Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Obama Writes Op-Ed Detailing His Vision for Iraq. McCain responds with an attack ad. NY Times says.... Sorry John, try again.
Posted July 22nd, 2008 at 8:12 am
Last Monday (July 14), the New York Times ran an op-ed from Barack Obama on his vision for U.S. policy towards Iraq. It was a very strong column, which as one might expect, described the kind of strategy Obama would pursue as president. It was far more policy driven than political — it referenced John McCain only three times in a 900-word piece — and explained why it’s critically important to have a “useful debate,” instead of another round of “false charges about flip-flops and surrender.”
The McCain campaign thought it’d be great if the NYT offered the presumptive Republican nominee a similar opportunity, and submitted its own 900-word op-ed piece. There was just one problem that the Times editors couldn’t help but notice: the column was dreadful.
The New York Times has rejected an op-ed piece written by John McCain defending his Iraq war policy in response to a piece by Barack Obama published in the paper last week.
In an e-mail to the McCain campaign, Opinion Page Editor David Shipley said he could not accept the piece as written, but would be “pleased, though, to look at another draft.”
“Let me suggest an approach,” he wrote. “The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece.”
For reasons that escape me, Republicans have decided that this is an outrageous example of media bias. I haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about.
The conservative take on this, in a nutshell, is that the NYT gave Obama a platform, so it should give McCain an equal opportunity. The Times publishes op-ed pieces from all kinds of people from around the world; why should McCain be excluded?
But that’s not at all what happened here. The Times was fully prepared to give McCain a platform; the editors simply wanted a substantive, policy-driven piece. Indeed, instead of a flat rejection, the Times told the McCain campaign, in a rather friendly way, that it would be “pleased, though, to look at another draft.”
Indeed, the paper issued a statement yesterday afternoon:
It is standard procedure on our Op-Ed page, and that of other newspapers, to go back and forth with an author on his or her submission. We look forward to publishing Senator McCain’s views in our paper just as we have in the past. We have published at least seven Op-Ed pieces by Senator McCain since 1996. The New York Times endorsed Senator McCain as the Republican candidate in the presidential primaries. We take his views very seriously.
That’s not a rejection; it’s an invitation.
Go ahead and read McCain’s submitted piece. It has 12 paragraphs — 11 of which attack Obama directly. Obama’s piece focused on Obama’s vision for a sensible U.S. policy towards Iraq. McCain’s submission was a hit-job, focused exclusively on attacking Obama. While Obama’s op-ed mentioned McCain three times, McCain’s op-ed mentioned Obama 10 times by name, and 17 times through pronouns.
The sticking point seems to be over the Times’ request that McCain not only talk about “victory” in Iraq, but actually take a moment to explain what that means. The campaign doesn’t want to do that — and by every indication, it can’t do that. Even being asked to define “success” is, apparently, considered a personal affront.
Obama’s op-ed talked about his Iraq policy. And McCain’s op-ed talked about Obama’s Iraq policy. That may pass for “balance” on Fox News, but some outlets are looking for a little more.
The Times wanted to run a thoughtful, substantive piece from McCain on the war. In fact, by all indications, the Times still wants to run a thoughtful, substantive piece from McCain on the war.
That the McCain campaign can’t bring itself to write one, and is whining about even being asked, speaks volumes about John McCain’s clarity and judgment.