On Meet the Press, Russert allowed GOP strategist Murphy to falsely claim that "Rubin mischaracterized," "paraphrased" McCain

››› ››› ADAM SHAH

On Meet the Press, Tim Russert failed to correct Mike Murphy's false claim that James Rubin "mischaracterized" Sen. John McCain in a Washington Post op-ed. Russert said, "And there is an interview with James Rubin, as you know, from Senator McCain where he said that in time, we would have to talk with Hamas." Murphy replied, "Right. Well, but I think if you look, like many of us did, at the full YouTube of that, Rubin mischaracterized him in his op-ed. ... McCain had a lot of qualifications, if you look at the full context of it, which is not what Rubin paraphrased in that op-ed." In fact, Rubin did not "mischaracterize[]" or "paraphrase[]" McCain's comments, as video posted on YouTube shows.

On the May 18 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert failed to correct GOP strategist Mike Murphy's false claim that former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin "mischaracterized" Sen. John McCain in a May 16 Washington Post op-ed. During a panel discussion, Russert said, "And there is an interview with James Rubin, as you know, from Senator McCain where he said that in time, we would have to talk with Hamas." Murphy replied, "Right. Well, but I think if you look, like many of us did, at the full YouTube of that, Rubin mischaracterized him in his op-ed. The McCain campaign jumped on him appropriately." Murphy added: "McCain had a lot of qualifications, if you look at the full context of it, which is not what Rubin paraphrased in that op-ed and started that fight." In fact, Rubin did not "mischaracterize[]" McCain or "paraphrase[]" McCain's comments, as video posted on YouTube and linked to by the McCain campaign shows.

In the Post op-ed, Rubin wrote that McCain 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 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." The YouTube video shows that when Rubin asked, "Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past and working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?" McCain indeed responded as Rubin said he did: "They're 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 towards Hamas is because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse, but practice. So -- but it's a new reality in the Middle East. And I think the lesson is, people want security and a decent life and a decent future, then they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Rubin then asked: "So, should we -- the United States be dealing with that new reality through normal diplomatic contacts to get the job done for the United States?" McCain responded: "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."

Additionally, on the May 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs reported: "Democrats today accused Senator McCain of the, quote, 'ultimate flip-flop,' saying McCain reversed course on whether to talk with terrorist group Hamas. In response, the McCain campaign declared there are no inconsistencies whatsoever in McCain's record." CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash later added: "Lou, the McCain campaign just in the past couple of hours found a link to more of Jamie Rubin's interview from back then. And in it -- I'll read you a quote from the rest of or at least more of the interview. And in that quote, Senator McCain says, 'I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts.' Now, the McCain campaign, as you can imagine, says that this is proof that Senator McCain has been consistent all along." Dobbs responded: "Well, that seems certainly to, as you report, to substantiate precisely what Senator McCain is saying." But neither Dobbs nor Bash noted that McCain's statement that "sooner or later, we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another" came in response to Rubin's question, "Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past and working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?" -- demonstrating that McCain was indeed advocating talks with Hamas without preconditions.

As Rubin noted in a Huffington Post entry, in neither of McCain's answers "does he say what Senator [Hillary] Clinton and Senator Obama says: that is, Hamas has to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and accept the previous agreements of the Palestinian authority before we deal with them. Instead, Senator McCain is talking about engagement with Hamas and how it would come about."

The McCain campaign has put out a press release with transcript of Bash's and Dobbs' report under the title "CNN on Jamie Rubin's lie."

From Rubin's 2004 interview with McCain for Sky News' World News Tonight:

RUBIN: Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past and working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?

McCAIN: They're 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 towards Hamas is because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse, but practice. So -- but it's a new reality in the Middle East. And I think the lesson is, people want security and a decent life and a decent future, then they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.

RUBIN: So, should we -- the United States be dealing with that new reality through normal diplomatic contacts to get the job done for the United States?

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.

From the May 18 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

MURPHY: Yeah, but Bob, you're missing the point of the argument, which is all talk is not the same. Talk with conditions at one level is -- what Barack Obama -- the mistake Barack Obama made that Hillary Clinton jumped on him for was implying that he would talk to anybody, any leader of any country. And we all know that the rules of diplomacy have layers at which you negotiate what kind of talking --

BOB SHRUM (Democratic strategist): He didn't say he would --

MURPHY: -- because talk is a reward.

SHRUM: He didn't say would go on the first -- talk is not reward.

