McCain’s Hamas ‘Hypocrisy’

Jamie Rubin, formerly Bill Clinton’s State Department spokesman, takes to the pages of the Washington Post to call out John McCain for hypocrisy in claiming that Barack Obama wants to “appease” Hamas. Riffing on John Kerry’s famous gaffe, the piece is subtitled, “McCain Was for Talking Before He Was Against It.”

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.”

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.

The comments from both McCain and President Bush about Obama wanting to “appease” Hamas are, at best, rather silly. Using words of praise from Hamas leaders against Obama is within the bounds of political give and take but it’s not helpful in illuminating policy differences.

In McCain’s defense, though, the facts on the ground have changed rather dramatically, making the “hypocrisy” charges questionable. Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led government last June. Thus, the premise of McCain’s 2006 comments — that we simply have to deal with the Palestinian government, like it or not — has been obviated.

Of course, one could apply that same argument to Iran and Cuba and McCain doesn’t take the logic that far.

UPDATE: Much more from Jim Geraghty who correctly notes that even McCain’s 2006 statements on the subject were much more nuanced than Rubin suggests.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Heads you win, tails I lose. The dilemma is a great one. If you never change your position regardless of changing events you’re delusional or just plain pigheaded. If you do change your position in response to changing events, it’s hypocrisy or you’re a flip-flopper. It’s perfect.

  2. Richard Jacobs says:

    Do you think that politicians like McCain forget that what they said in the past has been recorded so that anyone who cares to can see that he is a hypocrite or a liar? Or is it that they think the American people are just to stupid to see that they are liars and hypocrites?

  3. Bithead says:

    Balony.
    This is not about McCain, and Obama knows it, and so do the remaining Democrats, which is why wee were treated yesterday to Hilly Clinton rising to Obama’s defense.

    Obama has been making it a centerpiece of his foreign policy on the campaign trail, (And much admired by the Koom-By-Ya leftist moonbats) …he cannot now separate himself from his proposals, without being exposed as the liar he is.

    This trying to turn the charge back on McCain strikes me as a dorwning man flaing around for anything that’s gonna float.

    And lest we forget, there’s a major difference between calling for ‘dealing with Hamas’ and calling for talking to them unconditionally, as the Dems have been insisting on.

    Further comments.

  4. Bithead says:

    Using words of praise from Hamas leaders against Obama is within the bounds of political give and take but it’s not helpful in illuminating policy differences

    The hell it’s not.
    James, why would Hamas be heaping priase on Obama if not for Obama represengting and promoting a policy favorable to their goals?

  5. spencer says:

    A major reason the Cold War ended peacefully without a shooting war between the USSR and the US is that Ronald Reagan talked and negotiated with the Soviet leaders and at times gave them support in their domestic struggles.

    Bush and McCain are calling Ronald Reagan an appeaser and traitor.

    Nancy Reagan should demand an apology.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Comparing the Soviets to Hamas is really a stretch. These are very different situations. We must also realize that in the two years since McCain made that statement the understanding of how Hamas would govern and how it would treat it’s relationship with Israel has become more clear. Until they mature as a government (and a people) we have no reason to negotiate with them.

  7. cian says:

    All this is enormously helpful to Obama and the Dems. The appeasement insult was used in 2002, 2004 and 2006. It no longer works and only serves to remind the electorate that McCain and the republican party have nothing left to offer, no new ideas and no fresh approaches.

  8. Bithead says:

    Comparing the Soviets to Hamas is really a stretch

    Perhaps. But it’s remember too, that the negotiation was from a position of strength following an arms buildup that the USSR couldn’t keep up with. Let’s also remember within that context, that Reagan’s ‘negotation’ involved use of the phrase “we begin bombing in five minutes’.

    And finally, let’s remember Jimmy Carter and his dealings with Iran, while dealing from weakness caused by years of military cuts and while hamstrung by his own pacifist worldview.

    There is perhaps not a starker contrast out there.

  9. Bithead says:

    no new ideas and no fresh approaches

    So, appeasement is a new approach?

  10. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    You, James need to read all of what McCain said at the time concerning Hamas. What the liar Rubin cherry picked leaves out the real deal. Bush did not mention the name Obama in his speech. I thought of Carter when I heard the speech. Guess if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one you hit is the one that yelps.

  11. mkultra says:

    “The hell it’s not.
    James, why would Hamas be heaping priase on Obama if not for Obama represengting and promoting a policy favorable to their goals?”

    Simple. Hamas is not stupid. They know that supporting Obama hurts Obama domestically and helps McCain. Therefore, they support Obama.

    Of course, you probably think that because they are brown people they haven’t figured this out.

  12. sam says:

    So, appeasement is a new approach?

    I tell you what, Bit, why don’t you go over and read Brooks’s column in today’s NYT (he interviewed Obama last Tuesday) and see if your opinion changes.

    On second thought, nevermind. No matter what he says, you’ll say he is lying.

  13. cian says:

    So, appeasement is a new approach?

