McCain’s Hamas comments, context restored Update: Video context added

posted at 10:28 am on May 16, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Left has had a field day with an expertly-clipped YouTube excerpt from a John McCain interview in January 2006, shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian Authority election. Former Clinton official James Rubin uses it for a dishonest attack on McCain, calling him a hypocrite for tying Barack Obama to Hamas while McCain supposedly supported diplomatic contact with the terrorist group. In doing so, Rubin and McCain’s opponents misrepresent both the Hamas issue and the larger context of McCain’s remarks:

If the recent exchanges between President Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain on Hamas and terrorism are a preview of the general election, we are in for an ugly six months. Despite his reputation in the media as a charming maverick, McCain has shown that he is also happy to use Nixon-style dirty campaign tactics. By charging recently that Hamas is rooting for an Obama victory, McCain tried to use guilt by association to suggest that Obama is weak on national security and won’t stand up to terrorist organizations, or that, as Richard Nixon might have put it, Obama is soft on Israel.

Charging? Hamas came out and stated its support for an Obama victory. It’s not a matter of charging anything, although the relevancy of the comments are certainly debatable. Not only did Hamas endorse Obama, but his chief strategist proclaimed himself “flattered” by the statement from Ahmed Yousef. Obama’s church reproduced pro-Hamas propaganda in its newsletter, and his foreign-policy adviser Robert Malley met with Hamas on several occasions. Malley recently left the campaign, but his pro-Palestinian bent has been noted for months.

Rubin then micharacterizes these comments taken from the YouTube video sweeping the netroots:

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.”

“Deal with them, one way or another” doesn’t mean cutting deals with them; it means acknowledging their presence in the situation. That becomes clear when McCain’s further comments in the same time frame. After Hamas won that election, McCain made clear the conditions for engagement of Hamas in a press release dated 1/26/06:

In the wake of yesterday’s Palestinian elections, Hamas must change itself fundamentally – renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept the two-state solution. These elections are evidence that democracy is indeed spreading in the Middle East, but Hamas is not a partner for peace so long as they advocate the overthrow of Israel.

In an interview with CNN, McCain once again made clear that the US would not negotiate with terrorists, whether they got elected or not:

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’ – and I’m quoting now – ‘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 context here is crystal clear. McCain envisioned a possible change in Hamas from a terrorist group to a legitimate political party, one that recognized Israel and renounced violence. Under those conditions, McCain said that we could engage them in talks designed to establish peace, and only under those conditions. The Bush administration had the same policy at the time. Neither the US nor John McCain supported meeting with Hamas without preconditions, and they certainly didn’t have policy advisers meeting with them while they conducted terrorist attacks and plotted an armed takeover of Gaza.

This attack meme demonstrates a breathtaking bit of intellectual dishonesty. We expect that from the hard Left. Coming from the Washington Post, even in its opinion section, it disappoints. So much for the layers of fact-checkers and editors. And now that our friends on the Left have acknowledged the terrorist status of Hamas, can they explain Malley’s presence on the Obama campaign for months while his connections to Hamas were fairly well known?

Update: Here’s a video of McCain on CNN the same day as the other YouTubed video, making the distinction very clearly (note the same exact clothing):


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Every day they keep the Obama Hamas story in the headlines is a good day for McCain. Period.

funky chicken on May 16, 2008 at 10:32 AM

Take a look at the picture and see where McCain was when he said this…Davos, Switzerland. I find McCain’s participation in the this organization troubling.

Red Pill on May 16, 2008 at 10:36 AM

The context here is crystal clear. McCain envisioned a possible change in Hamas from a terrorist group to a legitimate political party, one that recognized Israel and renounced violence. Under those conditions, McCain said that we could engage them in talks designed to establish peace, and only under those conditions. The Bush administration had the same policy at the time. Neither the US nor John McCain supported meeting with Hamas without preconditions, and they certainly didn’t have policy advisers meeting with them while they conducted terrorist attacks and plotted an armed takeover of Gaza.

Why am I not surprised that the context was taken out of his statements?

I kind of hoped that Hamas would change to a political party at some point. Something akin to Menachem Begin and the Irgun in Israel. But nope, still a bunch of terrorist thugs.

No negotiating with terrorist thugs. Sorry, Hamas people.

mjk on May 16, 2008 at 10:38 AM

I absolutely believe that McCain will talk to Hamas, right after the 100 years of war are over.

Limerick on May 16, 2008 at 10:40 AM

The context here is crystal clear. McCain envisioned a possible change in Hamas from a terrorist group to a legitimate political party, one that recognized Israel and renounced violence. Under those conditions, McCain said that we could engage them in talks designed to establish peace, and only under those conditions.

