June 26, 2013

New ‘Crossfire’ guy Gingrich (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Consistent with longstanding reports and rumors, CNN is re-launching its legendary political shoot-out program “Crossfire.” The lineup: On the right will be Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp*; on the left will be Stephanie Cutter and Van Jones.

Here’s the promo remark from Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide: “Few programs in the history of CNN have had the kind of impact on political discourse that Crossfire did — it was a terrific program then, and we believe the time is right to bring it back and do it again. We look forward to the opportunity to host passionate conversation from all sides of the political spectrum. Crossfire will be the forum where America holds its great debates.”

As to the claim that the time is right to bring back “Crossfire,” well, the time has always been right to throw starkly opposing ideologues on the screen and let them fight it out. Consider: “Crossfire” came into this world in the same year — 1982 — as “The McLaughlin Group,” another famous public-affairs show that pits right and left in a format designed to facilitate discussing, arguing, barking and yelling about politics. CNN pulled the plug on “Crossfire” in 2005; “The McLaughlin Group” keeps rolling, though its heyday has long since passed.

The real story here is Gingrich, who at the age of 70 has found his calling. In the 2012 election cycle, Gingrich proved that he was more a great presidential debater than he was a great presidential candidate. Whether the adversary was Juan Williams of Fox News or John King of CNN or one of the other GOP candidates, Gingrich was never, but never, at a loss for a quip or rejoinder. Those quips and rejoinders were at times usually self-serving, occasionally beside the point and almost invariably entertaining. In other words, perfect for cable news.

• Cupp is a co-host of “The Cycle,” the afternoon round-table discussion program on MSNBC. She’ll be leaving that gig at the end of the week. MSNBC says: “We thank S.E. for her great work on MSNBC over the past year and wish her all the best with future opportunities.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.