Rupert Murdoch backs Barak Obama

The New York Post endorsed Obama the other day. During a pretty interesting interview with technology reporter Walt Mossberg, Murdoch compares Obama to a rock star. The nicest thing he says about McCain is that the man was patriotic.

[The discussion of the endorsement begins about 3:00 minutes in.]

When Murdoch mentions what’s wrong with America that Obama could put right, all he can come up with is calling U.S. education a mess. That’s hardly the defining issue of our time. Nothing revolutionary is on the table. Education is a base level government concern, usually framed purely as an issue of resource management.

Murdoch himself does not donate money to political candidates. He doesn’t have to, of course. But many of the people who work for him do, and they’ve been remarkably bipartisan, as this 2004 New York Times article shows. Murdoch appeared to be leaning toward Clinton back in 2006.

which non-partisan. Murdoch purports to hate politicians. I guess that is an acceptable opinion. It only seems provocative from his phrasing to say that the majority of people in a field are mediocrities. The endorsement works on two levels. Tactically, Murdoch is conferring respectability on Obama and a kiss of death on McCain. Strategically, he’s demarcating the acceptable limits of politics: if the politician can operate above the fray, offering pablum about education, then its suitable. News Corp outlets brand themselves in a post-idological politics by offering a slightly harder ideological view of the news than is generally offered by the politicians themselves.

Venturesome politics of any kind are out.

It makes no difference now, to Murdoch, that he and his own papers once supported the war. Murdoch isn’t that rigidly ideological, or that In 2003, invading Iraq seemed reflexively proper to the kind of national populist politics Murdoch’s news outlets espouse. Just as he was following a trend toward inevitable war then, they are preparing the ground for acceptable positions on the inevitable withdrawal now.

Murdoch likes to back winners, of course, and maybe he sees something he likes in Obama. Its not simply that he expects the quid pro quo of influence for the endorsement. By stating that Obama is the better candidate, Murdoch indicates that the Democrat can be expected to work within what, to his lights are proper politics. And by getting to that point ahead of the curve, when lots of people still think McCain can win, Murdoch show the kind of prescience that confirms his reputation as a kingmaker and an arbiter of public opinion.

He did the same thing for Tony Blair (as noted by celebrity gossip site Gawker). This endorsement came at an interesting time in UK history. The Thatcherite Conservative party had been in office through four elections and were pretty evidently out of ideas. Still, they’d been reelected two times more than Labour believed possible. In preparation for the 1997 elections, Labour finished jettisoning socialism from its platform, a process which began after its historic defeat of 1982 and accellerated following Kinnock’s embarrassing loss to Conservative John Major in 1992. The faithful Labour supporters understood that the change was about electability. After 12 years of Thatcher and the end of the Cold War, most people in Britain seem to have acquiesced to capitalism. Some did, and still do, hold the belief that the election of a Labour government means a kind of reformist stance either will lead to a rebuilding of the Left, or may be all that remains of the Left. Murdoch understood the transformation better, and anchored it to populist and apolitical opinion.

When Murdoch used his tabloid The Sun to endorse Blair, it wasn’t so much an acknowledgment of back room dealings corrupting Labour as a signal that the party had completed its transformation into a outfit that was safe for big business. Over the ensuing government, Blair and Murdoch often discussed policies and the world situation and they did it out of the public eye.

When politics is professionalized, its the nonprofessionals that lose out, unless what’s good for News Corp is good for you.

For a more rambling but equally respectful exposition on politics and business from Murdoch, please see this BBC interview from sometime in the last year.

The UK Guardian keeps an ongoing special report on Murdoch.

The following Murdoch quotes, regarding Obama and the election are taken from the Guardian article:

“The Obama phenomenon and undoubtedly the recession and everyone getting hurt… the average American family today is really financially hurting and that all bodes well for him,” he said.

“He may not carry Florida because the Jewish people are suspicious of him, and so are Hispanics. But he’ll probably add Ohio and others. He will probably win.”

“McCain has been in congress a long time and you’ve got to make too many compromise,” he said.

“What does he really stand for? He’s a patriot – he’s a friend of mine and a really decent guy – but he’s unpredictable.

“[He] doesn’t know much about the economy and – I say this sympathetically – I think he has a lot of problems.”


Posted on June 1, 2008, in News, Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. For the record, the New York Post didn’t endorse Obama:

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