Politics, as we all know, makes for crowded beds. Ambitious politicians never know who they'll cuddle with next. Certain beds, as a wag in House of Representatives once noted, got more interesting "after women got in 'em." He obviously saw Hillary Clinton coming. She's the cleverest of the seductresses who have taken the field once reserved for men only.
She talked about her life inside politics one night last week in Washington and even said nice things about President Bush. In fact, when someone asked if she could think of even one nice thing, she quickly came up with several. In spite of their disagreements, she finds him charming: "He's been very willing to talk. He's been affable. He's been good company."
She spoke specifically of his support of New York City after Sept. 11. "He made sure we got the resources that we needed and I'm very grateful to him for that," she said. "I am very appreciative in the time when the people I represented needed his help, he was there for us."
Even as she was giving her talk at the National Archives, the Phillips Foundation, which promotes journalists who advance conservative principles, was honoring Rupert Murdoch, the newspaper publisher, TV mogul and her one-time nemesis, with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a dinner atop the National Press Club. A room full of card-carrying conservatives, including columnist Robert Novak, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and a clutch of folks from Fox News -- Murdoch entities, all -- were eager to sing praises of Mr. Murdoch over the "surf and turf." Mr. Murdoch told how he gave the world Fox News that was "fair and balanced."
The praise was just a bit sour. The buzz in the room was about the news that Mr. Murdoch will host a fund-raising breakfast for Hillary Clinton. It's only for her Senate campaign, Mr. Murdoch hastened to say the next day, but money, like influence, is fungible.
This was a match not necessarily made in heaven between the woman who dreamed up the idea of a "the vast right-wing media conspiracy" and the man understood to be the major player in that conspiracy. There were lots of stutters, winks and fairly lame excuses for the man now committed to raising big bucks for the scariest spectral of conservative nightmares.
His defenders say it's "good for business," which is what Corporate Republicans regard as the first thing first. Hillary's a senator, even if she never becomes president, and the regulation of Mr. Murdoch's TV properties is key to preserving his vast wealth. If she does become president, his investment looks even better. Mr. Murdoch is, after all, one of the most famous switch-hitters in the media. He traded his Australian citizenship for American to keep his U.S. TV properties intact and switched his rooting preference in England from Tory to Labor to support Tony Blair. The long view is the view most popular in high-altitude circles, and money and politics, as someone rudely said, go together like pimps and prostitutes.
Hillary explains Mr. Murdoch's sudden support for her with the simple wisdom of a politician who knows how butter improves bread. "He's my constituent, and I'm very gratified that he thinks I'm doing a good job."
Hillary may merely be responding to the new big man in her life; Bubba, after all, is old news, and getting older. The buzz over Hillary and Rupert coincided almost exactly with the 35th-Annual Jefferson Lecture by novelist Tom Wolfe under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A good novelist often cuts closer to the bone than any pol or pundit, and in examining "The Social History and the Human Beast" he drew on analogies of neurobiology to explain why humans act the way they do, citing how changes in status can turn a dull male into a dominant one.
A dominant male African cichlid fish, for example, puffs up and takes on brilliant stripes in lurid colors when he is put in a laboratory tank with several female fish. Other males in the tank remain dull gray. When the puffed up male is removed, however, a dull gray fish quickly takes his place. The dullard becomes the kingfish transformed with bright colorful stripes, and his gonads swell to eight times their previous size, the better to lure the ladies.
Tom Wolfe makes no predictions, but he speculates that it's possible that female humans could adapt to changes in male status in a similar way. If a clever female politician like Hillary wants to try, she'll need help from the likes of Rupert. Political spin morphs into a power swim.