The New York Times on Friday blocked an opinion piece submitted by John McCain to the newspaper shortly after it printed a piece by his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, McCain campaign officials confirmed to FOX News on Monday.
Obama’s piece detailed his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan. While McCain’s proposed piece also discussed Iraq, The Times told McCain’s advisers that it would not accept the op-ed in its current form because it did not offer new information. Obama’s speech previewed a series of speeches leading up to a highly publicized trip to war zones in the Middle East.
“I’d be very eager to publish the senator on the op-ed page. However, I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written. I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft. Let me suggest an approach,” Times op-ed editor David Shipley wrote the campaign via an e-mail later distributed by McCain’s team.
“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. It would also 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,” Shipley wrote.
Shipley, who was named deputy editor in January 2003, served in the Clinton administration as a senior presidential speechwriter and special assistant to the president from 1995 to 1997.
McCain campaign Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker said the two candidates “have very different world views” about Iraq and the campaign wanted an opportunity to state its candidate’s view.
“We have elections in this country, not coronations and it’s unfortunate that The New York Times wouldn’t allow their readers to hear from John McCain and make their own judgment,” Hazelbaker told FOX News.
“John McCain believes that victory in Iraq must be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables. Unlike Barack Obama, that position will not change based on politics or the demands of the New York Times,” added McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
The New York Times issued a statement defending its process of posting op-eds.
“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,” said Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis.
Obama’s op-ed ran on July 14, days before the Democratic presidential candidate departed for Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a congressional delegation that received coverage from all three broadcast networks’ news services. It is the first time the networks have traveled overseas with a candidate.
Hazelbaker said that it’s not her job to police the media coverage, but the campaign would have liked to have “made our case directly to the voters.”
“We think the American voter is smart enough to make the call on their own,” she said.
AI WILL CERTAINLY PUBLISH SENATOR MCCAIN’S OPED
By Sen. John McCain
In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80 percent to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.
Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”
Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.
Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City — actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.
The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country 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 had taken his advice, it would have been. 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 Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.
Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military’s readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their 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 complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.
No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. 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 have 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 have 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 Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”
The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.
I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war — only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.