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Bush, Obama, McCain and Hamas

Barack Obama has reacted sharply to some of President Bush’s remarks in a speech Thursday to the Israeli Knesset.

Obama, who has pledged to talk to regimes in Iran, Cuba and North Korea, promptly accused the Bush White House of launching “a false political attack” for suggesting such outreach amounts to appeasing dictators.

In a speech to Israel’s Knesset marking the 60th anniversary of that country’s independence, Bush said, “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.”

“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Bush said. “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.” [It was Republican William Borah of Idaho who said it, by the way.]

Obama issued a statement calling it “sad” that Bush used the speech to take a partisan shot. “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel,” he said in a statement.

The White House denied that Bush’s remarks were aimed specifically at Obama, and perhaps they’re right. Perhaps they were aimed instead at Bush’s old nemesis from the 2000 Republican primary campaign, John McCain.

Writing in Friday’s Washington Post, James Rubin recounts interviewing McCain in Davos, Switzerland for Sky News, shortly after Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

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.”

You can see for yourself here:

So it seems McCain (unlike, as far as I know, Obama or Hillary Clinton) was for dealing with Hamas before he was against it.

Update: For sheer entertainment value, watch this clip from Chris Matthews’s TV show “Hardball”:

(Hat tip: tim.)

Further update: In fairness to McCain, James Rubin’s 2006 interview with him about Hamas also included the following:

Rubin: “So should the United States be dealing with that new reality through normal diplomatic contacts to get the job done for the United States?”

Sen. McCain: “I think the United States should take a step back, see what they do when they form their government, see what their policies are, and see the ways that we can engage with them, and if there aren’t any, there may be a hiatus. But I think part of the relationship is going to be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts.”

So perhaps McCain wasn’t as willing as the first clip suggests to deal with Hamas unconditionally.

(Hat tip: Inna.)