Rupert Murdoch, Hillary Clinton and the politics of 2016


Rush vs. Colbert

Rupert Murdoch, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of 2016

Some folks may be surprised by an interview in which Rupert Murdoch declares: "I could live with Hillary as president."

Yes, he added, "We have to live with who we get. We don't have any choice." But when asked by Fortune magazine whether he could envision himself supporting Hillary Clinton, Murdoch did not laugh off the suggestion: "It would depend on the Republican candidate totally."

The comments by the chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox, published yesterday, won't shock those who closely follow New York politics. While Murdoch's New York Post once relentlessly bashed the Clintons back in the day, he reached a rapprochement with her in 2006. Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Hillary's Senate reelection campaign. She expressed her gratitude and appeared along with Murdoch at a Georgetown party for "Fox News Sunday."

Some liberals weren't thrilled with the alliance, and Hillary still came in for vocal criticism at the time from some Fox News folks.

Two years later, Murdoch donated the maximum $2,300 to Clinton's presidential primary campaign -- as did his son, James -- although the Post wound up endorsing Barack Obama.

On the GOP side, Murdoch told Fortune that the 2016 race comes down to "four or five people."

In "slight" order of preference, he first named Jeb Bush, calling him "a man of very fine character" and a "great governor," and singling out his policies on education, which include the Common Core program that is not terribly popular on the right.

Murdoch next named "the straightest arrow I've ever met," Paul Ryan. "He's hardworking. He knows where every dollar goes in Washington. He's emerging as the natural leader. I almost think that because of the position he's in, he's not the most important, but he's the most influential Republican in his party at the moment in Washington." It's far from clear, though, whether the congressman will run.

Rounding out the list, Murdoch said Chris Christie "could recover" from the bridge scandal, that he doesn't know Scott Walker, and also mentioned "Rand Paul, whom I agree with on a great number of things but disagree strongly on some things -- too strongly perhaps to vote for him." He cited "foreign policy," an area in which the Kentucky senator takes a more isolationist approach than many in his party.

Anyone who follows Murdoch on Twitter knows he has no shortage of opinions -- and that those opinions sometimes differ from those of Fox News commentators. The wide-ranging interview makes that clear.

There was, for example, this exchange about Fox:

"Does it bother you at all, Rupert, that there is a view that Fox News has contributed in a big way to the political discontent in the U.S., degraded the political process, and maybe, in spotlighting the Tea Party, even hurt the Republican Party? 

"I think it has absolutely saved it. It has certainly given voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN. By the way, we don't promote the Tea Party. That's [BS]. We recognize their existence."

I would think he'd invoke MSNBC as the liberal champion as opposed to CNN, which lately has just been championing the search for the missing plane.

As for his newspapers, Murdoch confirmed that the tabloid Post lost around $40 million in 2012, saying advertising has been difficult and that he could envision it as an all-digital publication in 10 years. I personally have a hard time imagining New York without the Post screaming from the newsstands -- that is, if there are still newsstands.

Murdoch said he believes the Wall Street Journal will still exist in print form in 10 years, "but maybe not in 20."

He didn't mince words about the social networking site MySpace, which News Corp. bought in 2005 for $580 million and sold three years ago for a reported $35 million. "I think that was one of our great screwups of all time," he said.

Rush vs. Colbert 

Well, CBS has gone and ruined our speculative fun -- Chelsea Handler! Ellen! Jon Stewart! -- by giving David Letterman's job to Stephen Colbert.

I was sitting in Colbert's office back in 2005 when he wondered whether his new Comedy Central show would survive an eight-week trial run. Now he's in line to take over the "Late Show."

Not everyone is thrilled. Rush Limbaugh unloaded on the network's choice: "CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America ... They hired a partisan, so-called comedian, to run a comedy show."

Now it's not hard to figure out why Rush isn't a fan. Colbert plays a bloviating conservative buffoon whose very persona mocks the right, though he won't be portraying a character when he moves to CBS. Comedy Central attracts a hip, young, liberal-ish audience, and Jon Stewart (who gave Colbert his start as a "Daily Show" correspondent) has been a lot friendlier toward President Obama than he was toward President Bush.

Colbert told me in that interview that he is a Democrat, but added: "I'm not someone with a particular political ax to grind. I'm a comedian. I love hypocrisy."

Perhaps this is instructive: At the time, during the Bush administration, the "Daily Show" took on Dick Cheney's credibility by running a clip of the vice president once having tried to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda by saying it was "pretty well confirmed" that terrorist Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi official.

"When Dick Cheney says, 'I never said that,' and then we play the tape, why did we do it?" Colbert told me. "Why wasn't it done broadly? Because he wasn't speaking about something inconsequential. It wasn't like we were playing gotcha journalism over some quibble. It was over weapons of mass destruction. That's not advocacy journalism. That's objectivity in its most raw form."

More recently, Colbert sat next to Michelle Obama at a state dinner.

Whether Colbert is a good fit for CBS is an open question. But remember, Letterman, who famously mocked Sarah Palin and had to apologize for taking aim at Bristol Palin, didn't exactly hide his liberal views.

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