Sununu suffers some jitters in debut on CNN's 'Crossfire'

March 03, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

CNN proved once again last night that just about anybody can be a TV news personality.

Two years ago, the Cable News Network plucked a district court judge off the bench in Dallas, Texas, and made her co-anchor of its dinner-time newscast.

Last night, CNN took John Sununu, the former White House chief of staff, and made him co-host of "Crossfire."

For those not familiar with the show, "Crossfire" is a nightly half-hour of political debate. It normally features Michael Kinsley "from the left," as CNN says, and Patrick Buchanan "from the right." But, since Buchanan is running for president, CNN needed a substitute. Enter Sununu, who was fired by President George Bush last year.

Sununu, who is supposed to be so smart, didn't seem all that smart last night during the debate on taxes. He spent way too much time debating details of various proposals, which are likely to be of interest only to folks inside the Beltway. And he clearly had some opening-night jitters, which left him seeming far less combative than expected based on his White House reputation.

Still, all that said, Sununu's debut was no worse than that of Catherine Crier, the former Texas judge. And she's still at the CNN anchor desk and doing OK.

As a TV personality, Sununu is surely going to take some hits in the press. But that's probably as much a matter of enemies from his White House days as his performance last night. It's also a matter of folks in the media not wanting this pundit game to look too easy.

But if media folk are troubled by amateurs from the political world showing how little it takes to do their job, think how the politicians feel about this talk-show guy named Buchanan showing how little it takes to get 30 percent and 40 percent of the vote.

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