Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Hillary Clinton praises Bush's `charm'

THE GUARDIAN , NEW YORK

Hillary Clinton's political shift to the right reached new territory this week as she warmly praised US President George W. Bush at a speech in Washington and defended her decision to let Rupert Murdoch sponsor a fundraising event on her behalf.

On the day that a New York Times poll found Bush's approval ratings at an all-time low of 31 percent, the leading contender for the Democratic party's 2008 presidential nomination praised the US president's "charm and charisma."

Asked to name a good thing about Bush, Clinton, a New York senator, said she had been "very grateful to him for his support for New York" after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Though the two had had "many disagreements" he had been "very willing to talk."

Clinton's re-fashioning is fast rendering her unrecognizable from the first lady who, eight years ago, accused a "vast rightwing conspiracy" of plotting against her husband, Bill Clinton.

Murdoch's Fox News channel has long been one of her most strident critics, but she said on Wednesday of the media mogul: "He's my constituent, and I'm very gratified that he thinks I'm doing a good job."

The fundraising will ostensibly be for Clinton's senate re-election campaign, but she is so far ahead in that contest as not to need the support of the only Murdoch forum that could make much of a difference, the tabloid the New York Post.

Her courting of Murdoch is part of a grander strategy, mirrored by statements designed to portray her as no less pugilistic on terrorism than Bush.

"This shows her to be a consensus-builder, someone who's not polarizing," Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic party consultant, said.

"The rightwing take on her has always been that she's polarizing. Certainly, there will be people on the left that may not like this relationship [with Murdoch] but the fact that she could forge it speaks well of her ability to build consensus ... To be president, you've got to win."

"They don't tolerate shrieking and they don't tolerate polarizers," he said.

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