The New York Times did nothing wrong in rejecting McCain’s op-ed

Originally uploaded by johnvierdsen

Once again, a Republican candidate is setting their sights on a newspaper to score political points. This time, it’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who is saying The New York Times played favorites in rejecting his op-ed and asking him to rewrite it.

Of course, instead of going back to the drawing board and sending a column that made more sense, the McCain campaign is trying get pub for what is really their mistake.

Quoted on the Drudge Report, NYT op-ed editor David Shipley 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.”

Shipley continues: “It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.”

Asking columnists to revise copy is par for the course, and McCain’s written about seven columns for the Times in the past 12 years. But, letting facts and procedure speak for themselves would get in the way of the propaganda effort, as one South Carolina blogger makes the mistake of on a daily basis:

So what gives with the Times double standard? Or the double-standard over at La Socialista, for that matter? Sure, we’re by no means the fairest or most balanced source of information here at FITSNews, but we kind of make that clear with the whole “Unfair … Imbalanced” thing up at the top of your computer screen.

The bottom line is this: If you’re going to pass yourself off as being “objective,” you gotta actually be objective … or do what we’ve done and say “to hell with it, we’re going to speak our minds.”

Just because you’re ignorant of how a newspaper works doesn’t give you the excuse of speaking as an authority of how a newspaper works. The Times of London, definitely not a liberal paper, backs up the NYT decision (quoted in total).

The New York Times has rejected a piece by Senator John McCain, having already run one by Barack Obama. And you know what? I think they may be right.

Here’s how I would have dealt with the two articles if I had been been given them as Comment (OpEd) Editor here at what the Americans insist on calling the London Times.

First, having run an Obama piece on Iraq I would be keen on having a matching McCain piece. Keen but not desperate. Over time it is good to have balance, but it is not necessary to have tit for tat pieces every time.

Second, the job of a Comment Editor is to provide readers with an insight into the political debate. One is not part of the official machinery – required to provide space for rebuttal. If that was a requirement, President Bush would be able to commandeer half a page every day in order to reply to his critics.

So there is no absolute requirement for the NYT to run a McCain piece. Naturally, however, the Editor should want his readers to know what McCain thinks on such a big question. And this might be a good moment to have a piece by him. So why not run it?

Well, political pieces by elected officials or candidates can often be very boring – safe, unrevealing and tediously partisan. In general I required such pieces to jump over a pretty high importance barrier before I ran them.

Obama’s piece vaulted that hurdle. It outlined his views, pretty much avoided point scoring, and dealt with the issue.

McCain’s piece, on the other hand, knocked the hurdle over. It wasn’t about Iraq. It was about Obama. If I received it I would have done exactly what the NYT did – send it back and ask them to redraft it so that it was about Iraq and was more, well, interesting.

Why was I only able to say I “think” they “may” be right? Because I don’t know exactly what they asked the Senator’s staff to do to the piece. But if they simply asked for a piece that matched Obama’s because, like Obama’s it was actually about his views on Iraq, well then I am right behind them.

One problem here is something that has continually come up over the past half-century – a culture of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party that seriously needs to be purged. It touched on Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and many others, including many in their own party – the idea that being smart and nuanced was somehow a bad thing. This culture has also led to a death-hatred of media, especially newspapers.

You’re not right because you don’t understand. You’re just not right. The funny thing is that McCain could have rewritten the piece and had something solid in the paper. But the desire to needle the “pointy-heads” was too much. Ultimately, the entire situation is an example of the McCain crew abandoning “straight talk” for “pure politics.”

Why the New York Times were right to reject John McCain’s article [The Times]
NYT To McCain: Your Writing Sucks, Too [Wonkette]


1 Response to “The New York Times did nothing wrong in rejecting McCain’s op-ed”

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