‘Crossfire’ ignites students

CNN’s Crossfire brought the heat of what pundit Bill Press described as possibly the most exciting heavyweight match since Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear to the GW campus Monday, as CNN began a week of live broadcasts on the 2000 campaign from Lisner Auditorium.

Show hosts Robert Novak, Mary Matalin and Press discussed the critical issues of the 2000 presidential race with representatives from both parties.

This is the biggest political week of the year, Press said in an interview before Wednesday’s show.

Students tossed questions at journalists and politicians all three nights, intensifying debates and adding excitement to heated contests of political whit, show guests and hosts said.

GW is the only location other than the CNN studio in Northeast, D.C., that Crossfire is broadcast, CNN publicist Leslie Field said.

(GW) is in the heart of Washington, D.C., and it has a great student body who have a wide range of youth, she said. We’ve found them to be very educated about current events and political affairs.

Crossfire has been taped at GW in 1994, 1996 and 1997.

It’s really been fun for us, Field said. The hosts really enjoy getting out and taking student questions.

The question and answer segment of the show is also unique to the GW tapings, Field said. In the studio, Crossfire is not filmed in front of an audience. About 300 students have witnessed all the parts of putting on a live show each night as they watched teleprompters and responded to applause signs. Broadcasting is set to continue tonight and tomorrow night.

This is just another thing GW has to offer, freshman Daniel Mesznik said. It’s an exciting time of year.

Mesznik said he was excited Crossfire was coming to GW this week because he thought the show would break down the campaign issues a little more.

Freshman Damien Gardner, who attended Wednesday night’s show, said the program’s timing was exciting.

It’s a great opportunity, he said before the show. It’s going to be particularly exciting because it’s the night after the debate.

Monday’s show

Press and Novak, representing the politically left and right positions, respectively, previewed Tuesday’s presidential debate with Reps. John Kasich (R-Ohio) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) Monday night.

The pundits began the show by drawing the first blood as they began the debate with the two guests.

Responding to Press’s first question regarding the possibility of George W. Bush appointing pro-life Supreme Court justices, Rep. Kasich said, (Bush) believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and shouldn’t make laws, but by no means is he intending to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Debate continued on the topics of education, taxes and health care before the floor was opened to audience questions. Coming out firing, GW students attacked both congressmen, questioning the platforms and integrity of their respective party’s candidates.

One student asked whether hate-crime legislation will ever be passed. Wexler said he hopes legislation will be finalized in the next session of Congress. Kasich countered, saying no such legislation is needed because all criminals should be prosecuted equally. The audience made their voices heard by responding with a collective boo throughout the broadcast.

After the taping concluded at 8 p.m., the hosts took students’ questions for another 30 minutes. Debate raged over partial-birth abortion, as Novak and a female audience member engaged in a short shouting match.

These kids came loaded for bear and had informed questions for everyone on the show, Press said. They really made the `Crossfire’ and are the reason why we keep coming back to this campus.

Tuesday’s show

Tuesday evening’s broadcast centered on the presidential debates, which were aired on CNN after Crossfire. Matalin and Press hosted Reps. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Seventy-five million people are going to see the real George Bush tonight, Press said. They’re going to see that he’s anti-choice and pro-rich.

Matalin described Bush’s proposals as giving power to the people.

Gore’s programs are power to the government, she said.

Two of the core issues of the evening were Bush’s promises to cut taxes and privatize Social Security.

Any tax cut is an extreme tax cut for Democrats, Scarborough said. If you look at it, it helps everybody out. Obviously people who are paying more taxes at a higher rate are going to benefit.

Waters responded that Bush’s plans are unclear.

He’s not explained very thoroughly how he’s going to privatize (Social Security), what percentage would be invested, she said. (The Democrats are) not going to play with Social Security so we know it will be there for them to draw from.

One student asked Scarborough about Bush’s plans for Middle Eastern peace negotiations.

It’s obviously a critical issue, the congressman said. I think George W. Bush is going to be able to handle that issue better. The Clinton-Gore policies over the last seven years have been failures at best.

After the taped segment of the show, the journalists answered a student’s question about the importance of the upcoming vice-presidential debates.

Both these candidates have been caricatured, Matalin said. Dick Cheney is not some conservative nut and Joe Lieberman does not run around being a rabbi. In the end, no one votes for or against the president because of who is on the ticket.

Press disagreed. I think this year, because it’s so close, Thursday night’s debate is going to make a big difference when we see who the running mates are, he said.

Wednesday’s show

Wednesday’s edition featured analysis of the presidential debate that aired Tuesday night.

Guests Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Haley Barbour, former GOP National Committee chair focused mostly on character issues and tax cuts proposed by both presidential candidates.

Before the show began taping, Matalin introduced Durbin to the audience as the person who taught me how to drink vodka on the rocks.

Matalin posed the first question, asking Durbin about the validity of Gore’s personal stories. While Durbin said a voter cannot judge a candidate based on one misstatement, Matalin called it a pattern of dishonesty.

Matalin said Gore’s story about Caitlin, a high school student in Florida, was untrue. She said she spoke to the principal the morning after the debate, who disputed everything Gore said about the school.

A student from Queensbury, N.Y., asked, When are extreme politics going to end?

The problem is that Gore has too many stories to tell . and they’re all made up, Matalin said in her closing remarks.

Bush looked like a deer caught in headlights with issues, Press said in response.

After the show’s taping concluded, the hosts answered questions from the audience. The topics ranged from tax cuts to Yugoslavia’s recent elections.

I’m blown away by the energy and interest of students here, Press said before the live taping. The second part of the show, when students ask questions, is the most interesting.

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