And if Obama is so utterly opposed to dealing with Hamas, as he has stated publicly, then why would he have an adviser, even an “informal” one, who was doing just that? ~Philip Klein
Probably for the same reason that McCain had two aides with ties to a company that worked for the Burmese junta–many people are tied in one way or another to presidential campaigns, and the campaign cannot control every informal advisor nor can it necessarily be held accountable for the former (or ongoing) careers or freelance activities of those connected to it, however closely or loosely. If McCain is so utterly opposed to dealing with the Burmese junta, as he has stated publicly, then why would he have aides who worked for a company that did just that? No one dreams of making such an argument against McCain, because it is prima facie idiotic. It does seem difficult for some people to accept the idea that Obama’s views on Israel are perfectly conventional and are well to the “right” of half of Israelis (and probably a third of Americans), which is why there has been such a concerted effort to use peripheral figures such as Malley as evidence against Obama, because no one can actually find anything substantive that would cast Obama as anything other than an utterly predictable “pro-Israel” politician. Hence we have single-sourced anecdotes about Obama’s interest in “even-handedness,” reports of friendly relations with Khalidi, who had been a U. of C. colleague, and stories about dinner with Edward Said as the “damning” proof, and, last but not least, his acknowledgement that Palestinians have suffered (quelle horreur!). Of course, no one rejects that people can and will question his “earnestness” or his sincerity on this, and I suppose no one has to believe that Obama’s public record has any bearing on the question, but it seems to me that this is a classic case of attributing views of what the critics assume to be his supporters’ views to the candidate.
When he was asked by Brian Williams in a debate last year to name the top three allies of the United States, why did he filibuster the question without naming Israel?
Because it was a stupid, gotcha question that was bound to insult any number of valued allies? Never mind that Obama has repeatedly said since then that Israel is the U.S. “closest ally” in the region. Is that satisfactory?
Klein asks later:
SO IS IT REALLY a stretch to wonder whether Obama would eventually support talks with the terrorist group, despite his public pronouncements to the contrary?
Since there is no evidence of any kind that he would do so, yes, it is a stretch. The other two cases Klein mentions actually support accepting Obama’s stated views on Israel and Hamas. On NAFTA and the Iraq war, Obama has been campaigning against the status quo, while his advisors have been saying in other contexts that he doesn’t really mean it or won’t necessarily withdraw from Iraq under just any circumstances according to a rigid timetable (which is actually what Obama has said on different occasions), so what we can take from this is that Obama will govern in a way that is much less threatening and challenging to the status quo than his campaign rhetoric would suggest. This means that his conventional public position on Israel is almost certainly going to remain his public position, and he is not going to reveal some secret pro-Palestinian sympathies once he takes office. Of course, for those who take the mere acknowledgement of human suffering as evidence of something insidious, anything Obama does or says will be interpreted in the worst light.
Yet those who demand to know a little bit more about the candidate by scrutinizing his statements and relationships are arrogantly dismissed as engaging in “smears” and being divisive for refusing to simply take him at his word.
But the concerted effort in recent months to label his advisors, both formal and informal, as anti-Semites and the suggestion that Obama wants to negotiate with Hamas are smears because they are manifestly untrue. Asking questions about policy and a candidate’s record is perfectly legitimate. Insinuating that a candidate has sympathy for or an interest in dealing with terrorist groups without a shred of evidence is not, and if Obama’s election would mean an end to this kind of vilification of domestic political opponents it might almost be worth it. However, the truth is that Obama’s election isn’t going to change anything–not in U.S. Israel policy and not in the way that these attacks are launched against opponents.
Update: Obama states his position about Hamas clearly:
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.