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The genius behind Fox News

The Guardian - February 11 2003

Murdoch backs 'courageous' Blair over Iraq

Murdoch: 'We worry about what people think too much'

Rupert Murdoch has given his full backing to war, praising George Bush as acting "morally" and "correctly" and describing Tony Blair as "full of guts" for going out on a limb in his support for an attack on Iraq.

The media tycoon, who has developed a close relationship with the prime minister, said he was full-square behind Mr Bush and Mr Blair, who are now facing critical opposition from Germany and France over war.

Mr Murdoch described the prime minister's stance as "extraordinarily courageous" but branded the Labour party as a hotbed of "knee-jerk anti-Americanism".

But in an intriguing insight into the mind of the man who wields such influence over British media, Mr Murdoch revealed that while he opposes Gordon Brown's leftwing politics he described him as "more of a friend" than Mr Blair.

He reiterated that the "greatest thing to come out of this [war]" would be cheap oil, which he believes would benefit the world economy more than any tax cut ever could.

And the head of the News Corporation media empire has hit out at the US anti-war lobby, saying much of the world just cannot accept that America is the world's only superpower.

"I think Tony is being extraordinarily courageous and strong on what his stance is in the Middle East.

"It's not easy to do that living in a party which is largely composed of people that have a knee-jerk anti-Americanism and are sort of pacifist," Mr Murdoch told Australian magazine The Bulletin.

"But he's shown great guts, as he did, I think, in Kosovo and over various problems in the old Yugoslavia," he said.

Asked whether the Sun considered Tony Blair too "old Labour", Mr Murdoch said: "The Sun certainly has been consistently against him on the euro, and most European matters.

"We are more against Gordon Brown than we are against Tony Blair, and Gordon is, if anything, more of a friend. I admire him as a person. But his insistence that only the government can provide health services and education and just locking out the private sector is really a huge mistake. No one government, one cabinet or one person can run a health service with over one million employees. It is just impossible," Mr Murdoch said.

On the war Mr Murdoch was equally unequivocal."We can't back down now. I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it," he said.

"The fact is, a lot of the world can't accept the idea that America is the one superpower in the world," he added.

Mr Murdoch said the price of oil would be the war's main benefit on the world economy.

"The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in the any country."

Today a barrel of Brent crude costs $31.68 while US light crude costs $34.53. During the last war on Iraq in 1991, the price of oil doubled to $40 a barrel. A $10 increase in the cost of oil is seen as the equivalent of a 0.2% cut in economic growth in America and Europe.

Mr Murdoch's comments come just a week after he told Fortune magazine in the US that war could fuel an economic boom.

"We're keeping our heads down, managing the businesses, keeping our profits up. Who knows what the future holds? I have a pretty optimistic medium and long-term view but things are going to be pretty sticky until we get Iraq behind us. But once it's behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else," he told Fortune.

Mr Murdoch believes there is no doubt that President Bush will be re-elected if he wins the war with Iraq and the US economy remains healthy.

"He will either go down in history as a very great president or he'll crash and burn. I'm optimistic it will be the former by a ratio of two to one," the Australian-born media magnate who now holds US citizenship told The Bulletin.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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