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. TheTruthHurts

    I think Giuliani is a great attack dog. Who cares if he speaks the truth or not. What is sad is that Americans by conspiracy theories that a Black man seeks the undermining of the nation. This whole idea that global security will be destablized because one man meets with another is absolutely ludicrous. What's sad is that the Republicans are selling it because they believe enough Americans are ignorant and uneducated to believe them. The question is who will be proven correct?

    August 20, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. kathleen

    Rudy is a total idiot. That is the capacity of our government run by
    people like him. He belongs on a boat with his new wife minus the
    taxpayer paid vacations he used to woo his girlfriend. The homeless
    people have heart and soul better that Guiliani ever will possess!

    August 20, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. Dave in NYC

    So wait a minute, either Rudy "misspoke" when he said the Obama advisor met with the president of Syria, or he LIED? Which one was it? Now THAT looks like a story to me... would love to see CNN follow up on that.

    Next up, I'd love to see a story on the Ticker reporting on how the McCain campaign hung up on a reporter who asked a tough question.

    August 20, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  4. Chris

    And this onetime I saw a picture of Osama Bin Laden... OMG, I must be a terrorist!??!

    a drama queen grasping...

    August 20, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. kathleen

    What did he do in New York that made him a hero? Oh, I forgot, he
    the Catholics and the Evangelicals. Not me, and I am a Catholic but
    NOBODY tells me how to vote. Not Limbaugh, Rove, Bush, Hannity,
    McCain. They are all opportunists that want power and money.

    August 20, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. Last Honest Man

    When did CNN Cafferty become a Jerk. Now he's an Obama strategist.
    So much for unbiased reporting

    August 20, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Justin in CA

    If it is true, it still doesn't sound worse than what McCain was doing with the Russia/ Georgian conflict. Not to mention he handled it terribly. If he was the president, we would be at war with Russia right now as well. All because the head of his campaign was a lobbyist for Georgia and was paid $200,000 for his services 4 months ago. Sound like good foreign policy to me.

    August 20, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    Does anyone out there give a twit about what Guiliani says?

    August 20, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. Ross in MD

    The first sentence Giuliani makes in years without saying '9-11' is false. Oh well.

    Try again next 9-11 Giuliani.

    August 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  10. KenB, MI

    Isolation politics is bogus...this stuff coming out of the mouths of politicians that really have no idea what a foreign policy really is and worst of make attempts to lead the American people down knucklehead lane...while these so called dictators milk our country for billions ,Musharaff is a good example and there have been many others...we need to have a good look at the activities of these threats...we need to measure these individuals, their politics and the people around them...nuff said here

    August 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  11. anonmouys

    iowa polls of polls have come out

    August 20, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  12. EDW


    August 20, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  13. Jake

    So wait... Giuliani blatantly lied... and CNN finds a way to make this story sound negative for Obama?

    August 20, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  14. Carl from MI

    Let's talk about McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, being paid $200,000 for being a lobbyist for Georgia. This guy is advising McLameBrain on what to do for Georgia??? Talk about having a vested interest in foriegn governments!! Georgia was the aggressor... Georgia started it.... Georgians are the bad guys here!!! Do your homework, people!!

    Haven't you people had enough of Dubya's stupid foriegn policy blunders for the past 8 years? Are you that dumb that you want to sign up for 4 more years of it under McCain? How stupid are you people?? WAKE UP, AMERICA!!!!

    August 20, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  15. California Gold

    Guiliani is a freaking drama queen. How in the heck does he know what 2 diplomats talked about during a conference halfway around the freaking world, when he wasn't present. Someone please take the microphone from this moron.

    August 20, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |

    To Janel, St. Paul, MN.

    NO, As long as he does not get another chance in his lifetime to spend our taxpayer money on frivolous love trysts, I mean, trips.

    August 20, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. Pat Riot

    Logan Act, put him in jail.

    August 20, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. What?

    Who is this fellow?............Used to be in New York, first wife – public affair...Used 09/11 to take affair off newspapers, news media and HIMSELF....................WHO is he again?

    Obama 08

    August 20, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  19. Lourdes

    CNN ARE YOU COMPETING WITH THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER?! This is rubbish, not journalism.

    August 20, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  20. Pepo

    Giuliani is a total idiot who should mind his own business. McCrook;'s financial adviser taking $$ from Georgia is no problem ? Please !!

    August 20, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. Alan Boyer

    the arrogance is disgusting. McCain sends his boys to Georgia and it's leadership. Obama sends a person to's free lance. They have some guts.

    August 20, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. Greg FL.

    The Cross in the Dirt issue is complex.

    McCain told a story in 1999 about how when he was in capitivity in Vietnam on Christmas day, a soldier loosened his restraining ropes and drew a cross on the dirt floor of his cell with his boot, then erased it. McCain said this was a defining moment in his faith, as it showed him that two Christians could connect no matter their circumstances.

    This is near identical to a story accredited to a Russian author named Solzhenitsyn in which he's serving in a gulag in Siberia I think. He decides life isn't worth living, so he leaves his labor line and walks over to a beach and sits down in the sand. He knows a guard will come over and shoot him in a head, and he's fine with it. He hears the footsteps and braces himself. But its another prisoner, who draws a cross in the sand and walks away without saying a word. This renewed his faith in God and he found the willpower to survive through the rest of his imprisonment.

    McCain is a huge fan of Solzhenitsyn:

    "In McCain's 2007 book Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them McCain devotes an entire chapter to Solzhenitsyn and his experiences as recounted in The Gulag Archipelago."

    Remember where I said McCain hadn't talked about it until 1999? This is important, because he gave detailed accounts of his capitivity in both 1973 and 1995. In fact, the 1995 interview was about being a POW during Christmas. So it's a little weird that he would leave such an important detail out. Especially one that would mirror an experience had by an author he admired.

    August 20, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  23. What?

    THANK YOU......................Louis August 20th, 2008 5:46 pm ET
    WHEN IS GIULIANI going to reimburse the taxpayers of New York City the $400,000 of extra security he spent to go visit and screw his mistress while his wife was at home with his children? What a scumbag.

    August 20, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  24. non black nonwhite

    anything that comes out of a GOP's mouth will never be the truth!

    You people are sick!

    August 20, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. Unshrub

    How can you trust someone who has been married three times and lived with his girl friend while he was still married? IF the self righteous right was so righteous they would have kicked the Rudy Giuliani out a long time ago. Why listen to his lies.. If his wife can‘t trust a man, who can trust him?

    August 20, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
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