    Only in the weird and wonderfully unreal world of the 28 percenters does diplomacy equal appeasement.

    Outside of that shrinking group, the country is readying itself for change. Eight years of incompetence and corruption has taken a huge toll on the nation. The only light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel is the fact that the republican party has destroyed its brand and will not be trusted with power for a very long time.

  14. Bithead says:

    I tell you what, Bit, why don’t you go over and read Brooks’s column in today’s NYT (he interviewed Obama last Tuesday) and see if your opinion changes.

    I already had read it before I said anything at all on the matter. Read the comments at my site, and you’ll notice that the pin Obama’s trying to dance on defnitionally, is far too narrow to support him.

  15. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Sam, do you mean what he says this week, or next week? We are getting off track here. What Jamie Rubin wrote is only a partial truth. What McCain said in that statement was in essence Hamas had to change its political goals and concede Israels right to exist and co-exist with Israel. When and if they were willing to do so, he would advocate talking with them. If not, he would not deal with them whether or not they were elected. If the article by Rubin is left unchallenged, it becomes truth to the left, kind of like Bush lied about WMD. There are shills out there already making the case on news programs that are spreading this BS. I wonder how many more people on Obamas campaign staff will have to be let go because of their political leanings. Malloy favored the Palistinians over Israel. Since B. Hussein wants the Jewish vote, he must throw Malloy, a college chum, under the bus along with, well that list is growing.

  16. Bithead says:

    Only in the weird and wonderfully unreal world of the 28 percenters does diplomacy equal appeasement.

    Rather depends on who you’re engaging in diplomacy with.

    Simple. Hamas is not stupid. They know that supporting Obama hurts Obama domestically and helps McCain. Therefore, they support Obama.

    Ladies and gents, I give you Elsati-boy. Able to stretch to meet any convoluted line of ‘reasoning’.

    Of course, you probably think that because they are brown people they haven’t figured this out.

    So, because I don’t agree with your read, it’s because I’m a racist? Figures it’d be you to come up with this one, MK. You’re dismssed.

  17. Bithead says:

    By the way, MK, does this mean you’re a McCain supporter, because you mouth the talking points of the far left all the time?

  18. duckspeaker says:

    Only in the weird and wonderfully unreal world of the 28 percenters does diplomacy equal appeasement.

    Well said. It’s about time America stopped acting like a pouting toddler on the world’s stage. To resolve the root issues that produce terrorism and nuclear proliferation, we’re probably going to have to talk to other countries like adults, even if their stated aims are opposed to ours.

    To achieve a resolution in the I/P conflict, we’re going to have to have all parties at the table. Unless and until we have a framework in place for a solution, we’re going to be glossing over the main impetus for the recruitment and deployment of terrorists that wish to do us enough harm so that we change our long term policies in the Middle East.

    The “28 percenters,” as you mention, can keep believing that al-Qaeda et al are blowing themselves up because they hate our BBQ, our Christian crosses, and our voting rights, but the rest of the country (hopefully) is now ready to move on to more rational thinking.

  19. Bithead says:

    Well said. It’s about time America stopped acting like a pouting toddler on the world’s stage. To resolve the root issues that produce terrorism and nuclear proliferation, we’re probably going to have to talk to other countries like adults, even if their stated aims are opposed to ours.

    Two words:

    Jimmy Carter.

    (Fade to black)

  20. duckspeaker says:

    Two words:

    Jimmy Carter.

    Three letters, one punctuation mark, and a number:

    WMD?

    4,077

  21. anjin-san says:

    You’re dismssed.

    Ummmm…. Bevis?

  22. anjin-san says:

    Until they mature as a government (and a people) we have no reason to negotiate with the

    Why not try and help them to mature as a government and a people? We are the world superpower, why not display some leadership? It’s more complicated and has less instant gratification than dropping bombs, but if our long term goal is peace, let’s try and help the process along.

    What we are doing not is saying we won’t talk to you and we publicly refer to you as barbarians and animals… How exactly is that supposed to produce a good result?

  23. Steve Plunk says:

    Anjin-san,

    How do we help a society trained as murderers from childhood become more mature and responsible? Serious question, what would you have us do? Do we continue on such a path as they rain down rockets on Israeli towns? If they send suicide bombers to we even postpone talks?

    The United States displays leadership every day and waits for the rest of the world to follow but so far there are few takers. The problem is them, not us.

  24. duckspeaker says:

    The problem is them, not us.

    I’m sure “they” would say the same thing.

    Let me say that no one can justify murdering innocents. Ever. Keeping that in mind, it is imperative to understand that “their” attacks are motivated by issues.

    Folks like to oversimplify things by slapping a label like “evil” or “insane” on the terrorism problem and then moving on. Things aren’t that simple.

    For right or wrong, al Qaeda is motivated by the I/P issue, U.S. support of tyrannical (they would say un-Islamic) regimes in the Middle East, and U.S. interventionism and for that matter, troop presence, in the Middle East. Until we understand this, we’re not going to win the War on Terror.

