Strange Bedfellows

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS…Something else from the New Republic: Jason Zengerle, in noting that Rupert Murdoch is hosting a fundraiser for Hillary, speculates that the ongoing Murdoch-Hillary rapprochement may indicate that she ultimately hopes to “somehow co-opt Fox News.”

This isn’t as crazy as it might sound. Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Murdoch’s British tabloid The Sun supported Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party more strenously than maybe any paper has ever supported a political party. (Okay, some of those 19th-century press barons probably outdid The Sun, but you get the point.) On Election Day in 1992, The Sun went with the headline: “Nightmare on Kinnock Street” and ran a front-page photo of the Labor leader, Neil Kinnock, that made him look frighteningly deranged and wild-eyed (which, truth be told, wasn’t hard to do). Many observers credited the Conservative victory in part to The Sun‘s almost unimaginably cruel coverage of Kinnock in the race’s final weeks.

When Tony Blair took over the Labor party in ’94, he realized that getting elected could be tough with that kind of opposition. So he began courting Murdoch. And he succeeded: in 1997, The Sun (and the The Times, Murdoch’s other slightly less-tabloidy, and much-less-read, daily) backed Blair, helping carry him to a sweeping win. Even more surprisingly, The Sun has remained a loyal Blair ally ever since, dutifully feeding readers the government line each day, even as the rest of the media, and the electorate, have long-since soured on Blair.

Admittedly, Blair’s decision to move Labor to the right after taking over helped reassure Murdoch. But it’s hard to imagine that Murdoch could see Hillary’s current political persona as all that much more frightening than Labor in ’97. The key thing point here is that Murdoch, though obviously hostile to regulation, isn’t some sort of doctrinaire ideological conservative (he certainly seems to have little in common with the religious conservatism that dominates today’s GOP). He’s a businessman first and foremost, and once he became convinced that New Labor wasn’t going to return Britain to the days when the Trades Unions regularly sat down for “beer and sandwiches at Number 10” with the prime minister, he was happy to support Blair, given which way the wind seemed to be blowing.

Does this mean that by 2008 Bill O’Reilly could be talking up Hillary’s candidacy? Who knows? But even neutralizing the “Fox News effect” would be a pretty valuable coup for Hillary. Maybe she’s up to something really smart here.