By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: MoveOn

Hoyt says Times erred on MoveOn ad

Accusations that the New York Times gave a price break to for its ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus didn’t strike me as all that interesting. When it comes to newspaper advertising, everything is for sale, and the official rate card is often just a way to start negotiations.

But Times public editor Clark Hoyt says the Times made a mistake — that the price MoveOn paid ($65,000 as opposed to $142,000) was for a “standby” ad for which a specific day of publication could not be guaranteed. The MoveOn folks wanted their ad run on the Monday of the week that Petraeus was to testify on Capitol Hill, and they got their wish.

So how did it happen? Hoyt doesn’t quite say. But it sounds like an ad salesman wanted a commission.

Hoyt also doesn’t think the ad should have run at all. I disagree. As I’ve said before, the ad was an unfair attack on an honorable public official, although it’s hardly so offensive that it warranted breaking out the smelling salts.

The Times is a public trust, and its ad pages ought to be as open to political speech as possible, offensive or otherwise. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gets it right when he tells Hoyt, “If we’re going to err, it’s better to err on the side of more political dialogue.”

Update: Looks like MoveOn just cost Rudy Giuliani $77,000. From a press release:

Now that the Times has revealed this mistake for the first time, and while we believe that the $142,083 figure is above the market rate paid by most organization, out of an abundance of caution we have decided to pay that rate for this ad. We will therefore wire the $77,083 difference to the Times tomorrow (Monday, September 24, 2007).

We call on Mayor Giuliani, who received exactly the same ad deal for the same price, to pay the corrected fee also.

What Patrick meant

Gov. Deval Patrick did a decent job yesterday of deflecting criticism over his 9/11 remarks. “Let me be clear: I don’t think America bears any fault for the attack on us in 9/11, and I don’t think that any of the family members with whom I spoke that day heard it or saw it that way,” he said on the “Eagan & Braude” show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). The Boston Globe covers the story here; the Associated Press here.

Lest you forget, here is the section of Patrick’s speech that brought him to grief:

Because among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding. It was mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also about the failure of human beings to understand each other, and to learn to love each other.

At the time, those words struck me as odd, and he obviously opened himself up to accusations that he was being insensitive to the victims of 9/11. But it’s an exercise in intellectual dishonesty to suggest that he really, actually meant to say that Al Qaeda wouldn’t have attacked us if only we had demonstrated love and understanding toward the terrorists. Naturally, the Massachusetts Republican Party and the usual suspects on talk radio nearly injured themselves from the speed with which they leapt to that conclusion.

The Phoenix’s David Bernstein digs deeply, and shows not just the context in which Patrick made his remarks on Tuesday, but on other occasions as well. Here, most tellingly, is a long excerpt from the commencement address Patrick gave this past May at Mount Wachusett Community College:

The events of September 11, 2001 were horrific, you know that. They disrupted individual families and our collective sense of security and well-being. It was a “wake-up” call to our own vulnerability. And it represents a catastrophic failure of human understanding. In its wake, I believe we have been governed by fear.

Fear is what drove us to round up people of Arab descent, many of them American citizens, and to hold hundreds without cause or charge.

Fear led us to lose focus on a known enemy in Afghanistan and invade Iraq instead.

Fear justified what I believe to be the greatest assault on personal freedoms (in the Patriot Act) and the greatest aggregation of Presidential power in much of our history.

Fear created the Guantánamo detention center, where the very rule of law that has made our democracy an envy of the world has been set aside.

Just a few months ago in a radio interview, a senior Pentagon official, Charles “Cully” Stimson, named some of the law firms providing free representation to the Guantánamo detainees and suggested that corporate America make those law firms — and I quote — “choose between representing terrorists and representing reputable firms.” He attempted to mark these lawyers as enemies of society. There was no subtlety in his message.

Speaking about this post-9/11 phenomenon, former Vice President Gore observed that, “Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction.” He quoted former Justice Brandeis, who said that, “Men feared witches and burnt women.”

The Vice President, I think, captured the spirit of the active citizen in the heat of danger when he said, “The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hanged as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk. Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.”

