The Times of London reports that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has fired one of his foreign policy advisers — Robert Malley — for meeting with the Palestinian group Hamas, which the U.S. State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.
"He was one of literally hundreds of informal, outside advisors," Obama spokesman Bill Burton told ABC News, confirming the Times account.
Malley, a former official in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, is Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution group.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people,” Malley told the Times.
Malley has been a criticized in the past as insufficiently supportive of Israel — the New Republic’s Marty Peretz has defended Obama as pro-Israel but assailed Malley — though several Clintonistas have defended him from the charge.
He participated in the failed 2000 Camp David accords and said that Yasser Arafat was not the only one to blame for those talks breaking down.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been attacking Obama over the fact that a senior member of Hamas praised the Democrat.
In an interview on CNN, Obama called the attack, "Offensive, and I think it’s disappointing. Because John McCain always says ‘I am not going to run that kind of politics,’ and to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his. I’ve said it’s a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they are willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name calling in this debate.”
McCain top aide Mark Salter then took issue with Obama saying McCain was "losing his bearings."
"First, let us be clear about the nature of Sen. Obama’s attack today: He used the words ‘losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue," Salter write in a memo. "This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning."