In the spin room following the debate, I asked Barack Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, to respond to a report that a top Hamas official had endorsed Obama.
“I have no idea about that, I have not heard that,” Axelrod replied.
I told him that the words were spoken by Ahmed Yousef, and offered to read him the quote, which I I proceeded to do from my Blackberry: “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…”
Axelrod focused on the Kennedy portion of the quote, and was “flattered” by the comparison.
“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.”
I followed up by asking Axelerod why Obama didn’t urge Jimmy Carter to not meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
“He said today that he fundamentally disagrees with Jimmy Carter,” Axelrod said.
But I reemphasized that Obama never said that Carter shouldn’t do the meeting, and then Axelrod launched into a straw man argument about personal freedom.
“He said that it was ill advised, that he shouldn’t do it, but that he can’t. We actually don’t have any ability. This is the United States of America. We don’t have any ability to go seize someone and neither does the President of the United States, who also asked Mr. Carter not to do it.”
But nobody is urging Obama to seize Carter. The debate is over why he can’t take a moral stand against an ex-president who is meeting with a terrorist group.
I began asking another follow up question on why Obama said Don Imus should be fired, which was a private matter, but would not take a moral stand in the case of Carter.
But a frustrated Axelrod turned away and took another question.
I asked Hillary Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson about the matter, but he declined comment.