A floor-to-ceiling “Crossfire” banner adorns the front of the Media and Public Affairs building. A security metal detector sits in the lobby. The six televisions that greet students entering from the H Street side all tuned in to CNN Tuesday. The nation’s longest-running political debate show has arrived.
In its 20th year, “Crossfire” literally entered a new stage Monday evening at its GW debut.
New hosts on the left, a new set and a new location in the MPA Jack Morton Auditorium will now bring a full hour of debate current events every weeknight. “Welcome to the new and improved, better-than-ever massively super-sized ‘Crossfire,'” said Tucker Carlson, the evening’s voice from the right, to open Monday’s program.
James Carville and Paul Begala, both campaign managers for former President Bill Clinton, are the two new hosts arguing liberal viewpoints. Carlson and Bob Novak will continue to represent the conservative side of issues.
Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was the first guest before a capacity crowd of mostly GW students and administrators Monday.
Hosts and guests heatedly discussed the United States’ role in the Middle East, but before the discussion began the show was interrupted by news in the West Bank of Palestinians being used as human shields and analysis of the sixth car bombing in as many days.
The “News Alert” is a new feature of the show that will give a brief report of the day’s events each night.
Carlson and Carville then questioned Daschle on the United States’ position and responsibility in the Middle East conflict.
“Well, I think what you’ve seen in the last six days are six terrorist attacks that require our presence,” Daschle said. “Unless we’re there, I don’t think you’re going to see a change.”
Daschle added that he thinks neither the Israel nor Palestine want the United States or NATO troops there. He said he thinks it would be “premature” to create a force that neither side wants.
Hosts and guests also fervently discussed campaign finance reform, homeland security, the environment and college basketball, but not everyone was pleased with fast-paced, multi-focus show.
“I thought they should have stuck to one topic,” sophomore John Maden said after the show. “There wasn’t enough discussion of any one issue. It was a little too unsubstantial.”
Hosts slipped into casual conversation, and sarcasm flew as they made cracks at each another, especially about each side’s contemporary heroes, former presidents Clinton and Ronald Reagan.
“They’re pretty vicious,” said freshman Anna Ulrich, referring to the hosts. “They spend more time insulting one another than focus(ing) on substantive issues.”
GW administrators in the audience included University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who said the show went “splendidly.”
“I see this as an opportunity for introducing GWU to the world,” he said.
Trachtenberg said he wished the show would have mentioned GW more than twice, but he felt it would be worked out at later planning meetings. He also said he would like to see more “GWU apparel” worn in the audience.