Judging from the headlines in his tabloid flagship, a certain media mogul is seething over the likely candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the United States Senate. The press lord has been trying to intimidate the First Lady in a vilification campaign that has intensified lately on the front pages of the New York Post . No publisher has attempted to manipulate the electoral process in New York since … well, since the last time Rupert Murdoch did it in 1982.
That was when Post editors implemented the boss’ scheme to print a daily clip-out coupon in the paper, urging then-Mayor Edward I. Koch to run for Governor. Bamboozled by Mr. Murdoch’s flattery, Mr. Koch went on to suffer a humiliating loss to Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary. That fiasco was followed by an equally manic Post crusade against Mr. Cuomo, the ultimate victor.
After Election Day, a top aide to Mr. Cuomo’s Republican opponent Lewis Lehrman confided his disgust with the Murdoch organization’s behavior, which he unsmilingly termed “satanic.” Yet whatever the tabloid did back then seems pretty bland when compared with the treatment being inflicted on Mrs. Clinton.
Long before she formed her explor- atory committee, the would-be Senator was cautioned about the thuggish attitude of the Manhattan media. However skeptically the local press may regard her, those dire warnings obviously pertained to Mr. Murdoch. Although New Yorkers often treat the Post as a joke, its headlines are an effective weapon of psychological warfare.
And as usual, the tabloid is single-minded to a fault in its pursuit of the liberal enemy. When Mrs. Clinton was haplessly caught up in the controversy over provocative remarks by the wife of Yasir Arafat, the Post pounced; its coverage was plainly designed to make a bad situation worse. Whether an excess of tabloid bile might somehow undermine the peace process was of no concern to Mr. Murdoch. He isn’t Jewish, of course, and resides nowhere near Israeli or Palestinian territory. To him the chances for peace mean little compared with a petty opportunity to embarrass an opponent.
In that respect the News Corporation mogul is much like his preferred Senate candidate, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose cloddish forays into international affairs have occasionally humiliated the city-notably when Mr. Arafat himself visited here a few years ago. Unlike the First Lady, Mr. Giuliani surely would have seized the grandstand regardless of diplomatic protocol, with predictably bad consequences.
Such pandering provocations aren’t as effective as they once were, however. The hard line maintained by the Post no longer commands a majority in the Jewish community or among Americans generally. Israel has turned away from the rejectionism of the Likud bloc, and the Jewish state’s American supporters have gradually come around.
Evidently, Mr. Murdoch and his editors cannot accept the Israeli peace movement, which they tirelessly denounce and marginalize, as an influential force within the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Serving as an agent of Likud politicians, the Post persistently seeks to stir the fears of Jewish voters for its own purposes. Ethnic agitation is an ugly old habit that Mr. Murdoch shows no signs of abandoning.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton’s support of the peace camp is sustainable in New York. What has damaged her standing is the lingering contradiction between her public role and her political aspirations (as anticipated in this space many months ago). She needs to really listen to Democratic leaders in her adopted state, who have urged her to declare her candidacy before January.
Assuming that Mrs. Clinton still wishes to run, she is unlikely to be much fazed by the Murdoch gang. She and her husband have a peculiar appetite for combat, and they have already endured far worse than the witless copy churned out by Steve Dunleavy, Andrea Peyser and John Podhoretz. Political obituaries for the Clintons have been a regular feature of American journalism, particularly in the Post , since the 1992 Presidential primaries. They’re still here.
As for Mr. Murdoch himself, it’s too bad that he so rarely experiences the mistreatment he blithely inflicts on anyone he dislikes. He is a clever businessman but otherwise a complete fraud. His publications excoriate the President’s coddling of China, for instance, while Mr. Murdoch humbly cajoles the Beijing dictatorship to expand his media empire there. He preaches old-fashioned conservatism while marketing sex and violence in every medium at his disposal. Not long ago, after years of mocking Mr. Clinton’s infidelities, the moralistic mogul embarked on his third marriage-having unceremoniously ditched his faithful wife for a much younger employee.
And now this unsavory immigrant, who presumptuously meddled in American politics when he was still an Australian citizen, complains bitterly that Ms. Clinton is a carpetbagger. A defeat for him would be one of the most attractive aspects of a victory for her.