Did MoveOn.org get favored treatment from The Times? And was the ad outside the bounds of acceptable political discourse?
The answer to the first question is that MoveOn.org paid what is known in the newspaper industry as a standby rate of $64,575 that it should not have received under Times policies. The group should have paid $142,083. The Times had maintained for a week that the standby rate was appropriate, but a company spokeswoman told me late Thursday afternoon that an advertising sales representative made a mistake.
The answer to the second question is that the ad appears to fly in the face of an internal advertising acceptability manual that says, "We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature." Steph Jespersen, the executive who approved the ad, said that, while it was "rough," he regarded it as a comment on a public official’s management of his office and therefore acceptable speech for The Times to print.
That's the NYT's own version. Here's the Daily News. At best, incompetence; at worst, bias. Either way, if the NYT wants to recover, it needs to fire someone. I'm not of the view that this ad was in any way as important as the debate about future strategy in Iraq. But because it distracted us from that, it was a lose-lose proposition. I'm a skeptic of the surge and worried about the use of Petraeus for political purposes. The ad still repelled me.
The extremes on both sides are culpable in this respect. Coulter and MoveOn deserve each other. If you can't condemn the one, you have no business condemning the other. And the rest of us deserve a lot better.