Crossfire or Hackathon?

Everyone has a theory as to why former congressman and not-so-former tweeter Anthony Weiner is running for New York mayor. My new take is: Weiner really is running to be a co-host on CNN’s “Crossfire,” which will return to cable TV next month after an eight-year hiatus.

After all, Newt Gingrich will be one of the show’s two conservative hosts. This is after he ran and lost the 2012 GOP presidential primary by taking on the news media, most notably CNN’s John King. When King moderated a January 2012 debate in South Carolina, he opened by asking Gingrich about an ABC report that the Newter’s second wife, Marianne, claimed Gingrich had asked her to agree to an open marriage in 1999.

Gingrich cheated on his second wife with his now third wife; nonetheless, the former speaker of the House was in high dudgeon at the very suggestion that he would propose an open marriage. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office,” he railed.

And: “I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”

Now Gingrich is working for CNN. And I am frankly astounded that CNN would take a huckster like him and use him to open “Son of Crossfire.”

In 2008, Gingrich sat on a love seat with Nancy Pelosi for an ad that urged Washington to “take action against climate change.” Two years later, when it served his presidential aspirations, Gingrich was railing against carbon taxes and talking up the benefits of cheap gasoline. He will say anything.

Likewise, liberal co-host Stephanie Cutter, the former Barack Obama spokeswoman who claimed to have no knowledge of a negative ad campaign — even though she had set up a conference call with the ad’s star, a disgruntled former employee of Mitt Romney’s — will say anything.

“Crossfire” lasted on television for 23 years because it featured hard-charging hosts with real chops — Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley, Bob Novak and Bill Press — and core convictions. The new version’s other two hosts — S.E. Cupp on the right and Van Jones on the left — could well fill those shoes.

For their part, Gingrich and Cutter represent the very qualities that helped lead to the 2005 cancellation of “Crossfire.” Months earlier, comedian Jon Stewart appeared on the show with co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. To my mind, Carlson and Begala were credible hosts, but Stewart drew blood when he faulted the show for “hurting America” with its “partisan hackery.”

When CNN canceled the show in 2005, its then president, Jonathan Klein, told The New York Times that Stewart’s criticism was a factor. CNN wanted to move away from “head-butting debate shows.”

These days, the problem with cable debate isn’t the head-butting so much as the feel that this is showbiz head-butting.

Gingrich accuses CNN of running a gutter debate. CNN hires Gingrich. Does that mean Gingrich was right?

The problem with political discourse these days isn’t that it’s too adversarial; it’s that it isn’t adversarial at all. It’s just show business.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Jan. 20

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Editorial: Help community colleges meet job training needs

Lost in the focus on K-12 school funding, have been the needs of community and technical colleges.

Schwab: The sentiment, not the word, is problem with Trump

Who shows more love for America: Those who seek to come here or the man who derides them?

Bravo to Port of Everett for employing veterans, reservists

Thank you to Everett for being a place a veteran such as… Continue reading

Thanks for gifts for youths with Cocoon House

Cocoon House would like to thank the community for its incredible generosity… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Jan. 19

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Editorial: Eminent domain isn’t popular, but it’s fair

Everett Public Schools’ condemnation process assures fairness for property owners and taxpayers.

Ignatius: How military trains to let others do the fighting

The struggle for the U.S. military has been to accept letting other nations fight their own battles.

Milbank: Trump’s fine, but his Trumpism may be contagious

Trump may be in ‘excellent’ health, but has the White House doctor contracted his hyperbolic style.

Most Read