Friday, May 16, 2008

McCain Favored Talks With Hamas In 2006 (UPDATED!)

I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone found something in McCain's past to rebut his claim that Hamas support for Obama was pertinent.

James P. Rubin writes in The Washington Post about an interview he had with McCain in 2006:
But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:
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."
The Huffington Post has the response from the McCain camp:
"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. 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."
Apparently, McCain was talking differently back in 2006 than he is now. Back then, David Bedein wrote Israeli Reporter Challenges McCain To Polygraph Test:
This week, Senator John McCain took heat because of an interview that he granted two years ago to Amir Oren, a credible journalist from the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, on May 1, 2006, in which Mr. McCain declared that his administration "would send "the smartest guy I know" to the Middle East .... "Brent Scowcroft, or Jim Baker though I know that you in Israel don't like Baker."

Mr. McCain added "I would expect concessions and sacrifices by both sides."

When Mr. Oren asked Mr. McCain if that meant a "movement toward the June 4, 1967 armistice lines, with minor modifications? McCain nodded in the affirmative."

To deflect criticism that he has encountered on the 2008 campaign trail, the McCain campaign has been quoting an article by John B. Judis., senior editor at The New Republic who wrote in an article in that publication on October 25, 2006 that Mr. McCain was "miffed at his portrayal in HaAretz," saying that "after reading the HaAretz article and subsequent report in The Jewish Press [in New York]," he felt the need to "clear up several serious misimpressions." Mr. McCain said that "in contrast to the impression left by the HaAretz article, I've never held the position that Israel should return to 1967 lines, and that is not my position today."

The senator repeated this week what he said to the New Republic which was that "in the course of that brief, off-the-cuff conversation, I never discussed settlement blocs, a total withdrawal, or anything of the sort."
Oren stands by his quote of McCain while McCain stands by his denial.
No mention, though, about McCain denying that he would send Scowcroft or Baker to the Middle East.

McCain is entitled to change his mind, but if in fact he has, he has done so in a clumsy way that will only undercut him if he really means to challenge Obama in the way he seems ready to do.

UPDATE: After posting, I saw that Israel Matzav is all over this story--the bigger story being that Rubin's account is inaccurate and the video being offered of McCain's willingness to talk to Hamas has been spliced.

Check out his post.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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