then fire, Condi, Gates and tell Mcain to go to sit on it.

    May 16, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. Chicanos for McCain

    What makes you socialist think that America will support your left wing African Idol. Obama is not fit to be president. He will lose big to McCain in November. One big reason. Mexican Americans that compose the largest Hispanic Group and have the most voters will
    support John S. McCain. Why? Because we are loyal Americans that serve our country in the Military and our children do the same.
    We do not surrender to the Radical Islamic Jihadist. Not now nor never.

    Before you attack me, i am college educated and have two sons in uniform, and i too served in Vietnam and my Father served in WWII,
    My Grandfather served in WWI. Need I say more.

    Any Veteran and any person in Uniform needs to think twice about voting for Obama. Do your homework and think about your country
    before you cast your vote.

    May 16, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
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