In May 2008, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, had been attacking candidate Barack Obama for suggesting that as president, Obama would negotiate with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Obama responded emphatically: "I've been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas."
In a CNN interview earlier that month, Obama even said the elder McCain was "losing his bearings" by attacking him on the issue.
Despite his repeated assurances during the 2008 campaign, on Monday, Obama's State Department announced that it would deal with a new Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. The Washington Post reported that administration officials had worked "behind the scenes" to structure a deal in a way that would get around the U.S. ban on funneling aid money to a government. The plan involved appointing Hamas-approved ministers that were described as "technocrats."
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed reported that Obama administration officials "have been holding secret back-channel talks with Hamas over the last six months."
The issue of dealing with Hamas was an early flash point in the election battle between McCain and Obama — coming at a time when both were presumed to be the nominees of their parties, but hadn't formally locked up the nomination.
McCain had made an issue of the fact that a Hamas official endorsed Obama's candidacy and, combined with Obama's call for negotiating with Iran, suggested he'd be willing to negotiate with terrorist groups such has Hamas.
Obama responded bitterly.
In a CNN interview, which you can watch here (or read a transcript), Obama said of McCain's comments highlighting the Hamas endorsement, "this is offensive. And I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy towards Hamas has been no different than his. I have said that they are a terrorist organization, that we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence and unless they're willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination."
At a rally later that month in Watertown, South Dakota, Obama said: "John McCain has repeated this notion that I'm prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have never said that. I have been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas, a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel and won't recognize them."