Doesn’t matter now.

The damage is done. From the people on the left who did this and their followers who now believe the lie – and also to the right, who are all too willingly driven further from McCain.

At least the left’s ‘operation chaos’ doesn’t work on me. And I hope this doesn’t work on other level headed conservatives who don’t want Obama to be the next president. Because this – all of this – is what everything here comes down to.

wise_man on May 16, 2008 at 10:43 AM

McCain SHOULD drop his “climate change”, Guantanamo closing, interrogation talks & stick with Obama & his terrorism-handling tactics, until the election.
Emphasize that removing Saddam Hussain was the best thing, unlike what Barak Hussain Obama wished.

Anita on May 16, 2008 at 10:44 AM

Mark Halperin:

Update: White House adviser Ed Gillespie tells reporters he’s “surprised and curious” Bush’s comment was assumed to reference Obama.

Indeed.

amerpundit on May 16, 2008 at 10:49 AM

You’re not going to “get” McCain on an issue like this. It’s not political bullshit, it’s honestly how he feels. No negotiating with bastards like Hamas unless they capitulate first.

Dash on May 16, 2008 at 10:53 AM

Obama is trying to figure out a way to get Wright front and center again.

awake on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

I thank President Bush for starting this conversation and emphasizing the need NOT to talk to our enemies. McCain needs to be more boisterous and exclaim the idiocy of Barack Hussein Obama’s intent to talk to evil-doers. McCain should pretend he is talking with a republican. Maybe that will create the spark.

jencab on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Right, Ed, Bush’s foreign policies have been such a success in the last eight years that I’m sure the next sane President will want to continue them. (sarcasm).

And Amerpundit, the Bush White House staff were telling reporters yesterday that Bush’s comments were directed at Carter and Obama. Then they realized that it didn’t look too good for a President in a foreign country to be critizing someone in the US and changed their tune.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Hamas Endorses Obama

Obama loses his bearings.

Chakra Hammer on May 16, 2008 at 10:55 AM

Honesty was never a strong Rubin suit.

drjohn on May 16, 2008 at 10:59 AM

Ed–You are spinning this and losing.

There’s nothing in the press release from 1/26/06 that in any way indicates this change was required as a condition to restarting discussions. And there’s nothing in the CNN quote to say that their renouncing the goal of extinquishing the state of Israel was a precondition to discussions. Indeed, it seems like their relinquishing that goal was only needed to start receiving aid and to bringing them into formal disussions on the peace process.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:00 AM

We can expect more of this. Democrat ideology is, shall we say, orthogonal to reality. This problem has plagued leftists from Stalin to Chairman Mao. Now, since they can’t change reality, leftists deconstruct the narrative. Again, this has been in the playbook for decades.

The simple minded — i.e., most democrats — don’t get the strategy, but they don’t need to. It’s all “hey rube, pay no attention to what Senator McCain said, pay attention to what we say he said. Most of them drink it right up.

jeff_from_mpls on May 16, 2008 at 11:01 AM

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

The Associated Press, May 15th:

In turn, White House press secretary Dana Perino denied that the Knesset remark was aimed at Obama. In fact, the language is fairly typical for Bush speeches, and Gordon Johndroe, a national security spokesman for the president, said Bush was referring to “a wide range of people who have talked to or suggested we talk to Hamas, Hezbollah or their state sponsors” over a long period of time.

One such person most recently was former President Carter, who held talks with Hamas leaders, leading to criticism from Bush officials as well as Obama and McCain.

Then they realized that it didn’t look too good for a President in a foreign country to be critizing someone in the US and changed their tune.

But if a top U.S. Senator rips the sitting President in Switzerland in front of a former Iranian President, that’s OK, right?

amerpundit on May 16, 2008 at 11:02 AM

Red Pill on May 16, 2008 at 10:36 AM

I find the fact that the nurses at the asylum let you near a computer troubling.

Squid Shark on May 16, 2008 at 11:03 AM

And there’s nothing in the CNN quote to say that their renouncing the goal of extinquishing the state of Israel was a precondition to discussions.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:00 AM

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.

amerpundit on May 16, 2008 at 11:03 AM

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Awww, wuzzums widdle feewings hurt when mean old Mister Bush said something in Israel like your beloved Dixie Chicks said in Britain?

Sekhmet on May 16, 2008 at 11:04 AM

Democrats regularly trash our country from foreign forums. Trashing Bush from every forum has become a way of life for the leftist dinosaurs that dominate the democratic party. Truth to these demagogues is not whether some thing is true or not, but what they want it to be.

volsense on May 16, 2008 at 11:04 AM

It’s not a matter of charging anything, although the relevancy of the comments are certainly debatable.

