Monday, July 21, 2008

Dear John, please fact-check: footnote to the NYT's McCain op-ed rejection

Footnote to the NYT's rejection of a McCain op-ed on grounds that it contains no new information and fails to articulate "how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq" (per Drudge Report): McCain's piece also contains an obvious distortion of an alleged distortion. It's here:
[Obama] 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.
"All he has said" indeed. In his interview with Spiegel, notwithstanding after-the-fact protestation, Maliki did indeed endorse "the Obama timetable." Here's what he said, according to Spiegel:
US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.
After Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, cried "mistranslation," The New York Times obtained an audio recording and reported:
The following is a direct translatioPublish Postn from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”
That sound rather like what Obama has said. A little "refinement," anyone?

Arguably, the Times' op-ed editor David Shipley did McCain a favor by rejecting the draft. Odd choice, to self-publish it as a reject rather than take the challenge to define victory -- and do a bit of fact-checking.

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