CNN Crossfire Returns, and Let's Hope It Doesn't Suck This Time


Crossfire returns to CNN on Monday at 6:30 EST. The roundtable political show was cancelled in 2005 in an attempt to move the network away from what then-president Jonathan Klein called "head-butting debate shows." However, it seems this time around the show might not merely encourage the bi-partisan gridlock that plagues the U.S. political system. Rather, the new closing section, called "Ceasefire," could redeem the show from its original buffoonery.

If you are not familiar with the show, I will catch you up to speed. The premise of the reboot is simple. There are four hosts: S. E. Cupp and former Speaker Newt Gingrich represent the right while Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter represent the left. On each segment, one host each from the right and left invite one or two guests to explain and defend their politics regarding the pressing issues of the day. For example, hosts Newt Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter will be joined tonight by Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Robert Menendez to discuss the President Obama's remarks and Congress's imminent vote on whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria.

Former Speaker Gingrich, who again will be a host of the revived show, acknowledged that Crossfire "had well-informed guests who squarely engaged one another but later it devolved into head-butting for its own sake ... It became more of a talking-points yelling match between people who thought the job was to be smarmy." What was originally a show filled with civil debate became one plagued by unproductive bickering. In a nation where partisan gridlock appears to plague everything from education to healthcare and beyond, where many consider MSNBC and Fox to be the media's polar opposites of our national political ideologies, a show where pundits were yelling at each other unproductively was not politically informative but rather a strange form of entertainment.

Jon Stewart's appearance on the show illustrated these points brilliantly. In what was a rare out-of-character appearance on the show, Jon Stewart, when asked why he believes politicians refuse to answer simple questions, responded, "I don't think it's hard. I just think that nobody holds their feet to the fire to do it. So they don't have to. They get to come on shows that don't [hold them accountable]." He often referred to the "theater" of the show, stating, "You're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great." Stewart asserted that the show did not engage pundits in debate, but rather was made for the entertainment of the audience.

Fortunately, the show's revival will have a new component: "Ceasefire." At the end of the 30-minute episode, the two sides must "search for ways they can find common ground on an issue." Hopefully, this section will move Crossfire beyond the world of cheap entertainment into a productive, bipartisan political analysis of the most important issues at hand today. In the words of tonight's host and Former Speaker Gingrich, "If we degenerate into shouting and yelling at each other, then we will have failed the country." Because of this mindset, and the apparent focus on productive debate, hopes are high for the revival. If Crossfire is able to engage pundits from both the right and left in a constructive manner, it will be a true success for CNN and the future of political commentary in the U.S.