Monday, August 15, 2005

Hillary and Rupert, sitting in a tree

David Carr has an interesting column in the NYT describing the unexpectedly cordial relationship between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Hillary Clinton. This has recently played out in the pages of the New York Post, which has been trashing her GOP senate opponent Jeanine Pirro in much the same way it trashed Hillary in her 2000 campaign - at least until Giuliani dropped out. But that's just part of a broader trend:

Just last month, The Post's editorial page, which has historically viewed Mrs. Clinton as the female version of Beelzebub, called her "the unlikely warrior," lauding her support of increased troop strength in Iraq. And Ms. Clinton was busy last month assailing the corrosive qualities of Grand Theft Auto, suggesting that the government needed to help the video game industry develop some standards. It is an upside-down, crisscross world where the rubrics "conservative" and "liberal" lose any sort of meaning. Even within the company, Mr. Murdoch's political bent does not prevent him from working with Democrats. Peter Chernin, the News Corporation's president, is a major Democratic figure who contributed more than $100,000 to John Kerry's failed presidential campaign. Gary Ginsberg, a vice president for corporate affairs and the company's chief spokesman, is a former Clinton White House aide.

"The company has a cordial and respectful relationship with both Clintons," Mr. Ginsberg said.

And the Clinton camp chose to smile and wear beige as well.

"The New York Post and other media outlets are just reflecting the reality that Senator Clinton has worked tirelessly and done a good job for New York," said Philippe Reines, her press secretary. Things changed when the former first lady added senator to her title.

When Clintonites say the Post is "reflecting reality," you know something odd is happening. Carr makes several stabs at deciphering the tea leaves - Murdoch respects power; Murdoch doesn't see the need to trash people in power who can help him in Washington; Hillary has moved rightward; the Post, Fox News and other News Corp. outlets want to keep Hillary around now so they can trash her when she runs for president - because she gins up great ratings and readership.

Obviously, with Murdoch business comes before politics. It helps him to get close with Hillary, at least for now. And Hillary is smart to encourage it - the constituencies she wants to reach overlap with those of the Post and Fox News. But to take the final point above a step further, this rapprochement shows how much, even now, conservatism depends on liberals to keep itself afloat both ideologically and financially. Without political lodestars like the Clintons, whom would conservatives rage against? Ted Kennedy is so 1980. A centrist liberal like Hillary is much more useful to the right. Whether tacking left or right, she is an automatic buzz-generator for the VRWC (her term, still creating buzz seven years later). And this reflects the basic parasitical nature of American conservatism - 90 percent of conservatism amounts to a critique of liberalism, liberal programs and liberal attitudes, real and imagined. Without people like Hillary around, conservatives might have to take responsibility for running things.