Rubin interviewed McCain two years ago for Sky News, a British network. At that interview, Rubin writes in today's Washington Post, he asked this of the presumptive GOP nominee: "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?"
Here, per Rubin's column, is McCain's answer: "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."
McCain now criticizes Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama for his professed willingness to negotiate with so-called "rogue" leaders like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggesting it reflects a "naiveté and inexperience and lack of judgment." In response to Rubin's column noting McCain's apparent willingness to negotiate with the militant Palestinian group, the McCain campaign released this statement, from spokesman Tucker Bounds:
"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."
The Rubin column comes on the heals of President Bush's comment, before the Israel Knesset, that "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." The president compared people who want to sit down with rogue leaders to those who wanted to engage in talks with Nazis in 1939, citing "the false comfort of appeasement." Though he did not mention Obama or other Democrats by name, the Democratic frontrunner and other Democrats responded to the comments with outrage.
In an interview with CNN quoted by the Associated Press, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, a former Democratic presidential candidate, suggested that the Bush administration is itself engaged in hypocrisy on the issue, having negotiated with leaders in North Korea and Libya.
"This is pure hypocrisy, but the worst part about it is, think how it falls on the ears in capitals of Europe and the rest of the world and Toyko when the president of the United States says under no condition will we talk to anybody like that, and John McCain, the nominee for the Republican Party, who may very well be president of the United States, is saying the same thing," Biden said.