There they go again. The old John McCain would just admit he changed his position and move on. But the new John McCain campaign is incapable of that. Instead, they are reverting to an attack on the messenger.
The question and answer I released yesterday was a full question and a full answer. Nothing was left out of the question or the answer. Nothing is taken out of context. But in order to avoid further controversy and distraction, I have dug out what I believe to be all of the discussion on Hamas during our interview. The full interview is in a DVD being shipped to me. But a British journalist transcribed what she said was all of the discussion of Hamas. Here it is:
Rubin: Do you think the American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?
McCain: They are 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 have such antipathy towards Hamas - it is because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse to but practise, 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 never gave them that.
Rubin: Should the US be dealing with the new reality through normal diplomatic contact to get the job done for the United States?
McCain: I think the US should take a step back and see what they do when they form the government, see what their policies are and see the ways in which we can engage with them and if there aren't any then there may be a hiatus but I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the US acts."
Then I go on to ask him about his statement that the only thing worse than using force against Iran is an Iranian nuclear weapon. That's another story altogether.
As you can see, there is no conditionality in any of his answers. Nowhere does he say what Senator Clinton and Senator Obama say: that is, Hamas has to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and accept the previous agreements of the Palestinian authority before we could deal with them. Instead, Senator McCain is talking about engagement with Hamas and how it could come about.
I remember at the time being struck by how unusual his response was for an American politician. European politicians say that sort of thing all the time. And that's why I dug out the question and answer after McCain declared that Hamas is rooting for Barack Obama and that he would be their nightmare.
The reality is that in Davos Senator McCain was expressing the views of the realist camp in the Republican Party. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a close friend of the Senator, has said directly that we should engage with Hamas in an interview with National Public Radio last year. In Davos, we saw the charming maverick that the Washington Press Corps are so fond of. But last week we saw the other McCain, the one who would attack Senator Obama in a crude and unacceptable way. When called on it, instead of admitting that he changed his mind, the McCain campaign is determined to continue the politics of personal destruction.
There is a war going on in Iraq. This fall's election will be a virtual referendum on the war. That is a real issue. Instead of debating that, President Bush and Senator McCain are determined to attack the character of their political opponents. As a Democrat, I am tired of having our patriotism attacked. Yesterday, the Democratic Party leaders were unified in denouncing these kinds of attacks. Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Joe Biden and the Majority Leader Harry Reid all spoke in unison to defend Senator Obama.
So I say to the McCain campaign, just admit the truth, either he made a mistake or he changed his mind, then let us return to debating the issues as Americans.