WASHINGTON — The New York Times defended its decision not to publish an op-ed article as submitted by Republican John McCain about the Iraq war on grounds that it customarily reviews such pieces with the author.
McCain's presidential campaign submitted the op-ed on July 18. In it, the Arizona senator describes how the buildup of U.S. forces in Iraq has helped curb violence. He also chides Democratic rival Barack Obama for outlining his plan for Iraq before his current meetings there with commanders and Iraqi leaders.
In an e-mail to the campaign on July 18, 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 McCain's 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."
Commenting yesterday on the Times' demand, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "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."
Bounds said the campaign would not submit a revised op-ed.
McCain's submission came after the newspaper ran an op-ed written by Obama on July 14. The Illinois senator wrote that as president he would send at least two more combat brigades — about 7,000 troops — to Afghanistan as part of his plan to pull combat troops out of Iraq and focus on al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
In a written statement yesterday, the Times offered reasons for its decision and left the door open to publishing McCain's views: "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 Sen. McCain's views in our paper just as we have in the past."
The New York Times endorsed McCain in the Republican primaries, but he has had a testy relationship with the publication.
In February, McCain vigorously denied and denounced the newspaper's report that suggested he had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist. His campaign referred to the article as a "smear campaign" and "gutter politics" in the midst of the presidential race.
The newspaper said it had published at least seven of McCain's op-ed pieces since 1996. "We take his views very seriously," the statement said.