Mark Lamont Hill said the same thing yesterday. It completely blew his argument that Obama as POTUS should talk to Iran. You can’t have it both ways. Talking to Islamic fanatics is appeasement, no matter where they are located.

Connie on May 16, 2008 at 11:07 AM

Resuming the peace process is the formal multiparty discussions. There’s nothing in McCain’s statement to suggest he wouldn’t have had informal discussions without preconditions beforehand, just like Condi Rice is apparently doing with other Axis members.

And it was all over MSNBC how the Bush White House changed it’s tune yesterday. Perhaps Dana is a liar.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:08 AM


And it was all over MSNBC
how the Bush White House changed it’s tune yesterday. Perhaps Dana is a liar.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Maybe they were quoting a parody site as an official statement from the White House…again.

amerpundit on May 16, 2008 at 11:09 AM

What I don’t get is why Obama doesn’t get more scrutiny over his reasons for having “direct Presidential diplomacy without preconditions” with the tyrants that rule Iran, North Korea etc but won’t apply that type of diplomacy with Hamas.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/04/obama-draws-line-on-negot_n_89766.html

Barack Obama – who has said repeatedly that America must meet with its enemies, including the tyrants who lead Iran, North Korea and Cuba – drew the line yesterday in refusing to talk with Hamas.

“They’re not heads of state. They don’t recognize Israel,” Obama told reporters. “You can’t negotiate with somebody who doesn’t recognize the right of a country to exist.”

But Hamas won parliamentary elections and currently rule over Gaza. They don’t accept Israel’s right to exist just like Iran. Yet Obama is willing to personally sit down with Ahmadinejad but not Hamas. Why?

gumble on May 16, 2008 at 11:14 AM

Yet Obama is willing to personally sit down with Ahmadinejad but not Hamas. Why?

gumble on May 16, 2008 at 11:14 AM

Because he’s a duplicitous rookie politician, with no actual knowledge of what he’s doing, enabled by a media that should be vetting him rather than cannonizing him.

techno_barbarian on May 16, 2008 at 11:19 AM

And it was all over MSNBC how the Bush White House changed it’s tune yesterday. Perhaps Dana is a liar.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:08 AM

And you believe MSNBC ?

Johan Klaus on May 16, 2008 at 11:55 AM

Do you believe Fox and Roll Call (from yesterday)?

“MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think, on the merit, the Democrats ought to win. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Nancy Pelosi. This was an outrageous performance on the part of the president.

In another country, observing Israel’s 60th anniversary, to start playing domestic politics–

HUME: What did he say here that referred to Obama?

KONDRACKE: Oh, come on–it didn’t. but we know from Wendell Goler that White House aides said that he was including Obama in this statement.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 12:00 PM

And Amerpundit, the Bush White House staff were telling reporters yesterday that Bush’s comments were directed at Carter and Obama. Then they realized that it didn’t look too good for a President in a foreign country to be critizing someone in the US and changed their tune.
jim m on May 16, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Personally I could give a rats azz if Bush’s comments were directed at Obama, Carter, both, or neither because the bottom line is what Bush said was true and history has proven his point over and over again.

So regardless of who Bush was directing is comments to it’s a great reminder to all that when we forget our past we a doomed to repeat it as well as to warn us of the dangers of appeasement!

As someone once said (can’t remember the author’s name sorry) “appeasement is merely fear disguised as peace.”

Liberty or Death on May 16, 2008 at 12:18 PM

That didn’t take long…

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D90MPHOO1&show_article=1

drjohn on May 16, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Right, Liberty or Death. So why is Condi Rice talking to the Axis of Evil? And tell me again how successful Bush’s foreign policy has been?

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 12:22 PM

McCain’s spokesperson just acknowledged in a backhanded way that McCain would hold informal talks without preconditions.
See below. Look at his weasel word “serious”.
————————————————–

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said Friday that McCain has long said he would impose pre-conditions before meeting with Hamas or other radical groups and leaders.

“There should be no confusion, John McCain has always believed that SERIOUS [emphasis added] 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,” Bounds said in a statement.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Controversy Side-issue about the statement aside, what did Bush say that ISN’T true? Obama is for appeasement. He DOES want to sit down and sip tea with Madman Ahmadinejad. Obama is trying to spin this as “I won’t negotiate with terrorists,” failing to realize that Madman IS a terrorist. He may be the Iranian President, but he’s absolutely a terrorist as well, and Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, not to mention the nation fighting a proxy war against the US in Iraq *and* in Lebanon.

And as I write this, Obama is repeating Rubin’s LIE about McCain and Hamas. HAHAHAHAHA What a f*cktard. What a LIAR. He’s yapping about 100 years, too! LOL!

