The opportunity to help relaunch an American institution, Crossfire, was irresistible.
As a junior member of Congress I had been a guest on Crossfire many times. It was launched in 1982 and became the premier place for debating the issues and talking about ideas.
Every night for 30 minutes two hosts and one or two guests would take a serious topic and examine it from multiple perspectives.
There was plenty of time for everyone to express clear views and to ask each other substantive questions.
From supply side economics and tax cuts, to the Contra versus Communist fight in Nicaragua, to the Iran Contra scandal, there always seemed to be enough interesting, provocative ideas to hold your attention for 30 intense minutes.
Crossfire was very different from the usual analyst on a set for four to eight minutes.
Crossfire focused on big questions and featured well prepared advocates from both sides of the issue.
People got in the habit of watching Crossfire because they knew they would hear a good debate. Whether you were a liberal, a conservative, or an undecided independent, you found yourself listening to the other side and having to confront arguments and facts that weren't part of your normal conversation.
Part of what made Crossfire work was the quality of its guests. A lot of knowledgable, influential people knew that Crossfire would give them a chance to make their arguments and be heard on their issues. They came prepared because they knew the other side would have spent hours getting ready and would have solid rebuttals and good arguments.
I remember one time Congressman Steve Solarz mouse trapped me with clever planning and destroyed my whole point with careful research into a letter I had written to then Soviet Chairman Leonid Brezhnev. It was brilliant showmanship by Solarz and it taught me a lot about being prepared and thinking through all the angles.
Part of what made Crossfire fascinating was its unpredictability.
When the late Bob Novak was a host you could never guarantee which side he was going to take. If someone came badly prepared or with an inadequately thought through argument he would pivot, switch sides and take them apart. His commitment was to giving the viewers a thorough understanding of both sides of an issue and he would challenge anyone, even his own ally, if they came badly prepared or were sloppy.
As Stephanie Cutter, S.E. Cupp, Van Jones and I relaunch Crossfire, it will be serious, tough minded, and confrontational, but not a hostile program.
If we can bring to CNN the kind of focused dialogue, fact based disagreement, great informed guests, and serious conversation I experienced in the early days of Crossfire, then we will truly contribute to a better American dialogue and a more positive environment for politics and government.
I look forward to it and hope you will join me for Crossfire this fall. We'll announce the launch date and time later this summer.
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