Earlier this week, Barack Obama told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that it’s “offensive” for John McCain to say that Hamas supports Obama’s candidacy. Obama said that McCain was “losing his bearings,” which McCain’s campaign denounced as an unfair attack on their candidate’s age. Regardless, by criticizing McCain instead of condemning Hamas, Obama once again revealed his naiveté and disingenuousness.
The source of the issue is a radio interview given by Hamas “political advisor” Ahmed Yousef to WABC last month. Although he probably meant well, Yousef had a few uncomfortably kind words for Obama:
“We don’t mind-actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,” Yousef said in response to a question about the group’s willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.
Obviously, an endorsement from anyone affiliated with a Islamist terrorist group would be swiftly rejected and denounced by any serious presidential candidate. And while Obama does a good impersonation of a serious candidate, he occasionally fails on substance. The day after last month’s Pennsylvania debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod was asked to comment on Yousef’s unhelpful remarks. Axelrod responded lamely:
“I like John Kennedy too,” Axelrod said. “That’s about the only thing we have in common with this gentleman from Hamas. We all agree that John Kennedy was a great president, and it’s flattering when anybody says that Barack Obama would follow in his footsteps.”
He continued, “(Obama’s) position on Hamas is very clear. Until they renounce violence, until they recognize Israel’s right to exist and recognize previous agreements, we shouldn’t have any contact with him.”
As gut reactions go, Axelrod was far too generous in accepting Yousef’s praise. He merely repeated the Obama campaign’s anti-Hamas boilerplate without any indication of revulsion. Hamas is an Islamic supremacist organization that targets civilians for murder, and raises children to believe that suicide-bombing in an act of piety. Axelrod’s failure to immediately condemn Hamas doesn’t speak well of the candidate that employs him.
John McCain wasted no time in using Yousef’s quote in fundraising letters, which also criticized Obama’s Iraq policy, as well as his intention to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without conditions. But the quote that really got under the Obama camp’s collective skin came during an April 25 conference call with rightwing bloggers. When asked by Commentary Magazine’s Jennifer Rubin to comment on Yousef’s endorsement of Obama, McCain replied, “It’s clear who Hamas wants to be the next President of the United States. I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare”
That was the quote that Wolf Blitzer asked Obama to comment on, which resulted in the “losing his bearings” remark. Obama also said that it’s “disappointing” that McCain would “smear” him in that way. Obama correctly pointed out that McCain’s policy toward Hamas isn’t significantly different than Obama’s, and restated the Axelrod-boilerplate that of course he won’t negotiate with a terrorist organization. He also accused McCain of “name-calling.”
But Obama conspicuously chose not to reject Yousef’s endorsement. It’s a fact that a Hamas political advisor said Hamas wants Obama to win the presidency. It’s a legitimate political issue for McCain to exploit, and Obama could neutralize it by explicitly repudiating Yousef’s endorsement. Instead, Obama complains that it’s unfair for McCain to raise the issue. When given the opportunity to forcefully denounce Hamas in uncertain terms, Obama’s campaign repeatedly demurs, choosing instead to weakly scold the terrorists while crying foul on McCain. Perhaps Obama thinks his fundraising advantage is so enormous that he doesn’t have to answer legitimate criticisms.
Despite his campaign’s financial shortcomings, McCain’s appeal to centrist voters could still make him competitive with Obama in November. Obama can’t afford to appear overly accommodating of Islamist terrorists if he intends to win a 50-state election. In 2004, John Kerry was famously handicapped in the final week of the campaign when Osama bin Laden released a tape that implied Al Qaeda didn’t want Bush re-elected. Kerry himself has said he believes he lost the close election in part because bin Laden had identified Kerry as “his” candidate. Obama’s feeble responses to Hamas thus far point to a similar disadvantage.
McCain has said he’ll be Hamas’ worst nightmare. Obama appears content to accept Hamas’ flattery. Obama has no credibility accusing McCain of name-calling as long as he declines to denounce Hamas in the strongest possible terms.