RUSSERT: And there is an interview with James Rubin, as you know, from Senator McCain where he said that in time, we would have to talk with Hamas.

MURPHY: Right. Well, but I think if you look, like many of us did, at the full YouTube of that, Rubin mischaracterized him in his op-ed. The McCain campaign jumped on him appropriately. The -- McCain had a lot of qualifications, if you look at the full context of it, which is not what Rubin paraphrased in that op-ed and started that fight. So --

HAROLD FORD JR. (chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council): But Mike, if we concede that point, why can't you concede the point on Barack.

MURPHY: McCain has always put conditions on any engagement with any kind of rogue regime.

RUSSERT: Let me move on to the Republican brand, because I think it's important, and it's a subset of this conversation.

From the May 16 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: The Oregon primary coming up Tuesday. Democrats today accused Senator McCain of the, quote, "ultimate flip-flop," saying McCain reversed course on whether to talk with terrorist group Hamas. In response, the McCain campaign declared there are no inconsistencies whatsoever in McCain's record. Dana Bash with the McCain campaign now reports from Louisville, Kentucky.

[begin video clip]

BASH: A last minute addition to his speech at the NRA to fire back at Barack Obama.

McCAIN: I have some news for Senator Obama. Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, unconditional -- in unconditional meetings with the man who calls Israel a stinking corpse and arms terrorists who kill Americans will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests.

BASH: McCain aides insist they've been itching for this fight with Obama, eager to engage despite a new accusation from Democrats of hypocrisy when it comes to Hamas. Jamie Rubin, a Hillary Clinton supporter, released this interview he conducted with McCain two years ago in Davos, Switzerland.

McCAIN: And sooner or later, we're 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. [video break] But it's a new reality in the Middle East.

BASH: Barack Obama seized on that, blasting McCain for attacking him for wanting to sit down with the leader of Iran.

OBAMA: He was actually guilty of the exact same thing that he's accusing me of and, in fact, was saying that maybe we need to deal with Hamas. I mean, that's the kind of hypocrisy that we've been seeing in our foreign policy.

BASH: Riding on his bus, McCain insisted his position on Hamas has always been the same: no negotiation until they renounce wanting to destroy Israel.

McCAIN: That Hamas would have to abandon their terrorist activities and their dedication to the extinction of the state of Israel. I was very clear then, very clear now.

BASH: Trying to back that up, the McCain camp points to this 2006 CNN interview, conducted within days of Rubin's.

McCAIN: Well, hopefully that Hamas, now that they are going to govern, will be motivated to renounce 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.

[end video clip]

BASH: Remember these interviews were done shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian elections. And, Lou, the McCain campaign just in the past couple of hours found a link to more of Jamie Rubin's interview from back then. And in it -- I'll read you a quote from the rest of or at least more of the interview. And in that quote, Senator McCain says, "I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts." Now, the McCain campaign, as you can imagine, says that this is proof that Senator McCain has been consistent all along. And I should tell you that CNN asked Jamie Rubin earlier today for the rest of the interview, at least for a transcript, and he said didn't have it. He said he only had this particular quote. He said that was emailed to him -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, that seems certainly to, as you report, to substantiate precisely what Senator McCain is saying.

BASH: That's what the McCain campaign is insisting, and that's why they were, as you can imagine, very eager to send out this email. And I can tell you, at the top of the email, the subject header said "Jamie Rubin lied." They are accusing -- inside the McCain campaign, they are accusing Jamie Rubin of lying tonight, Lou.

DOBBS: OK.

BASH: We're going wait to hear back from Jamie Rubin about that charge because as you can imagine, that's quite a charge to say somebody lied, but we'll get back to you on that.

DOBBS: It is quite a charge. It is also quite something for someone from another campaign to conflate both the role of journalism and, of course, political activism. Let me ask you this. What is -- can we -- if we may, I'd like to provide our -- the viewers of this broadcast a link, as you refer to it, that would give them the entire context of that interview. So if we may, I'd like to put that up on Lou Dobbs Tonight on loudobbs.com for our viewers' benefit if they would like to use it. Dana, great reporting --

BASH: We'll get it to you.

DOBBS: -- great reporting --

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: -- and thank you very much.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
NBC, CNN
Person
Tim Russert, Dana Bash, Lou Dobbs
Show/Publication
Meet the Press, Lou Dobbs Tonight
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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