Debate over McCain op-ed continues as NY Post publishes it

posted at 12:55 pm on July 22, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The New York Post published the op-ed piece that the New York Times rejected from John McCain, as debate continues over the decision to spike it.  The piece itself appears to have much the same approach as Barack Obama’s earlier op-ed; in fact, it goes into greater detail than Obama’s while specifically rebutting Obama’s earlier argument:

In a New York Times op-ed and a speech last week he offered his “plan for Iraq” (in advance of his first “fact-finding” trip to Iraq in more than three years): It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months.

In 2007, he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we’d taken his advice, the war would have been lost. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Maliki has endorsed his timetable – when the Iraqi prime minister has merely said that he’d like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of US troops at some unspecified future point.

Sen. Obama is also misleading on the readiness of the Iraqi military. Iraq’s army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year – but that doesn’t mean, as Sen. Obama suggests, that it’ll then be ready to secure the country without a good deal of help.

The Iraqi air force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications and other complex functions needed to support frontline troops.

Of course, the Times can choose to publish whatever it wants. If it doesn’t want to publish McCain, then that’s their choice — but if they want to have a pretense of objectivity, they’re going to have to explain why Obama got published and McCain did not better than David Shipley did. Shipley’s justification makes it sound as though they rejected McCain because of his policy, and not because of any defect in wordsmithing:

In an e-mail to the campaign on Friday, David Shipley, an op-ed editor at the newspaper, said he could not accept the piece in its current form, but would look at another version. In the e-mail, released by the McCain campaign, Shipley wrote that McCain’s article would “have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.”

In other words, McCain would have to adopt Obama’s policy of timetables and “pressure”, rather than focusing on cooperation and conditions on the ground. That goes beyond normal editorial control to dictating content and policy to McCain as a prerequisite for publication. No legitimate columnist would agree to work under those terms, and few editors would make the mistake of attempting to impose those kinds of requirements.

Furthermore, the essay in fact did give an estimate of when most troops would be out of Iraq:

As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields (such as Afghanistan) without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I’ve said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

But I’ve also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground – not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Sen. Obama.

Why wasn’t that sufficient for Shipley? Obama’s essay offered this:

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

As McCain wrote, that indeed is the crux of the disagreement, which Shipley either fails to understand or simply doesn’t want to publish.

Bill Richardson thinks McCain should stop “whining”:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is “overreacting” and “whining” in response to The New York Times refusing to run his editorial about Iraq.

Richardson, who supports Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president, said in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday that the rejection of McCain’s editorial is not surprising because The New York Times turns down many editorials from politicians, including presidential candidates.

John Bolton, on the other hand, says that the argument Shipley makes “boggles the mind”:

As a writer who has received scores of rejection letters myself, I understand that most submissions to print media never see the light of day. That’s one reason the blogosphere exists. I’d disagree with Bolton on that point; freedom of expression does not include the right to have one’s words published in a newspaper. Shipley and the Times should not be forced (by the government) into printing something they do not want, and neither should anyone else.

However, if they offer the lame excuses Shipley does in this case for not publishing McCain’s piece, then their readers can reasonably conclude that they have no objectivity in this election and have decided to become a campaign mouthpiece for Barack Obama. Pointing out the biased treatment given on this point does not constitute “whining”, as Richardson puts it, but a fair criticism of the Times’ editorial decision.


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Look. McCain should have submitted the op-ed to the Post (or HA) to begin with. But McCain wanted the liberal cachet the Times brings. Why?

JiangxiDad on July 22, 2008 at 1:01 PM

JiangxiDad on July 22, 2008 at 1:01 PM

To respond in the exact venue that Barack made his Op-Ed in?

TooTall on July 22, 2008 at 1:07 PM

huh ?

Sasnak on July 22, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Look. McCain should have submitted the op-ed to the Post (or HA) to begin with. But McCain wanted the liberal cachet the Times brings. Why?

JiangxiDad on July 22, 2008 at 1:01 PM

Didn’t the NYTimes solicit McCain’s response, rather than McCain approaching them first?

I can see why a submitted article would get tossed back for rewrites, but a solicition to write an article usually assumes that the writer is given a freer hand to expres his views.

