The New York Times editorial page is liberal — that’s not news — but today it revealed itself as dishonest, politically partisan and in the tank for Barack Obama.

After last week’s effort by Obama to rewrite history — namely, the basis for his opposition to the surge — was aided and abetted by the Times op-ed staff, Sen. John McCain penned a response. That article was rejected by Op-Ed Editor David Shipley, a former Clinton speechwriter, in an e-mail to McCain aide Michael Goldfarb.

Dear Mr. Goldfarb,

Thank you for sending me Senator McCain’s essay.

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.

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. 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.

I am going to be out of the office next week. If you decide to re-work the draft, please be in touch with Mary Duenwald, the Op-Ed deputy. …

Again, thank you for taking the time to send me the Senator’s draft. I really hope we can find a way to bring this to a happy resolution.

Sincerely,

David Shipley

Let’s take this dishonest piece of tripe apart bit by bit.

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.

New information? Let’s quote selectively from the Obama piece, emphasis added.

We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

In other words, standard boilerplate. This isn’t news. This is what won him the Democratic Party primary.

But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

This is a baldfaced lie. And the Times allowed it in print.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.

Not news.

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

Also, not news. He’s been saying it for months.

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 level of “detail” was acceptable to Shipley a week before. What does he want from McCain again?

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.

What’s the size of this residual force? Obama says he doesn’t support permanent bases like those in South Korea, but where would this residual force stay? Would he quarter them in the homes of average Iraqi citizens?

In fairness, there is one bit of Obama’s piece that is new information.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan.

That’s it. Seriously. There was nothing else new in Obama’s entire piece that you couldn’t have patched together from even a passing familiarity with his campaign.

The Times’ caucus blog covers the brouhaha here. A couple of things to note. First, is Editorial Page Andrew Rosenthal’s response to this issue.

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 pesidential primaries. We take his views very seriously.

Just for the record, I’m curious exactly how much back-and-forth the Times did with Obama’s piece. Did they request a wholesale rewrite like they did with McCain? If so, did Obama’s campaign acquiesce?

I’m also amused by Rosenthal’s decision to point out that the Times endorsed McCain in the primary. Would anyone care to wager that the Times will be endorsing anyone other than Obama in the general election? I’ll give you ridiculous odds.

Finally, there’s this bit to note.

(In full disclosure, I [blog author Kate Phillips] worked as the deputy Op-Ed editor under Mr. Shipley during the mid-to-latter part of 2004, and it was policy then not to publish direct responses to Op-Ed columns already in print. Very rarely would a direct counterpoint to an Op-Ed be published; more often the response would be directed to Letters to the Editor. But dueling candidate Op-Eds sometimes rise to a different level, when they go beyond back-and-forth or standard talking points that everyone is familiar with.

That said, I should also say there is an enormous firewall between the editorial/Op-Ed side and the news operation. We on the news side had no input, nor intelligence, per se of Mr. McCain’s article, nor did we know that Mr. Shipley requested revisions. That holds true for all submissions to Op-Ed.)

I believe all of this disclosure. However, I would curiously note that the immense firewall between the editorial/Op-Ed side and the news operation didn’t prevent Ms. Phillips from crossing over to do political reporting.

Take that for what you will.

For the record, you can find the McCain op-ed in its entirety after the jump.

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% 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.

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One Response to Not an objective broker

  1. […] analyzed Shipley’s explanation at the time it occurred. I encourage you to read it because it reveals that Obama’s op-ed was […]

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