In the wake of the extremely regrettable news that Rupert Murdoch is indeed buying the Wall Street Journal … I think John Edwards may have a nibble on the line this time: He’s asking all Dem candidates to distance themselves from Murdoch by refusing to take, or sending back their donations from him. Good for him; they should.
This could not be a more obvious jab at Hillary, who (in)famously has been the recipient of Murdoch’s largesse — to the point of his actually giving a fundraiser for her. Isn’t that kind of twisted? I understand Murdoch’s desire to cover his political bases by giving contributions to safe incumbents; that’s obvious enough. But it seems that Hillary feels that no one really cares if she’s associated with a right-wing propagandist plutocrat. Maybe she’s right, but I think the atmosphere has been changing in that regard, what with the Democrats refusing to debate on Fox in Nevada, and generally less willingness on the part of prominent Dems to validate Fox as a real news source. That’s new — really as of the last year or so, as the result of pressure from the grassroots.
For me, Hillary’s association with Murdoch reinforces my sense of her as still being stuck in 1996 triangulation mode — or perhaps more accurately, soft-money mode. Recall that Bill raised boatloads of soft money in 1996 — all the better to brain Bob Dole with TV ads — and nobody on the left seemed to care. We were all playing defense back then, and it was good to have that advantage for once.
But I think people — at least Democrats — do care a bit more this time around. The Zeitgeist feels a lot more populist these days — not surprising, given 6 1/2 years of middle-class abuse at the hands of the Bush administration. Murdoch is a convenient, genuine and recognizable villain to many primary voters. I expect that Edwards’ question may well be echoed, by the other candidates at least, and possibly the media. It’s a theme, and one of the ways she stands out from the pack … but not in a good way.
I’m not sure I have a good read on political impact in the primary, but I suspect that this relationship will come back to haunt Hillary more than she expects. It depends on how much Dem primary voters are willing to rationalize that relationship on her behalf. On the substance of that relationship, Murdoch is someone to be kept well beyond smelling distance — for any Democrat, or indeed anyone who still is concerned about a free, independent and truthful media.