In the Arena

It Gets Worse

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John McCain’s campaign is now accusing Jamie Rubin of lying about McCain’s position on dealing with Hamas. Fascinating. And I suppose Rubin was manipulating McCain’s mouth when, at Davos in 2006, the Arizona Senator said that we would have to “deal with” the new Hamas government, “one way or another.” I mean, it’s there on tape.
Now, perhaps McCain was arguing that “deal with” meant that we should invade Gaza and the West Bank….but I kind of doubt that. More likely, McCain was expressing the exact same sort of sentiments that George W. Bush did when the election results came in. Those were perfectly rational sentiments at the time, but less convenient now that McCain seeks to paint Obama as anti-Israel. A funny thing happened these past few days, though: Now McCain seems more of an “appeaser” than Obama, who has declared–wrongly, I believe–that he won’t negotiate with Hamas.

The sad thing is, as I wrote in my column this week, McCain’s–and Bush’s–initial position was the correct one. But it doesn’t comport with the sort of fear-mongering that Republicans have used in presidential politics in recent years. That sort of feral swill-peddling has worked for a long time; but given the phenomenal–and deserved–unpopularity of the current President’s Middle East policies, I”m not sure it’ll work this time. And neither are McCain’s handlers, which is why they resort to such arrant hysteria–much like the tone Al Gore’s handlers sadly took in 2000, when they were afraid, after Clinton’s 8-year term, that the public was ready for a change.

In any case, this response from the McCain campaign is not very presidential. It reeks of panic. After all, he was right when Rubin interviewed him: the Israelis and Hamas are going to have to deal with one another sooner or later. “Our” natural role–the role of the world’s most powerful country, so long as we don’t have colonial aims in the region–is to mediate the dispute, if asked, and to help make sure that a state of Israel still exists 60 years from now. The only way that happens, as most Israelis know, is if a deal is struck with the Palestinians, sooner rather than later. John McCain–who says that winning an election isn’t worth losing a war–should understand that winning Palm Beach County isn’t worth what he’s doing now.