McCain the Flip-Flopper

Election '08

Soon after the president told the Israeli Knesset that Democrats are Chamberlain-like appeasers because Obama is prepared to talk to Iran (just as Bush’s own Defense Secretary and Secretary of State have recommended), John McCain jumped on the far-right bandwagon. Aboard his campaign bus, McCain told reporters Obama’s willingness to negotiate with rival heads of state reflects “naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment.�

As it turns out, however, two years ago, McCain was prepared to go even further than Obama. While Obama is willing to try diplomacy with Iran, McCain has expressed interest in possibly even negotiating Hamas.

Jamie Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state, the State Department’s chief spokesman during the Clinton administration, and an active supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has the story.


[G]iven 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.�
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.

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