Wethal on July 22, 2008 at 1:07 PM

As it turns out, McCain got another opportunity to expose the bias of the New York Times. From this point forward, whenever people from the Times say they play it straight down the middle, they should expect waves of laughter in response.

RBMN on July 22, 2008 at 1:08 PM

THe New York Times is the house organ of the Democrat party. My parents read the Times. McCain could write that Glenn MIller was alive and well, and it would upset them.

mymanpotsandpans on July 22, 2008 at 1:08 PM

We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months.

That’s called ‘flaunting your ignorance’ and lack of experience.

McCain should run an ad saying “Barack, I’ve been a Senator since before you were born.”

On second thought, maybe not.

Tony737 on July 22, 2008 at 1:09 PM

To respond in the exact venue that Barack made his Op-Ed in?

TooTall on July 22, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Didn’t the NYTimes solicit McCain’s response, rather than McCain approaching them first?

McCain should cancel his subscription to the NY Times like his so-called base did 20 years ago.

JiangxiDad on July 22, 2008 at 1:10 PM

Obviously, the NYT doesn’t need to publish popular content to boost ad revenue for their share holders because their stocks are doing so well.

Egfrow on July 22, 2008 at 1:12 PM

In other words, McCain would have to adopt Obama’s policy of timetables and “pressure”, rather than focusing on cooperation and conditions on the ground.

Exactly. Shipley wants McCain’s respose to be in the Democratic language of defeat.

BohicaTwentyTwo on July 22, 2008 at 1:15 PM

Egfrow on July 22, 2008 at 1:12 PM

The NYT has been running promos with special discounts here in the Philadelphia market. The Gray Lady is turning a shade of pale.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has been taking a beating too, laying off hundreds this year.

fogw on July 22, 2008 at 1:24 PM

There was some talk awhile back that mcCain could exclude some reporters from his campaign plane. It was generally conceded, at that time, that it was a bad strategy given the need for coverage.

This might be a good time to resurrect that idea, however, insofar as the NY Times is concerned. The publicity around this Op Ed has outed them for everyone, not just those who floow such things in the blogosphere. It would be perfectly defensible to exclude the Times by saying that their coverage is so biased and one-sided that they are no longer a legitimate news carrier. if they want o cover the campaign, fine…get your own transportation. If they don’t…fine too, because there could be no possible loss to the McCain campaign caused by their absence.

Blaise on July 22, 2008 at 1:28 PM

I’d disagree with Bolton on that point; freedom of expression does not include the right to have one’s words published in a newspaper.

The Great Stache did not argue that freedom of expression does not confer a “right” (i.e. something enforceable by the force of law) to have an opinion published in a newspaper. He was talking about a norm of fairness and impartiality and saying that if the NYT wants to consider itself a newspaper, it should not give its forum to one candidate and refuse it to another.

Outlander on July 22, 2008 at 1:29 PM

How about a Fairness Doctrine? After all, the Democrats are all in favor of “Fairness” and “equal time” for “opposing viewpoints”.

RhymesWithRight on July 22, 2008 at 1:30 PM

There was some talk awhile back that mcCain could exclude some reporters from his campaign plane. It was generally conceded, at that time, that it was a bad strategy given the need for coverage.

Blaise on July 22, 2008 at 1:28 PM

The Democrats have no issue with excluding Fox News. They excluded Fox News from the primary debates, they excluded Fox (Chris Wallace) from the media group following Obama’s Grand World Tour, and rest assured that if elected, Fox’s White House Press Corps. seat will be in the back next to the air conditioning duct.

Republicans should step the pressure up on the media, especially at NBC. The press don’t like being without access and might be willing to give some concessions if they see McCain as being willing and able to exclude them.

Outlander on July 22, 2008 at 1:33 PM

EDITORS’ NOTE: The New York Times wouldn’t print this oped from the GOP candidate.

Just want to say, this header right at the top of the Post op-ed – a big thumb in the eye to the NYT – tickles me NO end.

inviolet on July 22, 2008 at 1:36 PM

I’ll take John Bolton’s word over a hack like Richardson’s any damn day of the week.

It's Vintage, Duh on July 22, 2008 at 1:43 PM

As a writer who has received scores of rejection letters myself, I understand that most submissions to print media never see the light of day. That’s one reason the blogosphere exists. I’d disagree with Bolton on that point; freedom of expression does not include the right to have one’s words published in a newspaper. Shipley and the Times should not be forced (by the government) into printing something they do not want, and neither should anyone else.

