August 20th, 2008
03:45 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain camp: Obama advisor on freelance 'mission' to Syria

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Giuliani accused an Obama advisor of being on a freelance 'mission' Wednesday."]
(CNN) - On his first campaign conference call as a surrogate for John McCain, Rudy Giuliani accused an unpaid advisor for Barack Obama’s presidential effort of engaging in a freelance diplomatic “mission” when he met with a Syrian official last month in Damascus.

Giuliani said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who also served as the first Jewish U.S. ambassador to Egypt, had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kurtzer did not meet with the Syrian president during his trip, which was not connected to Obama’s presidential effort.

He did meet with Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem while in Damascus for a legal conference co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and paid for by donations from a Canadian oil company and Syrian corporations.

Discussions should only take place "when you have confidence that you're not being used," said Giuliani, charging that Kurtzer’s actions might be a result of an Obama policy of “negotiating with dictators without precondition."

Listen: Giuliani takes aim at Obama's advisor

Kurtzer, who advises Obama’s campaign on Middle East affairs, has been an advocate of diplomatic engagement with the government of Syria.

McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, asked about his lobbying work on behalf of the nation of Georgia, responded that his actions were different because they were not “covert.” The reporter who asked the question, Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, abruptly dropped off the call. He later alleged that the campaign had cut him off.

(UPDATE with Obama campaign response after the jump)

UPDATE: Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice responded to Giuliani’s charges on a Wednesday afternoon conference call with reporters, saying “there is nothing but falsehood and distortion” in the comments.

“[Kurtzer] did not represent the Obama campaign or Senator Obama, he went as a private citizen. And so John McCain who himself sat down one-on-one and had a meeting with the leader of the same country in its most active moment of support for terrorism – to criticize a private citizen for taking a private trip is absolutely outrageous and dishonest,” said Rice. “If John McCain wants to be held accountable for the travel and the conduct of every private citizen who may have at one point or another offered him advice then let’s have that discussion.”

soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Deb, Allentown, PA

    I know this isn't relevant to this ticker story, but it's important.

    Is everyone aware that McCain said today that he didn't disagree that we might need to reinstate the draft?

    Do you want your children to die for this warmonger??

    August 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. ANGEL



    August 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. Minnesota against Johnny McSame

    Rudy "noun, verb and 9-11" Giuliani speaks!!

    Keep talking Rudy so that Biden can wipe the floor with you once again.

    August 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  4. Ex-Republican for Obama

    Randy Scheunemann, asked about his lobbying work on behalf of the nation of Georgia, responded that his actions were different because they were not “covert.”
    That's right they were different, they were spurred by greed and anti american sentiments. Atleast Obama advisors are working for peace, rather then war.

    Is it any wonder that where McCain's advisors go (Georgia, Iraq), we see a war break out, and where Obama advisors go, there is peace?
    Go figure!

    Obama '08

    August 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. Lee

    Rudy who? I thought this CLOWN dropped out fo the primary because nobody wanted to listen to his LIES. He needs to get his own house in order before critizing and trying to tie every negative issue to OBAMA.

    August 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. R.I.F.

    CNN, Your headline is funny because I"ve read this story on other major news sites and the headline was the fact that Giuliani and Scheunemann were hammered by reporters on the call for their ties. You got what you wanted in that the polls are now tight. Why don't you start treating McCain like he's running for President and not like he's your beloved grandfather.

    Obama '08

    August 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  7. Lacy

    Grasping at straws....

    August 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Felice Judkins

    SHUT UP "9-11 RUDY". The way you ran your campaign showed us just how inept you are.

    August 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. jon hennek Rudy says he met with this guy but he actually didn't....? Why are you even reporting this?

    August 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Nova from NV

    When the Georgia invasion first broke, Obama advocated patients and diplomatic talks. He was quick to change his position once things turned bad. This diplomatic doctrine of appeasement did not work during WWII with Hitler and will not work now. I hope people who are blindly supporting this naive inexperience man know what they are getting into.
    McCain and NATO were very quick to criticized Russia from the beginning. If this was a job interview, who would you rather have?

