Opinion: Big N.Y. Times discount for Betray Us ad

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Unless you’ve been watching the Cartoon Network since Sunday night, you’ve probably seen some Republican hold up and delightedly denounce a full-page ad from the New York Times. It shows a photo of Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and says he’s ‘cooking the books’ for the Bush White House in his reports to Congress this week, calling him Gen. Betray Us.

The ad was purchased by, the militantly leftist group that has gained considerable influence among Democrats in recent years and spends millions to defeat Republicans.

It turns out, according to a N.Y. Post article Thursday, the Times gave a considerable discount to MoveOn for the ad purchase. Such a full-page black and white ad normally costs $181,692. MoveOn tells the Post it paid only $65,000, a 65% discount for the leftist group. The Times refused to explain the $116,692 markdown.

While the ad got wide exposure on television worth far more than its cost to MoveOn, the group, or at least the Democrats it supports, may have gotten more than they bargained for.


Republicans are so happy they seem ready to chip in on the ad’s cost, so easily does it help the GOP identify Democrats with an anti-military stance they’ve had to combat before. Well aware of MoveOn’s large membership and political influence, few Democrats spoke out against the ad’s betrayal statement. Campaign statements instead emphasized their war opposition. Some suggested they might have chosen different words and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi merely said she would have ‘preferred’ MoveOn not do the ad.

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain denounced the ad and called on Hillary Clinton to...

denounce it too and to repudiate her statement that to believe the general’s testimony would require the ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’

Both McCain and Giuliani have repeated their charges: McCain on his website and in an e-mail to supporters; and Giuliani in Georgia campaign appearances, in an e-mail to supporters and in his own full-page ad defending the general and submitted to the New York Times Thursday. ‘These times call for statesmanship,’ Giuliani says in the ad, ‘not politicians spewing political venom.’

A Giuliani spokeswoman declined to say how much the campaign was paying for the ad.

In an item on the Washington Post Trail blog, MoveOn’s executive director, Eli Pariser, said the group’s aim of questioning the general’s credibility was achieved even with the backlash. And he promised a new ad to come soon that will strike at both President Bush and Democrats who, the group maintains, are not doing enough to end the Iraq war.

MoveOn is a nine-year-old group formed to urge Congress to move on from its impeachment activities over President Clinton. Though closely affiliated with the party and its leaders -- MoveOn spent millions on the John Kerry campaign in 2004 -- MoveOn can take even more militant stands, as when it successfully backed anti-war candidate Ned Lamont against Democratic Senate incumbent Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut party primary last year. Lieberman went on to win as an independent.

Earlier this year, even the mere criticism by MoveOn of Fox News caused all Democratic presidential candidates to drop out of a debate co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. ‘We’re not accountable ultimately to the Democrats,’ Pariser told the Trail. ‘We’re accountable to people who want a swift end to the war, and that’s the end goal here.’

--Andrew Malcolm