Twenty-four hours after CNN started giving covering fire for Barack Obama in response to President Bush’s "appeasement" remark, the network has now aided the Democratic spin machine in attacking John McCain as a hypocrite with regards to Hamas, based on a 2006 video clip provided by Clinton adviser James Rubin. In the excerpt, the Arizona Senator appeared to be endorsing negiotiations with the terror group. But CNN conducted its own interview of McCain at the same time, January 28, 2006, in which he insisted that Hamas "renounce this commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel. Then we can do business again." So CNN is trusting Rubin as the authority on what McCain’s stance was two years ago, instead of their own archival video [see video clip below]
UPDATE, 6:30PM ET: National Review's The Corner has a post up indicating that the full Rubin-McCain interview from 2006 also seriously undercuts Rubin's claims of hypocrisy.
CNN substitute co-host Kyra Phillips, in a segment that included a "breaking news" graphic, interviewed Rubin, who himself conducted an interview of the Arizona Senator in 2006 for Sky News. Rubin used a clip from this interview (which is being hosted on the liberal "Huffington Post" website) to charge that McCain has performed "the ultimate flip-flop in American politics," that the senator once wanted to deal with Hamas without preconditions, and has now taken the opposite position.
The interview of Rubin, which began 13 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour of Friday’s "American Morning," began with Phillips playing a clip of President Bush’s "appeasement" remark. She then remarked that "John McCain piled on more, attacking Barack Obama for saying he would talk to U.S. enemies and consistently points out that Hamas, a militant organization, endorses Obama's candidacy. But there's word this morning that McCain actually hasn't been consistent in his opposition to Hamas."
After asking Rubin to comment on the President’s speech, Phillips asked the former Clinon State Department spokesman, "[W]e see John McCain responding yesterday, the new John McCain. But there's an old John McCain that we discovered, and that comes from an interview you did when you were working with Sky News in 2006, I believe, correct?" After Rubin confirmed this, Phillips played the clip of McCain supposedly endorsing negotiating with Hamas. In it, McCain stated that "[t]hey [Hamas] are the government and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another. And I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas is because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espoused but practice. But it is a new reality in the Middle East."
Rubin called McCain’s supposed position then versus his position now "the ultimate flip-flop in American politics." He continued:
RUBIN: When he was in Davos amongst the European crowd and I interviewed him there, two years ago, he was talking as if it was appropriate and natural and reasonable to negotiate with Hamas, the new government of the Palestinian territories. And then two years later, he's taking a very, very different position, saying anybody who wants to talk to them is somehow an equivalent to terrorists, smearing people for suggesting that one ought to talk to Hamas, when it was he himself who was prepared to talk to Hamas two years ago. And the great irony of all of this is that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama even want to talk to the Hamas government. They both said we shouldn't negotiate with them or deal with them properly until they renounce terrorism in Israel. So John McCain doing this 180-degree flip flop and then attacking Barack Obama for it, it's just the height of hypocrisy.
Philips then brought up how former Secretary of State Colin Powell, during a 2007 interview on NPR -- three years after he left office -- also apparently called for the Bush administration to negotiate with Hamas. In response to this, Rubin continued to spin:
RUBIN: Well, here's the tragedy here. Apparently, it's a fairly acceptable view in the upper reaches of the Republican Party -- Colin Powell, John McCain two years ago -- to negotiate with Hamas, to deal with them as a government. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the Democrats have rejected that. So then this very same candidate, John McCain, takes that argument, turns it on its head, pretends he never said what he said, maybe he forgot, and attacks the Democrats as somehow the friends of terrorists. Maybe this experience, and I hope and I pray, that this experience for John McCain and the Republicans of watching what happens when they try to use these sort of Nixonian campaign tricks will be so bitter for them that we can get back to the real issues. We have a big election coming and a big issue.
Phillips concluded the interview by asking, "So let's get away from the dirty politics and get away from the games on both sides and you think this will eventually or will now bring things back to the issues?" Rubin predicted that the general election in the fall would be a "virtual referendum on Iraq" and that McCain and Bush should just concentrate on that issue.
Absent from this entire discussion was CNN’s own interview from what appears to be the same day in January 2006. CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano introduced the sound bite of McCain: "One prominent senator says it’s an untenable position to have a government in the Middle East led by a group committed to the destruction of its neighbor, Israel." McCain then said in the clip, "Hopefully, that Hamas -- now that they are going to govern, will be motivated to renounce this -- 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. It’s very, very important though that they renounce this commitment."
In both Rubin’s Sky News/Huffington Post video and in CNN’s own interview, McCain wore a red tie and a blue dress shirt underneath a gray scarf and black winter coat. This leads one to conclude that the two interviews were conducted on the same day, raising the question of whether McCain forgot to state his conditions when talking to Rubin -- or whether Rubin left them out of the video he supplied to both Huffington Post and CNN.