Big picture: This is exactly why legacy media, particularly print media, is now doomed to fail… or at least become perhaps trivially boutique in their survival, mere little fishes in a bigger pond.

Clearly legitimate positions and responses are being and have been filtered ever since the medium was invented and provided immeasurable power to those behind the scenes committed to covering/pushing whatever point of view they preferred. It’s apparent that these institutions do not necessarily promote the “greater good,” that their editorial professionalism is contaminated with purposeful bias, so much so in some circumstances that it is clear propaganda.

While freedom of speech gives this institution the right to propagandize how it sees fit, modern technology in concert with cynical and increasingly sophisticated consumers of the medium can and will move to other venues whose production is more honest and transparent. Should those still be inadequate, some segment of those consumers will become producers of content… producers who won’t have to ask or beg for permission by the gatekeepers to produce a counterargument.

This (tech trumping deadwood), of course, is not a new revelation. What is new, however, is the rapidity with which we observe legacy media crumble – and crumbling at an increasing rate in response to the fraudulent industry we had been trained, if not hand tied, to trust.

The NYTimes ridiculous response represents an exclamation point to this developing truism.

AnonymousDrivel on July 22, 2008 at 1:53 PM

“Shipley and the Times should not be forced (by the government) into printing something they do not want, and neither should anyone else.”

I agree. Like all print and broadcast media, the NY Times has the Freedom of the Press. However, in a Democracy, every right has a connected duty.

For the good of our democratic society, Freedom of the Press brings the duties of professional competence, honesty and objectivity. In refusing to print Senator McCain’s essay, the NY Times has failed in all these duties. The Times has thereby gone from using to abusing Freedom of Speech. Their political bias is blatantly shown.

DavePa on July 22, 2008 at 2:37 PM

We need to call this exactly what it is without excuses and thats blatant bias.

The only thing wrong with McCains Op Ed is its better than Obama’s.

We can’t expect a newspaper that gladly prints material that places our young men and women in harms way to be any different.

Speakup on July 22, 2008 at 2:59 PM

The Boston Herald had it today in OpEd with a headline about the NYT rejection.

Rod on July 22, 2008 at 3:05 PM

The Boston Herald had it today in OpEd with a headline about the NYT rejection.

Rod on July 22, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Guess the Globe found it problematic as well :)

JiangxiDad on July 22, 2008 at 3:16 PM

The New York Times in 2003 editorialized that the Boston Red Sox should win against the New York Yankees. Years ago Howell Raines also spiked a couple of sports columns (forget who) that said the Augusta Country Club should remain all-male, because Raines was on a “open Augusta to women” soapbox.

The Times long ago stopped being a good, objective newspaper.

rbj on July 22, 2008 at 3:29 PM

Er, forgot to add that the Times’ pro Red Sox editorial forgot to mention that the NY Times is a minority owner of the Red Sox.

rbj on July 22, 2008 at 3:30 PM

Maybe Shipley wrote the Obama op-ed.

davod on July 22, 2008 at 3:42 PM

Maybe it’s time for our family to subscribe to the NY Post.

Mommynator on July 22, 2008 at 3:50 PM

I wouldn’t wrap a rotting stinking worm infested mackerel in a single sheet of paper from the NYT. The mackerel deserves much better. So do the worms for that matter.

pilamaye on July 22, 2008 at 3:54 PM

This is why Guiliani would have been such a better candidate. He really knows how to get people pissed at the inanity of the press. But it’s hard for McCain to complain when he was the press darling for so long. Guiliani fought the NY Times for years, and won.

blue13326 on July 22, 2008 at 4:19 PM

I read HuffPo’s take on this yesterday, and I kind of admire the nerve it took to print their spin with a straight face: They’re saying that this NYT rejection is yet more proof that the media are in the tank for McCain. They figure that McCain’s op-ed was so bad that the NYT was trying to protect him from embarrassment by not printing it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/21/inew-york-timesi-spares-m_n_114117.html

juliesa on July 22, 2008 at 4:48 PM

The New York Times has an op/ed page? Can I post that I have a bike for sale there? Like CraigsList?

2Tru2Tru on July 23, 2008 at 12:32 AM