CBS Turns to Clinton Publicist Jamie Rubin to Boost Obama's Israel Remarks

On Friday's Early Show, CBS called upon Clinton administration alumnus Jamie Rubin to act as a flack for the current Obama White House and to comment on the President's speech on the Middle East. Rubin lamented the President's poor approval rating in Israel: "Unfortunately- and this is unfortunate for everyone, I think...Obama doesn't have the huge popularity in Israel that, perhaps, President Bush had."

Anchor Erica Hill brought on the husband of ABC host Christiane Amanpour and first identified him as "Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin, who is now executive editor of the Bloomberg View [the new opinion section of Bloomberg News] " However, she failed to mention at any point in the interview that Rubin served under former President Clinton, unlike Nicholas Burns, who appeared later in the program. Hill clearly identified him as "undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush."

Towards the end of the segment, Hill remarked that "obviously, it would be very tough for him [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] politically to give an inch here," given domestic Israeli politics. In reply, Rubin immediately went into his lament over the current president's approval inside the predominantly Jewish country:

RUBIN: Absolutely, and unfortunately- and this is unfortunate for everyone, I think- because President Obama doesn't have the huge popularity in Israel that, perhaps, President [George W.] Bush had, it's easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu to have a fight with him. Previous American presidents- the prime minister didn't want to have a fight with them because it could hurt them politically. For example, when President Clinton had a fight with Prime Minister Netanyahu a decade ago, Netanyahu was thrown out of office and Ehud Barak was put in. That's the way the Israeli political game is played.

Earlier, Hill asked, "In some ways, was this speech an admission that the influence of the United States in this process, and even in the region, may not be as great as it once was?" The former spokesman for Madeleine Albright answered the question affirmatively, all the while acting as an apologist for the Obama Middle Eastern policy:

RUBIN: Well, I think that's certainly true- not only in terms of what's happening in the Arab Spring with revolutions taking place, and the U.S. role rather marginal- but President Obama has, I think it's fair to say, less clout in Israel than previous presidents, and that's partly a function of his willingness in the past to put to the Israeli government his differences on issues like settlements, which is now what the Israeli government is complaining about. So, to the extent that the Israelis respond to President Obama's urging that they get serious about the negotiations, this could have a positive effect. But right now, it's turned into a real diplomatic flap.

The full transcript of Erica Hill's interview of Jamie Rubin, which aired 3 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Friday's Early Show on CBS:

ERICA HILL: Joining us here in the studio, former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin, who is now executive editor of the Bloomberg View. Good to have you with us this morning.

JAMIE RUBIN, FMR. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning.

HILL:  In some ways, was this speech an admission that the influence of the United States in this process, and even in the region, may not be as great as it once was?

James Rubin, Former Assistant Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton | NewsBusters.orgRUBIN: Well, I think that's certainly true- not only in terms of what's happening in the Arab Spring with revolutions taking place, and the U.S. role rather marginal- but President Obama has, I think it's fair to say, less clout in Israel than previous presidents, and that's partly a function of his willingness in the past to put to the Israeli government his differences on issues like settlements, which is now what the Israeli government is complaining about. So, to the extent that the Israelis respond to President Obama's urging that they get serious about the negotiations, this could have a positive effect. But right now, it's turned into a real diplomatic flap.

HILL: It has, and, of course, the big test is going to be today. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to meet with the President, and Netanyahu called this indefensible- the ideas that President Obama laid out. Take us inside- based on your experience, take us inside that meeting. What is it going to be like between these two men today?

RUBIN: Well, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is very well-known for gamesmanship, has chosen to really play up this difference, because it isn't that big a difference. The White House certainly didn't intend this as a major policy shift. Previous presidents have talked about a settlement being based on the 1967 lines. The difference-

HILL: But this is the first official statement-

RUBIN: Well, right, and the difference was, they didn't include a few words the Israelis care about. The words they wanted to see was, reflecting new realities, that is, since 1967, Israeli settlements have built up around Jerusalem. President [George W.] Bush, in a letter to then-Prime Minister Sharon, referred also to the '67 borders, but he had these phrases- 'reflecting new realities.'

So, I think a lot of what you're going to see today, behind the scenes, is Prime Minister Netanyahu saying, look, I had this letter from the previous president to my predecessor, does that still hold? Why are you changing it? And they'll get back and forth, and my guess is, by the end of the next 24 hours, they'll have some new words, similar to 'reflecting new realities,' maybe some words like, you know, 'that conditions have changed.' And then, Prime Minister Netanyahu can go home and say, I talked us back from the cliff.

HILL: Because, obviously, it would be very tough for him politically to give an inch here.

RUBIN: Absolutely, and unfortunately- and this is unfortunate for everyone, I think- because President Obama doesn't have the huge popularity in Israel that, perhaps, President Bush had, it's easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu to have a fight with him. Previous American presidents- the prime minister didn't want to have a fight with them because it could hurt them politically. For example, when President Clinton had a fight with Prime Minister Netanyahu a decade ago, Netanyahu was thrown out of office and Ehud Barak was put in. That's the way the Israeli political game is played.


HILL: Interesting to see what comes out of the meeting and how that changes, too, the impression that many people have of the speech. Always good to have you with us- Jamie, thanks.

RUBIN: Nice to see you, too.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center