Rupert Murdoch seems to have transferred his politician crush from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin. His tentative support for Palin (and her obscure running mate) on the financial meltdown tonight evolved into a "quite chummy" run-in at a charity gala for the Manhattan media elites Palin claims not to care about. Murdoch gave Palin a pat on the back and said "thank you very much" as Palin left the gala, while Palin wore the "radiant smile" of not caring, according to a media pool report summarized by Politico. And to think that just four months ago Murdoch called Obama a "rock star." What happened?
A media tycoon, of course, is prone to fall in love with the flavor of the moment. And as media, celebrity, economics and politics merge into one frenzied singularity, the savvy mogul must maintain an agile endorsement policy. Being particularly savvy, Murdoch has also proven particularly maneuverable. First it was a surprising dalliance with Hillary Clinton, then an emphatic, public switch to Obama, and now support for Palin-McCain, the ticket that has won the endorsement of Murdoch's Post (useless in this race except as a barometer for the mogul's leanings).
Murdoch claims to have practical objections to Obama's policies on trade and the issue of "card check" unionization rules, scourge of American CEOs. But those are longstanding positions for the lefty Democratic senator and former community organizer, nothing new to Murdoch.
More likely he has learned, in his soft old age with his posh young wife, to be a bit more of a flirt. Obama got his compliment and private audience before appearing on Murdoch's O'Reilly Factor. Palin got hers after giving an exclusive interview to Sean Hannity. Both got a pointless endorsement from a money-losing tabloid. And in both cases, Murdoch got what he really wanted — access — and all it took was a cheap bit of sugar.