Ringside Seat: Crossfrankly

Turn on cable news at most times of the day, and you can find a "debate" in which a program's host throws questions to two guests, one a conservative and one a liberal, invited on for their ability to slog their way through five soul-deadening minutes of motive-questioning and oft-repeated talking points. If you've ever watched one of these and said to yourself, "Maybe they should just lose the host and have these two yell at each other directly. And extend it to a whole half-hour!", then there might be a job waiting for you at CNN.

A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the flagging news network is looking to revive Crossfire, the horror show of partisan bickering that it featured for more than two interminable decades beginning in the early 1980s. When Jon Stewart went on the show in late 2004 and begged the hosts to "stop hurting America," it was as though the veil had been lifted and everyone finally realized how awful it truly was. The show was put out of its considerable misery a couple of months later.

And now it's coming back. According to a report today in Politico, CNN is in talks with former Clinton and Obama aide Stephanie Cutter to represent the left on the new Crossfire, and on the right, a man everyone in America needs to hear more from: Newt Gingrich.

But who knows, maybe the new show will be a model of erudite conversation on public affairs, with the participants eschewing cheap point-scoring in favor of edifying, stimulating exploration of important issues. Yeah, right.

So They Say

"I respect reporters. Like is a strong word.”

Anthony Weiner, texting a reporter

 Daily Meme: Bye Bye Baucus

  • Senator Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and head of the Senate Finance Committee, will not be seeking a seventh consecutive term, "according to Democratic officials."
  • Best bet on Baucus's replacement is the former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, who is reportedly considering a run for the "broke-down pickup" that is the U.S. Senate.
  • If the Democrats can keep their hold on the Senate, then the senior member from Oregon, Ron Wyden, will take over for Baucus on Finance.
  • Baucus's freshman class was '74, and he was a bit of a crusader back in the day. He stood up to car manufacturers to champion a clean air bill in the '80s and '90s, and took on the General Services Administration for its energy inefficiency.
  • He tried to bring CFCs destruction to light way before Captain Planet, and made a dramatic reveal of his own battle with skin cancer during a hearing on holes in the ozone layer.
  • Baucus was also briefly the Senate's speediest man, with a marathon time loads faster than Paul Ryan's (and he managed to look good doing it).
  • All the same, more than one of his caucus-mates will be glad to get rid of Baucus, who has had a decades-long penchant for breaking with his party ...
  • ... like when he and three other Democratic joined Republicans in bravely shooting down the gun-control bill that nine of ten Americans wanted ...
  • ... or his "states' rights" shill to corporations in opposing the commonsense Internet sales tax (a favorite Heritage bugaboo) ...
  • ... and he's gone ahead and sponsored bills and amendments like the handout to big pharma last January, aided in the construction of a trillion-and-a-half dollar Bush tax cut with Senator Chuck Grassley, and threw his support behind a balanced budget amendment in '96 ...
  • ... not to mention the sexual harassment allegations by his chief of staff, of which, to be fair, nothing came ... unless you count a messy divorce that ended with Baucus shacking up with another staffer whom he recommended for an administration appointment without disclosing the relationship.

What We're Writing

  • Wal-Mart has been busily exporting its exploitative business practices to China, but Esther Wang thinks that might be about to change. Chinese workers are beginning to organize and push back against the global giant.
  • "Any other week," writes Abby Rapoport, the explosion in Texas would be getting rapt national attention and generating the kinds of inquiries—especially into the shocking lack of regulation at dangerous facilities—that it deserves.

What We're Reading

  • The surviving Tsarnaev has said that the United States' past 12 years of foreign wars were the motivation for the attack.
  • Rush Limbaugh contends that elite liberal thought was responsible.
  • Slate blames it on the parents.
  • In other violent news, the Israelis have said they're 99 percent certain that the Syrian government has deployed chemical weapons multiple times over the last month.
  • Obama has declined to honor his "red line" on Syrian chemical weapons, but has made up for it by swelling our nuclear arsenal and cutting nonproliferation funds.
  • Maybe taking a cue from the President's nuke policy, the National Republican Congressional Committee has been drawing up plans to attack Obama ... from the left.
  • In years past, backlash to failed gun votes had to be generated, cultivated. This time around, plenty of people are already hopping mad.
  • Conservative think tanks have launched the ominous "Project Goliath," a campaign determined to "slay" public-sector unions in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Poll of the Day

Finishing off a depressing Ringside with something uplifting, Pew has found that between the technical end of the recession in 2009 and 2011, Americans actually increased household wealth by 28 percent! The top 7 percent of Americans that is; if you belong to the bottom 93 percent, then your mean household wealth declined by four points. The top 7 percent also saw its share of the nation's total household wealth rise from 56 to 63 percent ... so bully for them, we guess.

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