John McCain: For Talking to Hamas Before He Was Against It
In what could prove to be a damaging moment for the McCain campaign, Former Clinton Administration State Department spokesman James Rubin has written an op-ed highlighting an interview he conducted with McCain a few years ago for Sky News in the UK. In the interview, conducted shortly after Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections, the following exchange occurred:
[Rubin] 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.”
Here is the video of the interview:
There are a couple of striking things about this revelation.
1) McCain’s charge today that Barack Obama’s willingness to meet with foreign dictators is a sign of naivete and unfitness for office looks like pure hypocrisy. Ironically enough, Barack Obama has actually drawn the line at Hamas, refusing to go along with Jimmy Carter. Obama will only meet with Hamas after they renounce terrorism and their commitment to the destruction of Israel. McCain now has egg on his face for supporting negotiations in the past that he now opposes.
It isn’t like the situation between Hamas and Israel is substantively different now than two years ago either. Hamas is just as dangerous to Israel now as then. The only difference seems to be that John McCain thought he could skewer Barack Obama for his support for diplomacy. It looks like McCain skewered himself.
2) Another striking aspect of McCain’s comments is his seeming rationalization for Hamas’ election. McCain sympathizes with the Hamas voter, it seems, citing the Palestinians’ desperation for prosperity and security that Fatah could not deliver. Well, Fatah may not have been able to deliver it, but that doesn’t mean Hamas was the answer.
If the McCain of 2008 had answered James Rubin’s question he would have said, “No, we will not treat Hamas diplomatically the way we did Palestinian governments of the past. Hamas is a terrorist organization and until they renounce terrorism and recognize Israel we have nothing to negotiate with them.”
Instead, McCain cited the “new reality in the Middle East,” and the need to “deal with [Hamas] one way or another.” And the context of the interview clearly suggests that McCain did not mean dealing with Hamas through force.
It seems the only new reality John McCain faces is his own hypocrisy.