Like me, he wonders: “Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol?”

Fear is treacherous.

Now, I’m sure there are some conservatives who would disagree with those remarks, but they pretty much reflect what most liberals believe has happened during the post-9/11 era. Certainly no one would consider them to be particularly controversial. (Indeed, they’re now four months old and no one has said a thing.) Too bad Patrick didn’t express himself as clearly on Tuesday as he did in May.

Finally, have a look at Jay Fitzgerald’s post in which he links criticism of Patrick’s remarks to the idiotic brouhaha over’s “General Betray Us” ad in the New York Times. Jay — a conservative, or at least someone who passes for one in Massachusetts — correctly notes that President Bush’s defenders are going berserk over these two issues because they can’t offer substantive arguments over everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq.

Personally, I thought Patrick’s remarks — or at least that one excerpt — were tone-deaf, and that MoveOn’s ad was silly and misdirected. But offensive? What’s offensive is the right’s knee-jerk response in attempting to turn everything into a attack on the other side’s patriotism.

If Patrick is guilty of anything, it’s failing to understand how the game is played. Too bad it’s a game, isn’t it?

Photo of Patrick (cc) by DoubleSpeakShow. Some rights reserved.

McCarthyism and

Conservative supporters of the war in Iraq are spreading a bizarre meme — that’s New York Times ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us” is the moral equivalent of McCarthyism. A few examples:

  • “We may be about to witness a McCarthy-Army-Welch moment in the debate over Iraq. This time, the role of McCarthy is played by, a liberal political group that launched its own attack on a respected US Army figure.” — Peter Feaver, former National Security Council staff member, writing in the Boston Globe.
  • has thrown down an unprecedented attack on an American general’s character and honesty. It is a disgusting overreach, one that brings to mind Joe McCarthy’s attacks on the Army half a century ago.” — Hugh Hewitt, radio talk-show host and blogger, in the Los Angeles Times.
  • Blogger Dean Barnett posts of a photo on of Sen. Joseph McCarthy being confronted by lawyer Joseph Welch at the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, at which Welch memorably spoke up on behalf of an officer who’d been targeted by McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
  • Sen. John McCain called the MoveOn ad “a McCarthyite attack,” according to this report in the Boston Globe by Lisa Wangsness.

OK, enough. You do see what the problem is, don’t you? McCarthy was smearing government officials by accusing them of being communists. MoveOn is smearing Petraeus by accusing him of being a known associate of (gasp!) George W. Bush.

And though it may have been wrongheaded for MoveOn to suggest that Petraeus would shade the truth on Bush’s behalf, it would be a stretch to call that offensive, let alone “McCarthyite.” Shading the truth about the war — its causes and its prosecution — is, after all, the modus operandi of the Bush White House. Pete Hegseth, writing in the Weekly Standard, accuses MoveOn of calling Petraeus a “traitor.” Hegseth needs to think through the implications of what he’s saying.

I have no love for MoveOn, and I fail to see how blowing its members’ money on a full-page ad in the Times advances its cause. There are not too many Times readers, I suspect, who continue to support (or who ever supported) the war.

I also think that Petraeus stands as one of the few honorable leaders in this terrible folly. His analysis — that U.S. and Iraqi troops are making progress on the ground — seems eminently reasonable. Too bad Iraq’s leadership continues to rip the country apart. (And yes, I understand that Petraeus wrote an overly optimistic op-ed piece for the Washington Post just before the last presidential election, an act that could be seen as political.)

This past Sunday’s “Meet the Press” was valuable, both for the downbeat assessment offered by retired Marine Gen. James Jones and former Washington police commissioner Charles Ramsey, members of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, and for Sen. Joseph Biden’s take on the MoveOn ad: “I don’t buy into that. This is an honorable guy. He’s telling the truth.”

Petraeus‘ truth, unfortunately, is just a small part of the picture. But unless President Bush is suddenly the new Nikita Krushchev, then MoveOn’s ad can’t possibly be compared the tactics of the late, unlamented Joseph McCarthy.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén