Word that Hamas has endorsed Barack Obama has finally leaked into the mainstream press, mostly in the form of reporters and pundits denouncing John McCain for suggesting that the endorsement might be something voters should keep in mind. Obama himself was sufficiently concerned to give an interview on the subject to Atlantic magazine. Predictably, his supporters (e.g., the New York Times) portrayed the interview as disposing of the issue, much as Obama’s speech on race supposedly disposed of the embarrassment posed by his anti-American minister.
Generally unremarked, however, was what Obama actually said about Hamas. Here is the key exchange:
JG: Why do you think Ahmed Yousef of Hamas said what he said about you?
BO: My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of Hillary Clinton or John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization and I’ve repeatedly condemned them. I’ve repeatedly said, and I mean what I say: since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and abide by previous agreements.
JG: Were you flummoxed by it?
BO: I wasn’t flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community. Look, we don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s something they’re hopeful about.
Note how senseless Obama’s response is. He is asked specifically about Hamas’s endorsement of him. He responds that he “wasn’t flummoxed” because he can understand that “there are those in the Arab world” who may like him because of his experiences in Indonesia, his Muslim middle name, the fact that he is “worldly” and “has called for talks” and won’t engage in “cowboy diplomacy” like George Bush.
But Obama wasn’t asked about some hypothetical Arab-in-the-street. He was asked specifically about Hamas. Does Obama seriously believe that Hamas endorses his candidacy because he is “worldly,” has a Muslim middle name and won’t be a “cowboy?” If so, he is even more out of touch with reality than we thought. If not, he completely ducked the interviewer’s question (not that the interviewer, another Obama fan, noticed) and has yet to explain why he thinks Islamic terrorists want him to win.
As noted above, this obvious omission hasn’t prevented liberal columnists from leaping to Obama’s defense and denouncing John McCain for mentioning the Hamas endorsement. One of the silliest such columns was by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. You can catch Cohen’s drift from the title of his piece: “McCain in the Mud.” Cohen writes:
[McCain’s] campaign has sent out an e-mail showing how guilt by association really works. “Barack Obama’s foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders,” it said. The message went on to claim that Obama’s foreign policy positions have earned him “kind words” from Hamas.
Never mind that this was the sort of campaigning that McCain vowed to eschew. More to the point is what McCain said in his own defense. Not only was Yousef’s praise of Obama “a legitimate point of discussion,” he said, but everyone should understand that McCain himself will be “Hamas’s worst nightmare.” This aspect of McCain is my worst nightmare.
Before explaining why McCain is wrong, however, Cohen turned to a more pressing subject–no kidding–McCain’s age! This detour seems to have distracted Cohen, as he never did get around to explaining why voters should be unconcerned about Hamas’s support of Obama. Instead, he threw up his hands and confessed that he himself has no idea what to do about Hamas, or about terrorism in general:
When McCain says that he would be Hamas’s worst nightmare, what in the world is he talking about? Almost on a daily basis, Hamas launches rockets into southern Israel, occasionally killing some poor soul. The latest victim was a woman of about 70 who was killed yesterday. Israel usually retaliates, and Palestinians — some of them just as innocent as the Israeli victim — are killed. You would think that Israel would be Hamas’s worst nightmare, but aside from the occasional — and fruitless — retaliatory raid, it cannot figure out how to stop Hamas’s deadly activities. What would McCain do that Israel has not?
I hate to say it, but Yousef has a point. The Middle East desperately needs supple minds that are not mired in the past. I look at Gaza and don’t know what to do. I have supported Israel in its policies there, but I have to admit that nothing has been gained from the non-recognition of Hamas. War doesn’t work. Isolation doesn’t work. For Israel, leaving Gaza didn’t work, and, surely, McCain’s threat to Hamas will not give it a headache — a belly laugh is more like it.
So apparently the situation is hopeless, and Hamas “has a point.” Cohen, fortunately, is not running for President. Barack Obama is, and voters will rightly be concerned that our most vicious enemies, whose minds may or may not be “supple,” are rooting for him to win.
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