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MoveOn.org And The New York Times: A Love Affair Gone Wrong

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by Heidi Buchanan

For those of you who aren’t in tune with the goings on in Washington, DC, there has been a lot of hubbub in the news recently. Not of the war in Iraq, or of the appropriations process — which has been stalled and leaves the American people without a 2008 budget–but rather of a controversial advertisement run by the New York Times.

Recently, MoveOn.org came out with an ad labeling U.S. General David Petraeus as a conniving Bushie who isn't serving America as a respected general. In a world that already views the New York Times as the flagship source of media bias, how did this love affair between a liberal anti-war group and an alleged liberal newspaper come to be, and where did it go wrong?

No one contests MoveOn.org’s constitutional right to free speech. However, reports show the New York Times had changed their own policy to allow this ad, a policy which specifically says: "we do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature." The Times is now being accused even more of being biased to the left by conservative tycoons such as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh because of its subsidizing of the MoveOn.org ad. The Times is disputing this mistake by claiming that an advertising sales representative had made a mistake in

granting the discount and that MoveOn should have been charged $142,083 as opposed to the $77,508 that MoveOn claims they paid for the ad. Because of this “mistake” the Times is denying any allegations of “bias.”

And then, as with any love affair in came a third party: Congress got involved. The House and the Senate have both voted on resolutions condemning MoveOn's actions. In the House, it was voted on as an amendment attached to an appropriations bill, it passed with 347 votes, with 79 votes against. Seventy-nine votes? Where’d those come from? But of course, the liberals of the bunch – Barney Frank (D-MA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA) and a slue of others from the typically liberal areas – the Northeast and the West Coast. Whose name doesn’t show up? Why Speaker Pelosi of course; however it is typical for the Speaker of the House to not vote. Majority Leader Hoyer did however come out against MoveOn. The Democratic House leadership seemed relatively divided on the issue, while the Republican party remained united in their opposition to MoveOn.

The Senate’s resolution passed with 72 votes in favor and 25 against. However, both Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) voted against the resolution. Guess those presidential campaigns are protecting their base where as Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) were both absent for the vote with Senator Obama positioning his absence as taking the high road and not commenting on an issue that is not worthy of Senate comment. Most of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle denounced the MoveOn ads but Senator Clinton never came outright to denounce it but rather kept her denouncement of the ad ambiguous in an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press by saying, “I don’t condone anything like that, and I have voted against those who would impugn the patriotism and the service of the people who wear the uniform of our country. I don’t believe that that should be said about General Petraeus, and I condemn that.” However, this is another instance of having it both ways — condemning something on Meet the Press and taking the opposite approach when voting in the Senate.

What does this all amount to? A menial controversy created by a media giant and an already controversial anti-war group avoiding the important matters at hand such as creating an effective solution to the war in Iraq, approving another Attorney General and passing the 2008 fiscal budget. So it goes, another non-binding resolution passed by Congress, another week in Washington with the people’s business left undone.

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  • http://www.blastmagazine.com John Guilfoil

    This article was written by Heidi Buchanan as a commentary on Blastmagazine.com

  • gonzo marx

    well then…since it appears apparent that the author didn;t like the ad, and appears to support the shitstorm it stirred in Congress, allow me to ask the Question…

    does the Author also condemn the “phony soldiers” remark made by Limbaugh?

    should there also be Congressional condemnation?

    imo, neither should have EVER been mentioned on the Hill…shows Reid is a worthless piece of shit that the first one ever even got to the floor…

    but i digress

    Excelsior?

  • Clavos

    “does the Author also condemn the “phony soldiers” remark made by Limbaugh?”

    A bit of clarification here:

    The “phony soldiers” remark was made in reference to those scum who falsely claim to have served in a combat zone for the purpose of scamming the VA to provide them services and compensation. The most recent case is that of some asshole named Macbeth(!), but we’ve had a number of them over the years who’ve claimed they served in Vietnam, as well. There was even one who served as a chapter president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) a few years back.

    VVA and a number of other organizations (VFW, for one) maintain lists and monitor these scum, blowing the whistle when they find one.

    I tried to link to an article in National Review which discusses the Limbaugh remark, but something in the URL was deemed a “banned word.”

  • gonzo marx

    Clavos..i heard the entire segment last night, and i disagree with your assessment

    but that aside, how about the swift boat ads, or the Max Cleland bits?

    Excelsior?

  • alessandro

    Isn’t the owner/publisher of NYT a fervent anti-war activist from the 60s?

    What I don’t get is that the anti-war camp say they support the troops. Yet, they have no qualms with calling Petraeus a traitor. Unless you have absolute proof, which they probably do not have (what they have is the convictions of their thoughts which they pass as truth) it’s still defammation of character to me.

    How do you separate a General from his troops?

  • Clavos

    gonzo,

    I didn’t hear the broadcast; I make it a point not to listen to talk radio, but I did read the transcript of the relevant segment. At best, Limbaugh’s comments can be considered ambiguous, IMO, so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    I think you can infer what I think about the swift boat ads from the many unequivocally critical comments about kerry I’ve posted on BC.

    I don’t know much about the cleland issue, but I will say that I don’t hold him in any particular special regard because of his physical condition. I don’t care for his politics. The one thing about cleleand I DO know about is his tenure as Administrator of the VA, which is best described as lackluster.

    I won’t go into the circumstances of how he was wounded, other than to say that picking up a dropped grenade (cleland’s words) isn’t a very smart thing to do.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    fair enough, Clavos…

    my point was that if it’s ok to character assassinate one person’s military service, then it’s a bit hypocritical for those that scream when the shoe is on the other foot

    it’s one thing to argue with someone’s politics..it’s quite another to denigrate the military service of a combat vet, imo

    especially from those who didn’t have the balls to serve themselves and/or those who lie about that combat vet

    falls under Free Speech, and even tho i abhor it, i’ll Defend the Right of those who say it to do so

    i’m funny like that

    Excelsior?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    The ad-rate discrepancy is attention-getting, but the idea of the NY Times [mainstream press, controversy-averse, centrist-liberal on the editorial page, carefully manicured impartiality on the news pages] and MoveOn [deliberately cheeky, impertinent, nose-tweakers, and unabashedly way-left] being involved in some kind of conspiracy doesn’t wash.

    I would imagine 90% or more of the Times staff cringed as much as I did at the unfortunate headline of the ad. It was counterproductive [although it did get MoveOn lots of publicity and donations]. But the reactions of Limbaugh and the GOP congressional know-nothings has been just as embarrassing, and depressingly predictable.

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