    August 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. Roberta

    Goodness. 220+ "comments" about the poll-related item detailing a slip in Obama's alleged "lead" in the race, and nary a comment here. Alas, how typical of Obama supporters - reach for that low-hanging fruit every time. Meanwhile, we have this renegade Kurtzer, who is a completely unofficial anything, hobnobbing with Syria and acting as if he has the right to represent Americans. He doesn't and he ought to be sanctioned. He represents the epitome of Obama's total lack of foreign policy experience.

    August 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. gm

    Giluiani had his change and blew it Thought he had it in the bag just like all the other Bush, McCain and Republican blowhards.

    August 20, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. bruce

    Guiliani should be having conference calls with the families of the NYC Firefighters and NYC Police Officers that died because of his failure to properly equip them.........and BEGGING FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS, instead of making a fortune off of 9/11.

    August 20, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. KC

    Fear mongering!

    August 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Vigla

    Guliani, GO AWAY!!! You're irrelevant. Please, why don't you marry your 4th wife and begone!

    August 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Fly Boy

    Yeah Rudy is such a great source.

    I still remember his great strategy to wait in Florida for all the Republicans during the Primaries. That was REAL smart.

    Rudy GO home. Your OLD News, just like McShame.

    August 20, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. DocReal

    Lookie here. McCain sends "droopy dogs" Graham and Lie-berman to Georgia pretend he's President, and then has his pathetic attack dog Guliani attack Obama for nothing. If the press were doing their job, they would spend a bit more time investigating McCain's treasonous actions.

    August 20, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Kelby from Houston, TX

    Mr. 9-11 says what?

    August 20, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Mark Ferbet, Grain Valley, Missouri

    Wow... they really are desperate.

    Whether or not this man has anything to do with Obama's Campaign... with regards to this trip... isn't the real issue. The Republicans are trying to scare the average American into believing that Obama's so inexperienced regarding foreign policy that he's willing to sit down with his enemies.

    REALITY CHECK! How has threatening our enemies worked as far as diplomatic missions have gone? Axis of Evil... remember those comments? That set us back with North Korea for the past 6 plus years... How about the simple fact that the current foreign policy has made the United States appear so weak that Russia is now openly challenging us... first with Georgia, and now with Poland...

    Bush hasn't done anything of substance with regards to Russia. I guess this has to do with what he saw in Putin's eyes. It's sad really... they are a real threat to our allies... yet, we're so wrapped up in Bush's war, that we are unable to move militarily against Russia to protect Georgia... or Poland for that matter.

    McCain is all bluster and hot air... At least Obama thinks things through, before making statements.

    August 20, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Sweetie

    Another reason not to vote for a VERY dangerous man who isn't qualified.

    He is a puppet and the Masters have their own agenda which should scare the hell out of any American Voter!

    McCain 08

    August 20, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Eleanor

    who cares what Guiliano thinks...He was irrelevant a long ago
    his opinion has no influence on anyone
    Has he left his fifth wife yet-;)

    August 20, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. Sean

    Nova from NV: Actually, he did it perfectly. Always lead out with diplomacy, and if that fails then escalate it. We shouldn't go to war every time something goes down, nor should we keep things purely diplomatic.

    August 20, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Mary

    The stench of wag the dog is overwhelming. No wonder McCain had to pound home that he had been talking to the Georgian president, Saakashvili, even as he risked looking like he was interfering in the foreign policy of this country. They're hiding the wag the dog operation in plain sight, as it were.

    August 20, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Phil, Ashburn, VA

    If it was not for 9-11, Rudy and the rest of the war mongers wont exist. People, wake up and don't get fooled by these people. If McCain wins, he will reinstate the draft to fight more wars. Your kids will be fighting unwanted wars.

    August 20, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. ChicagoJosh

    Come on CNN, where's the details. What about how McCain's people were accused of lobbying for Citgo (Venezuela national company), yet McCain camp claimed Citgo was an American company.

    What about how McCain's advisor is also a paid lobbyist for the Georgia govt. Who is McCain representing???

    Tell the whole story. Everyone else should just read

    August 20, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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