    The I/P issue is central to American interests, as it is the main motivator for Islamic extremists. Resolving this issue will take dialogue with all parties. We ought to elect a president that understands this dynamic.

  25. I’m sure “they” would say the same thing.

    Sure, but so what, unless you buy into the postmodern conclusion that there is no moral high ground. Sometimes you make things a lot more complicated than they really are. And finally, maybe we actually do have a president that understands the I/P dynamic, or at least the part where we will stand with the only democracy in the region and against the regimes who say they want to wipe them from the face of the earth.

  26. anjin-san says:

    The United States displays leadership every day

    You mean like the leadership we displayed by starting a war with Iraq, a nation that did not threaten us? Don’t you suppose there are thousand of people in Iraq who have family members, innocent who were simply trying to live their lives, who have been killed in our war.. maybe they think we are the murders.

    We badly need to try to look at problem areas in the world through the eyes of all parties involved. This does not mean we have to accept or condone the actions take by people like Hamas, but we should try to understand where they are coming from.

    Remember Viet Nam Steve? How many people did we kill there? Over a million? Did North Vietnam threaten America? I think not. There was no freedom or democracy to protect in South Vietnam, just a dictator that was a useful proxy for us. Why do we get to kill with moral impunity?

    I don’t think we want to travel down Israel’s road. They have overwhelming military superiority, and the willingness to use it. They also have no peace and little security. Let’s take to our adversaries, meanwhile keeping our powder dry.

  27. anjin-san says:

    Sure, but so what, unless you buy into the postmodern conclusion that there is no moral high ground.

    Oh, there is moral high ground. Unfortunately, the Bush administration abandoned it. We cannot reclaim it just by putting on lapel pins.

  28. Bithead says:

    WMD?

    Syria.

  29. duckspeaker says:

    Sure, but so what, unless you buy into the postmodern conclusion that there is no moral high ground.

    I didn’t claim that Hamas or al Qaeda are on the same moral footing as the U.S. My point is simple: that the aforementioned terrorists are motivated by issues rather than insanity or hatred for freedom, and that this matters. Let me flowchart it:

    I/P Issue
    |
    –> Muslim resentment
    |
    –> Reaction in the form of terror attacks, due to the fact that these goups have next to no technological/military capabilities, and this is the only way to possible achieve their policy aims.

    It is NOT as simple as:

    BBQ/Voting Booths –> 9/11

    This misunderstanding is dangerous, as it leads to errors in judgment, like starting unnecessary wars and not speaking to the only parties that can possibly contribute to solving the underlying policy disputes.

  30. Bithead says:

    Why not try and help them to mature as a government and a people? We are the world superpower, why not display some leadership?

    And whose leadership would you say meets the need?

  31. anjin-san says:

    And whose leadership would you say meets the need?

    I would start with Norway…

  32. G.A.Phillips says:

    A major reason the Cold War ended peacefully without a shooting war between the USSR and the US is that Ronald Reagan talked and negotiated with the Soviet leaders and at times gave them support in their domestic struggles.

    you could reason with them, you can’t reason with the true believer of the Islamic faith, plus Reagan had 10’s of thousands and nuclear missiles pointed at them and was not afraid to use them, plus he spent them into the ground with s.d.i. so you could not be more wrong, and I think you owe Bush and McCain an apology because their doing much of the same thing, except talking to them because they are smart enough to know it won’t do any good.

  33. Bithead says:

    I would start with Norway…

    LOL!
    Who have led the world in what, exactly?

  34. anjin-san says:

    LOL!
    Who have led the world in what, exactly?

    Bit, do you actually revel in your ignorance? I mean 3 minutes on Google would give you some answers.

    Norway is among the world leaders in GDP per capita, literacy, longevity and standard of living. They also don’t start wars, and they have a smoking jazz scene.

  35. anjin-san says:

    Oh, and here is Bush/s own SecDef talking about Iran:

    We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with respect to the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them. If there’s going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can’t go to a discussion and be completely the demander with them not feeling that they need anything from us.

    Why is this appeaser not in irons?

  36. Bithead says:

    Norway is among the world leaders in GDP per capita, literacy, longevity and standard of living. They also don’t start wars, and they have a smoking jazz scene.

    All of those are interesting yet unavailing.
    Tell me; How many Mexicans are hopping the fence into the place?
    Only partially tounge in cheek of course. People are not exactly breaking down the doors to get into the place, including your marvelously testy self, Anjin… when you get a handle on why that might be, if they’re really so much better there, get back to us.

  37. anjin-san says:

    Bit you are the one that said claiming Norway is a leader in anything is laughable. I proved you wrong. Take it like a man and don’t try to put words in my mouth.

    I make no claim that they are “so much better than us”. It’s possible to love America, and still be realistic about its shortcomings, and try to work to overcome them.

    Probably not possible for you, but possible.

  38. Bithead says:

    I had thought the obvious challange was ‘anything of consequence’. By that measure, you failed. Clearly, the obvious gets by you, and I sould be more explicit.