Biggest liar ever to ask for the job. Worse than Slick Willie and Shrillary, even. Everything that comes out of Obama’s mouth is a moonbat lie.

bamapachyderm on May 16, 2008 at 12:30 PM

Personally I could give a rats azz if Bush’s comments were directed at Obama, Carter, both, or neither because the bottom line is what Bush said was true and history has proven his point over and over again.

AMEN.

bamapachyderm on May 16, 2008 at 12:31 PM

Listening to Obama’s speech. Guess he didn’t get the update. Or the one on the 100 years either. It would be nice if someone clued him into the fact that you don’t end a war. A war ends. Because someone loses.

Connie on May 16, 2008 at 12:32 PM

Well, old BO is still pushing the same bold faced lie as another pitiful meme that will triumph because Barry is so inspiring

Squid Shark on May 16, 2008 at 12:36 PM

because Barry is so inspiring

Squid Shark on May 16, 2008 at 12:36 PM

Only to the brain dead.

Connie on May 16, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Several of the responders to this thread highlight the total insanity associated with terminal BDS. A world-class example of the cognitive damage associated with this self inflicted condition can be found when examining the following response to McCain’s statement in the text of this post:

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 11:00 AM

There’s nothing in the press release from 1/26/06 that in any way indicates this change was required as a condition to restarting discussions

McCains statement:

“In the wake of yesterday’s Palestinian elections, Hamas must change itself fundamentally – renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept the two-state solution.”

Apparently any assumed definition of the word change as used in both sentences is predicted by ones political perspective!

All Hail the Messiah!

dmann on May 16, 2008 at 1:00 PM

Note the “required as a condition” language?

Sorry, boys, if McCain wasn’t willing to informally talk to these people without conditions, then why did his press secretary need to distinguish between serious and not-so-serious engagements? And why is Condi Rice talking to North Korea and others?

The only total insanity here is your inability to read basic English, dmann.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 1:17 PM

dmann on May 16, 2008 at 1:00 PM

BDS was the strawman for Change.

Connie on May 16, 2008 at 1:23 PM

Two more examples of the White House initially targeting Obama with the speech, contrary to what they are now saying.
————————
NBC (John Yang): Speaking on background, a senior administration official says the president’s language to anyone — the official specifically mentioned Obama and former President Jimmy Carter’s suggestion that the U.S. talk to Hamas — who has suggested engaging with rogue states or terrorist groups without first getting some leverage.

CNN (Ed Henry): While the words Barack Obama were never used White House aides privately admit the President referring not just to Barack Obama but other Democrats like Jimmy Carter, for example, who has recently suggested himself has sat down with Hamas leaders and has suggested that the U.S. government to should sit down with Hamas. So, the inference is clear. Although the President didn’t name names, administration officials are privately acknowledging this was a shot at Barack Obama and other Democrats.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 2:00 PM

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Yo jimmah….you can hide behind asinine nuanced interpretations of “required as a condition” all you want and drag Bush into a discussion on McCain and Hamas but the plain truth is McCain said he would be open to talks with Hamas only when Hamas changes its stated goals and actions against Israel. That sounds like a precondition to me, but then again I no habla so good! Carry on sky pilot!

dmann on May 16, 2008 at 2:04 PM

Connie on May 16, 2008 at 12:55 Pm

Welcome to America

Squid Shark on May 16, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Ah, Dmann, where did McCain say that?

“In the wake of yesterday’s Palestinian elections, Hamas must change itself fundamentally – renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept the two-state solution. These elections are evidence that democracy is indeed spreading in the Middle East, but Hamas is not a partner for peace [NOTE: NOT TALK TO] so long as they advocate the overthrow of Israel.”

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Obama just said in a press appearance in South Dakota that he would meet directly with Iran.

He would….it’s shameful to say he would….and now, yes, he would/can/whatever.

huh?

funky chicken on May 16, 2008 at 3:09 PM

Nuance.

Typhonsentra on May 16, 2008 at 3:43 PM

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said Friday that McCain has long said he would impose pre-conditions before meeting with Hamas or other radical groups and leaders.

“There should be no confusion, John McCain has always believed that SERIOUS [emphasis added] 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,” Bounds said in a statement.

jim m on May 16, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Are you able to read with comprehension?
“…serious engagement would require mandatory conditions…”

onlineanalyst on May 16, 2008 at 7:19 PM

And why is Condi Rice talking to North Korea and others?

Condi Rice is NOT the president. Is she perhaps aetting the pre-conditions?

Biden’s remark in the Newsbuster link above is equally misleading. Were there no pre-conditions set before the meetings he cites? Also, did the president personally engage in these meetings?

onlineanalyst on May 16, 2008 at 7:27 PM