This morning, the Washington Post published an opinion piece written by Bill Clinton’s assistant secretary of state and chief spokesman for State James Rubin, accusing John McCain of hypocrisy on the issue of negotiating directly and unconditionally with tyrannical rules by citing an interview he did with McCain he did two years ago after Hamas’ parliamentary election victories. He wrote:
I asked: “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?”
McCain answered: “They’re the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, 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, so . . . 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.”
For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that’s a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today.
Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years
Numerous prominent lefty blogs posted about this story as definitive proof that McCain was a hypocrite of the highest order for taking Obama to task on the issue of unconditional negotiations, and Obama himself repeated Rubin’s claims in his speech earlier today. The news mediots, as expected, went wild with it as part of their overall “in the tank for Obama” strategy. It didn’t take long for intrepid bloggers like Ed Morrissey to figure out that McCain’s remarks were severely distorted by Rubin.
Tonight, we learn via video just how distorted Rubin’s portrayal of the interview with McCain actually was:
Here’s the transcript:
Jamie Rubin: “Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have been in the past, in working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is in now charge?”
Sen. John McCain: “They’re the government and sooner or later weâ€˜re going to have to deal with them in one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas is because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse but practice, so, but it’s a new reality in the Middle East. And I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and a decent future then they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.”
Rubin: “So should the United States be dealing with that new reality through normal diplomatic contacts to get the job done for the United States?”
Sen. McCain: “I think the United States should take a step back, see what they do when they form their government, see what their policies are, and see the ways that we can engage with them, and if there aren’t any, there may be a hiatus. But I think part of the relationship is going to be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts.”
McCain also said similarly in an interview with CNN done on the same day:
CNN’S BETTY NGUYEN: ” All right, let’s shift over to the global front. The Bush administration is reviewing all aspects of U.S. aid to the Palestinians now that Hamas has won the elections. And I do have to quote you here. A State Department spokesman did say this: ‘To be very clear’ â€“ and I’m quoting now â€“ ‘we do not provide money to terrorist organizations.’ What does this do to the U.S. relationship with the Palestinians?”
MCCAIN: “Well, 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.”
The dishonesty is breathtaking, and the WaPo should issue a retraction immediately. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know your thoughts.
Barack Obama as well should publicly admit his error in repeating Rubin’s bogus claims – that is, if he’s truly interested in an honest debate, rather than changing the parameters of it like he’s so fond of doing when the going gets a little too tough for Mr. Arrogant Lightweight.