November 29, 2021

Gingrich Will Be Back in the ‘Crossfire’ on CNN

And what of the 2012 contender with a slashing debate style, who prolonged his primary run seemingly to remain in the media spotlight? Newt Gingrich has also earned his just deserts: he has been named a host of CNN’s revived “Crossfire,” the granddaddy of political debate shows. The appointment will ensure that he remains the most prominent Republican from the presidential class of 2012 to retain influence in the national conversation.

Mr. Gingrich gleefully bashed “the media elite” as a candidate, but now he is unquestionably a member. “Yes,” he agreed. “And I hope to move it to the right.”

Eight years after the original “Crossfire” was canceled, its revival is a bet by CNN that there is an audience for an evenly matched, left-right debate show five times a week, in contrast to the partisan conformity that prevails at other cable outlets.

Besides Mr. Gingrich, the hosts will include S. E. Cupp, a conservative columnist and commentator; and the liberals Van Jones, a former adviser to President Obama; and Stephanie Cutter, a deputy manager of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign. The new show, which will start on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. and which is already being heavily promoted by the cable network, will feature two of the four hosts nightly, plus two guests. They will debate one topic for 30 minutes — a counterintuitive gamble in an age of hummingbird attention spans.

Mr. Gingrich, 70, is the marquee attraction. Reviving “Crossfire” with him as a host was one of the first ideas that Jeff Zucker floated on becoming president of CNN Worldwide in January, said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief.

Mr. Gingrich may be the only Republican in America who believed the 20 primary debates in the 2012 campaign were too few. Twice he brought his candidacy back from the dead through debate performances, most memorably in winning the South Carolina primary by attacking the moderators for daring to question him about a) insensitivity to black Americans and b) his second wife’s statement that he asked for an open marriage.

It was all quite calculated. “Particularly in a Republican primary, taking on the media immediately resonated with almost half the primary voters,” Mr. Gingrich said.

That is a section of voters that CNN is eager to engage. During an onstage interview at the Brainstorm TECH conference in July, Mr. Zucker said: “Newt is an incredibly smart, intellectual thinker. I think, frankly, one of the criticisms of CNN that it didn’t have enough conservative points of view on the air was probably a valid criticism.”

The renewed “Crossfire,” which will displace the final 30 minutes of “The Situation Room,” is also an attempt to jump-start CNN’s evening ratings. According to Nielsen, “The Situation Room” averaged 621,000 viewers, compared with 2.1 million viewers for “Special Report with Brett Baier” on Fox News and 565,000 for “PoliticsNation” on MSNBC. CNN did proportionately better among the prized demographic, viewers aged 25 to 54 in the same hour. The numbers were 205,000 for CNN, 329,000 for Fox News and 132,000 for MSNBC. Before he entered the 2012 race, Mr. Gingrich was a paid contributor to Fox News, which chose not to bring him back after the election. “I think they were shocked by the results,” he said of Fox News, which was widely seen as openly cheerleading for Mr. Romney last year. “I think their audience was shocked. I think they’ve been trying to reassess how they’re going to rebuild their programs.”

As a candidate who peddled his books at stump speeches, Mr. Gingrich was accused of running primarily to polish his brand for future book and television deals.

“If people want to think about that as a business decision, it would have been utterly irrational,” he said in an interview at Gingrich Productions, in an office building in Arlington, Va.

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Berlusconi Pledges to Push Through Austerity Bill

In his first statement since Friday, when he had disparaged his finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, in a newspaper interview, Mr. Berlusconi said the government was “stable and strong, the majority cohesive and determined” to pass the bill. It calls for €40 billion, or $56 billion, in tax increases and cuts to the public sector.

Italian Senate leaders said they would speed discussion of the bill for approval as early as Thursday, allowing it to pass directly to the lower house. Mr. Tremonti is expected to meet on Wednesday with senators from the government and center-left opposition to discuss the budget bill.

Mr. Tremonti is held up by many investors as being instrumental to Italy’s bid for market credibility. Comments last week by Mr. Berlusconi that he may be on the way out led investors to flee Italian debt, sending yields soaring.

The interest on its 10-year bond rose to nearly 6 percent Tuesday morning, but fell back to 5.56 percent, a decline from Monday, after Mr. Tremonti returned to Rome early from a meeting of euro zone officials to take charge of discussions on the austerity measures, and the government successfully sold one-year Treasury bills.

In a country where the term “austerity” has only entered the national conversation recently and where the government’s rhetoric has often been a remove from economic reality, Mr. Berlusconi’s statement was notable for its tone as well as its contents.

While underlining the strengths of Italy’s economy, Mr. Berlusconi for the first time acknowledged that “for us, for Italy, this moment is certainly not easy.”

“We need to be united and cohesive in our common interest, aware that the efforts and sacrifices made in the short-term will result in permanent and secure gains,” he added.

He said that the “crisis of confidence” had hit not only Italy but also the common currency itself.

“We have Europe by our side and we can count on undeniable points of strength,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

In recent days, the prime minister has been conspicuously absent from television, the medium through which he normally communicates, in a sign that as his era draws to a close, he may now be seen as a liability to Italy’s international credibility.

Mr. Berlusconi also has not appeared with Mr. Tremonti, indicating to some analysts that the tensions within the governing coalition have only been covered temporarily in an effort to pass the budget, but are still boiling beneath the surface.

Despite Italy’s high public debt, low growth and political instability, economists said Italy was objectively in better shape than Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland because it did not have a housing bubble, its budget deficit is relatively small compared with the size of its economy, and the majority of its debt is held domestically.

But the worries about Italy have further shaken already fragile global market sentiment. Asian and European stocks fell Tuesday and the euro was also down, although markets in Europe recovered ground during the day, and the market index in Milan rose.

Alessandro Frigerio, a fund manager at RMJ Sgr in Milan, likened market movements to a game of pinball.

“It’s not usual to see a 1,000-point one-day comeback in Italian stocks,” he said. “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen when the ball bounces off the flipper and into the corner.”

One measure of the sharp swing in mood, Mr. Frigerio noted, was the shares of UniCredit, a major Italian bank: They were down by their daily limit of more than 7 percent before turning around to close with a 5.9 percent gain. In the same period, the spread between Italian and German 10-year bonds widened to 3.75 percentage points before shrinking to 2.85 points.

The recovery might have been related to market speculation that the European Central Bank had been buying the bonds of Italy and other countries that have come under pressure.

“I can’t say whether the E.C.B. was buying or not,” Mr. Frigerio said. “What matters, for the speculators, is what you think happened.”

David Jolly reported from Paris.

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