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)


    May 16, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. Dan (Kirkland, WA)

    The ignorance in the comments on these blogs is astonishing

    May 16, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Ray

    Obama / Biden '08

    I guy that can actually speak in public and an extremely experienced Foreign Relations Committee Chariman.

    What a positive change from what we have now!

    Let's make it happen!

    May 16, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. Daniel from Kansas

    GOP Rules....

    Your true ignorance is transparent.

    May 16, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. laura meure

    What happened to respect for the leaders we elected? you all can disagree, but leave out all your nasty comments and stick to what you think is a better way. thanks!

    May 16, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Mips

    I think the "other way" McCain refers to Hamas is warfare. If you do not want to talk to people you have two options. 1) Continue the trade embargo against Palestine and refuse aid to Hamas driven government. This would result in further distancing between the people of Palestine and America. This will mean more terrorist attacks against Israel, more starving people in palestine, more animosity. 2) Declare war on the Hamas government in Palestine, invade the country and setup a new democracy. This will create a new haven for Al Queda, where they can train up a new generation of Jihadists.

    Or you could pick the Obama route, open talks and provide the Hamas leadership with enough rope to hang themselves on. When public talks are held with countries like Palestine, the leaders in that country will have to reform their attitude or they risk alienating more people.

    Think about it, either you talk with people or you fight with them. Would you rather force the people of Palestine and Israel into the crossfire of bullets or words? I choose words because I care about life.

    May 16, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Mike

    Alexis, your a dope – have you been sleeping all this time while Hillary has been railroaded or are you just too drunk over Obummer. Would you like me to email all the "negative" headlines about Hillary and all the "wonderful supportive" headlines about Obama? Then shut your unintelligent mouth!

    May 16, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. independant

    I just love it when W speaks. Anyone with a memory and common sense thinks his blatherings are better than " Saturday Night Live"

    May 16, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Mike

    Hey Chris in Middletown, don't be a jerk – this blog is not about Hillary oh, or are you a reverand Wright supporter? That would explain you hate.

    May 16, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. Obama Supporter

    Come on everybody and unite with the Obama Campaign!

    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008

    Hate Hillary
    Hate McCain

    Hate Hate Hate

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. Greg Pa

    Fred ,

    YOU ARE THE MAN!!!!!!!!!

    Well put . he is a danger

    I would rather see troops die than watch 3000 noncombatants die. this may seem harsh but the troops are being paid to put it all on the line .

    I love our troops and donate to them all the time. They do a grate job. That job is to defend the USA at all cost.

    May 16, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    No kidding'! What else can be expected of a Republican?!! Duh!

    May 16, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Darth Vadik, CA

    McCain has no clue to what the heck he is talking about, he has Joe Lieberman behind him trying to correct his idiocy.
    McCain is just lost.

    May 16, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. Raheim From VA.

    He said 100 years and now it's by 2013. Oh, but we're not going to set a timetable for withdrawal...Hmmmm.

    He didn't know the difference between Shia (Shiites) and the Sunnis...Again, hmmmm.

    Now, on how he plans to implement a foreign policy of who to talk to and who are "terrorist" he flip-flops in a 2 year period and wants to blast a Democrat... A third time, Hmmmm.

    Does that make anyone else wonder what a McCain Administration would be like? When are Americans going to learn to read between the lines? Lastly, when are some Politicians going to realize Americans are not little children that have no sense of judgement to pay attention to the smallest of detail?

    Silly Elephant, tricks are for kids.

    Vote Obama '08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. tar

    This is nothing new because Sen. McClain has flip flop on every issue. Is it a form of senility? I do not think he knows what he stands for now.

    May 16, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Truth

    I saw the video this morning in MSNBC. Real flip-flopper Mr. McSame

    May 16, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. Vee

    I am a True Republican. But i am tired of these Conservative Republicans who spread hate all over. People like Rush Limbaugh, hannity make me sick.

    That is why I am voting for Democrats even though I do not believe in Democrats policies

    I think what McCain is doing is absolutely fine. We cannot bring troops back soon like Obama is saying. McCain is a great guy.

    I think Democrats should unite and get rid of people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh..

    Vote for McCain is vote for these idiots who have spread so much of hate in the US

    Refer to "Kevin James in Hardball (you will see what true Conservative Republicans are like)

    May 16, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. Obama Supporter

    Unify and Hate Hate Hate!

    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008

    Hate Hillary
    Hate McCain

    Hate Hate Hate

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. Obama Supporter

    I've been converted!

    Come on everybody and unite with the Obama Campaign!

    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008
    Hate Hate Hate 2008

    Hate Hillary
    Hate McCain

    Hate Hate Hate

    Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. Republican in Idaho

    The proof is on tape. Watch it on CNN. He agreed to it 2 years ago, and now it is not a good idea. I am so sick of the politics. Lets just call it what it is hypocrisy. Everyone wants to paint Obama because of his name as "appeasing" terrorists, but look at what Bush has done in his 8 years. Just because he is a white male makes his intentions different? Look at yourselves America, you are being fooled by people who have a clear agenda!!!!!

    May 16, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. Linda

    Hillary, Bill, McCain and Bush are all in this together. That why Bill has been so quiet lately other than his speech that the DNC was punishing his wife. Don't be fooled. This is to try and show Hillary strength against Iran. Bill is friends with Bush (dad and son). Hillary is still trying to win the nominee and she will do anything remember she is a sociopath.

    May 16, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. brad winkler

    MCCAIN/ROMNEY – telling america whatever BS they think we want to heat to get elected. So transparent.

    Obama/Edwards, or Clienton, or Biden, or hell, HAGEL!!! '08

    May 16, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. fred

    I have never voted Republican in my life. This will probably be the first time if Obama is the nominee!! Even if Hillary was on the ticket with Obama I wouldn't vote for him. He is a disgrace to our country!!

    May 16, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  24. blair

    To obama and his cult followers. DO not blame Hillary for his losing, if he makes the nomanation. Hillary is a great woman but she has nothing to do of why I will not vote for obama. OBAMA is why I will not vote for him. no matter what Hillary, Edwards or anyone else says. obama is a coward, unamerican, and has done what he set out to do. (almost) divide and conquer. He will never conquer me. I do not like Bush but I think it is just like obama to say he was talking about him. poor boy. He was talking about the demacratic party. It was the media that put his name there. oh and by the ho obama can take his dog Michelle and go over to Iran and maybe we will be lucky and they will keep them.

    May 16, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. GA Independent Obama Supporter

    I would just like to comment about the republican responses of hate in this blog. You have tried to label democrats as dumb and you use hateful language for your indifference. That would be a hasty generalization and hate is the mark of ignorance. Yes, errors and bias will occur on both sides of ideological values, but you should pray for the wise discernment to hear and listen to points of argument before you make any of your decisions. Voting democratic or republican because you have some type of allegiance is simply foolish.

    But as far as CNN reporting is concerned, I would take their fewer biases for the dems than FoxNews delusional bias and propaganda machine.

    Honestly, I prefer NewsHour on PBS. That is truly no spin and embraces the argument from both dems and reps.

    May 16, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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