Lions and tigers & Hamas, oh my!–to paraphrase Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. It appears that the right-wing extremists running John McCain’s national security team have outed Rob Malley because he–get this–actually spoke to Hamas:
One of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy advisers disclosed yesterday that he had held meetings with the militant Palestinian group Hamas – prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.
Robert Malley told The Times that he had been in regular contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think-tank and had no connection with his position on Mr Obama’s Middle East advisory council.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people,” he added.
I should note a serious error in this report. Malley is not “one of Obama’s Middle East policy advisors.” This has been clarified hundreds of times by the Obama campaign. A really stupid error on this reporters part. Rob Malley is one of hundreds of independent foreign policy analysts campaigns talk to from time to time about various issues. He has had indirect contacts with the campaign but plays no role either formal or informal in the campaign. Not that I would care if he did. But I’m in favor of accurate journalism, which this is not.
[UPDATE: The Magnes Zionist notes an even more egregious error in the story. The Obama campaign, in fact, hasn’t stated that it was “severing all ties” with Malley, if you read the quotation below from its spokesperson, who says that Malley has provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He pointedly does NOT say that Malley will NOT provide the same advice in future.]
Oooohhh! Bad boy, Rob. Don’t you know that diplomats aren’t supposed to meet with parties to disputes in which your nation has a vital interest. Nor are international NGOs like the International Crisis Group, which deals with conflict resolution, allowed to meet with a party to one of the world’s most complicated and intractable conflicts. You see, we have to pretend that Hamas is so bad that no one can touch it. Sort of like smallpox or something really, reallly icky.
It doesn’t matter than Israel is negotiating indirectly with Hamas for a ceasefire and prisoner exchange to free Gilad Shalit. It doesn’t matter that 64% of Israelis polled advocate DIRECT talks with Hamas. It doesn’t matter that senior Israeli analysts, former generals and intelligence chiefs advocate the same. What matters is that John “Same Old Bush” McCain is trying to tar a good American with the brush of being pro-terrorist.
I can’t fully blame Obama for dumping Rob:
Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr Obama, responded swiftly: “Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.”
He’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. Unlike Kerry, he’s hopefully not going to lie down and take the Swift Boating. And he’s not going to make himself a sitting duck for McCain’s smears. But I’m still terribly sad that McCain has sunken the campaign into the cesspool so quickly.
I’m hoping that Ephraim Levy, David Kimche, Shlomo Brom, Shlomo Gazit (all of whom have advocated talks with Hamas) and other respected Israeli analysts will come to Rob’s defense saying he only did what they would do in his shoes–meet with a critical interlocutor to advance the cause of peace.
Another terrible falsehood implied by this attack is that by meeting with a group you endorse the group’s principles. Jimmy Carter didn’t endorse Hamas’ Islamist program for Palestine or say they should be elected to head the PA in the next elections. He merely tried to ascertain what it would take to free Gilad Shalit and secure a ceasefire. Rob Malley was doing no more nor less when he met Hamas. They both did the right thing. Let’s not forget that and let’s tell the world what they should know if they don’t already. It’s McCain that is doing wrong here, not Malley.
This is yet another attempt to drive a wedge between the Jewish community and Barack Obama and it WILL NOT WORK, just as the Jeremiah Wright brouhaha didn’t work either. But the gremlins and slimeballs will keep trying because that’s their nature.
Who do you think provided this information to the campaign? You don’t think it might be someone from a Jewish organization whose acronym starts with “A” and ends with “C,” do you?
The chief orchestrator of McCain’s attack is his foreign policy chief:
Randy Scheunemann, Mr McCain’s foreign policy chief, suggested that Mr Malley was part of an emerging pattern in which other advisers had been repudiated after throwing confusion over policies on trade and Iraq. “Perhaps because of his inexperience Senator Obama surrounds himself with advisers that contradict his stated policies,” he said.
A commenter in the Times thread for this report notes:
Randy Scheunemann is the [former] President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, [which is a] child of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). He is a [former PNAC] board member. He was Trent Lott’s National Security Aide and advisor to Donald Rumsfeld…I rest my case.
Do you want a neocon former aide to Don Rumsfeld and Trent Lott, former National Rifle Association lobbyist, and buddy of Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith running the next president’s national security and foreign policy agenda?
And I rest mine.
So, when Nixon went to China in 1972, and when Reagan sat down with Gorbachev to discuss arms control, did that mean that these presidents were embracing Communism?
Does anyone remember that Winston Churchill said, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war”?
These attacks on Obama, and his response, makes me wonder if all of these people have lost their minds.
Richard Silverstein says
I think it illustrates the utter impoverishment of American politics.
It will be interesting to see the long-term response to this nonsense. I’ll be gravely disappointed if Obama doesn’t stand up and call this ugly pandering stupidity what it is. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a politician declare: I’m not a terrorist sympathizer and only an idiot would buy McCain’s feeble attempts to label me as such?”
There are a range of opinions on the proper course to take to deal with these conflicts. Obama should have the courage to say so.
Obama has been doing the classic politician’s thing–pandering to the interest group with the most clout on a given issue. It’s what politicians do, as I seem to recall some preacher saying recently.
Anyway, on this particular issue Obama is either sincere in his statements about Hamas (and I hope he isn’t) or he has put himself in a very uncomfortable position and is going to take a hell of a lot of abuse if he gets into office and starts behaving sensibly. I’ll come to his defense if he does that (I’m sure he’ll be glad to know this), but the rightwing critics will be right to say that he lied to them and the American people. He’ll be ripped to shreds and lose an awful lot of credibility.
It might possibly be better to treat the American people as adults and have a real open and honest debate about the proper approach to the Israel/Palestine problem, but on the other hand, maybe professional politicians know just how far they’d get if they did that.
The Jeffrey Goldberg interview is interesting. Most of it is just embarrassing–Obama even mentions the Leon Uris books favorably and apparently has no qualms about any actions Israel took in Lebanon in 2006. He also misrepresents Jimmy Carter’s use of the word “apartheid”, pretending that Carter applied it to Israel itself and not to its West Bank policies.
But I suppose it’s good that he does say he doesn’t agree with every action the Israelis take and at one point he even goes way out on a limb and says the settlements are not helpful. So there are indications that he would try to go forward with peace talks. But he comes across as someone who wants to solve the Israel/Palestinian problem mainly because it is a danger to Israel, and his sympathy for Palestinians is at best shallow. If he is putting on an act to get elected, he’s quite good at it.
In case anyone is reading, here is a more positive view of Obama’s interview with Goldberg. If this guy (an anonymous reader of Glenn Greenwald) is right, Obama might mean well, but feels he has to jump through hoops and talk in code.
Richard Silverstein says
And don’t forget Obama was being interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg who maintains a strong Islamophobic/anti-Palestinian perspective on the I-P conflict. Goldberg’s review of Carter’s last book was pure poison. Really awful.