JONATHAN CHAIT JUNE 25, 2010
I've always liked Jon Stewart, but the worst thing he ever did was kill "Crossfire." It wasn't a perfect show, but it was vastly superior to the chummy insider-laden conventional wisdom-fests that run on Sunday mornings and are held in higher prestige. Certainly in its heyday, the show forced politicians to defend their talking points in the face of critical analysis. When they couldn't defend themselves, it showed.
Anyway, having long ago kicked Crossfire to the curb, CNN is creating a new show with a liberal and a conservative host. Old Crossfore co-host Michael Kinsley is peeved:
Klein's principled opposition to opinion lasted just a few months. Soon enough, Anderson Cooper was sobbing all over his black t-shirt in New Orleans and Lou Dobbs had completed his remarkable transition from corporate shill to snarling, pitchfork-bearing populist. And now this. Two hosts, one liberal and one conservative, newsmaker guests, a "spirited" discussion of the issues of the day. But oh no, not Crossfire. Heaven forfend!
And the difference? This show will be "organic," not "artificial," explained conservative host Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post columnist, to the Huffington Post. The liberal host, Eliot Spitzer, last seen hiking the Appalachian trail with fellow governor Mark Sanford, amplified: "Big issues, little issues, coming at it from different perspective, same perspective, agree, disagree.... Thoughtful, smart, funny, not boring, not predictable." On Crossfire, of course, it never occurred to us to try to be thoughtful or smart or any of that pansy stuff. We were just a "simple left vs. right partisan shouting match." But in the Huffington Post piece, Parker contradicted Spitzer on the partisanship point, saying that she and Spitzer "bring completely different perspectives...which is what this country is all about." Maybe they can make this their first topic of discussion.
I think it is true that Crossfire descended into parody after Kinsley left. The show used to be liberal-conservative but descended into Democrat-Republican, with smirking political consultants spewing talking points. Still, the problem here is that CNN fell for the notion that sharp argument between left and right "hurts America," and now it doesn't want to admit it's changed its mind.