Video: James Rubin on Clinton campaign

updated 5/16/2008 12:11:22 PM ET 2008-05-16T16:11:22

Democrats accused Sen. John McCain Friday of hypocrisy on the question of whether the United States should negotiate with terrorists and dictators, saying the certain Republican nominee had previously been willing to negotiate with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post, former Clinton State Department official James Rubin said that McCain, responding to a question in a television interview two years ago about whether U.S. diplomats should be working with the Hamas government in Gaza, said:

"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 toward 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."

Rubin, who interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News, said McCain is "guilty of hypocrisy" and accused him of "smearing" Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama. On Thursday, McCain suggested that Obama was naive and inexperienced for expressing a willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In Charleston, W.Va., McCain said in response: "I made it very clear, at that time, before and after, that we will not negotiate with terrorist organizations, that Hamas would have to abandon their terrorism, their advocacy to the extermination of the state of Israel, and be willing to negotiate in a way that recognizes the right of the state of Israel and abandons their terrorist position and advocacy."

McCain contended that Obama wants to "sit down and negotiate with a government exporting most lethal devices used against soldiers. He wants to sit down face to face with a government that is very clear about developing nuclear weapons. ... They are sponsors of terrorist organizations. That's a huge difference in my opinion. And I'll let the American people decide whether that's a significant difference or not. I believe it is."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., also accused McCain and President Bush of hypocrisy, saying Bush was talking about Obama when he slammed those who would negotiate with rogue leaders and terrorists as appeasers in a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday.

The Bush administration has negotiated with rogue leaders in North Korea and Libya, Biden said in an interview with CNN Friday.

"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.

On Thursday, McCain told reporters he took the White House at its word when it said that Bush hadn't been referring to Obama in his speech.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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