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Andy Harris on 'Crossfire' -- Why I hate this show

I will leave it to the political reporters and analysts at The Sun to judge how Maryland Congressman Andy Harris did on CNN's "Crossfire" Monday night.

For my money, he did just fine in his debate on Obamacare, showing what an act-like-you-know bluster mouth of misinformation and phony facts former Obama adviser and show host Stephanie Cutter is.

Ostensibly, Harris was supposed to be debating Anne Filipic, a former Obama White House staffer who is now president of Enroll America, an organization signing people up for Obamacare. Harris is an opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

But "Crossfire" is not about real debate and civic discourse. It's about conflict, show-biz and what passes for celebrity in Washington in these sad and sorry days of the Republic. And so, guests like Harris always wind up actually "debating" one of the hosts: Cutter, Newt Gingrich, Van Jones or S.E. Cupp.

The congressman's best moment came when Cutter, a rabbit-punching ideologue if ever there was one, said Obamacare was not being run by the government.

"It says healthcare.gov," Harris said, referring to the wreck of a website where Americans are supposed to be able to sign up for health insurance, but have had great difficulty doing so.

"Dot g-o-v," he continued as if explaining algebra to a 5-year-old. "That means the government runs it."

He said that last part with as big a shark's smile on his face as the one that was collapsing on Cutter's visage as she realized he owned the TV moment.

But just as when I watched Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in a trumped-up-TV debate with Texas Gov. Rick Perry a few weeks ago on "Crossfire," what I was mostly struck by again on Monday is what a debased and ignorant show CNN has on its hands.

It's not a real debate between the guests in any way, shape or form. Whether it is Cutter and Gingrich, the hosts Monday, or Jones and Cupp, the other left-right pair, it's all show-biz phony, play-to-the-cameras debasement of real political debate. It is exactly the kind of TV show that tries to turn the process of civic engagement and debate into a carnival show. And, in the end, it only makes us more stupid as a nation.

But here's what's really stupid about CNN taking the stake out of the heart of this show, opening the coffin and putting it back on the air now: America hates Washington -- especially self-enriching insiders and hustlers like Cutter and Gingrich.

If this were the Middle Ages and someone wanted to depict the deadly vices of Washington, D.C., two of the hooded figures in the tableau of death would be Gingrich and Cutter.

As I have already said, CNN's promotional campaign for the show should be, "We know you hate everything about Washington these days, and the stars of our shows embody all things bad about our political culture. Watch us and seethe."

It is hard to say who is worse, Cutter or Gingrich. I do not think I have ever seen as slavish and nasty a bunch of ideologues as the communications and adviser teams Obama surrounded himself with.

One month after he took office, I wrote that his administration was the most virulently anti-press since Richard Nixon's, and  I had my head taken off. I was thinking of folks like Anita Dunn and Cutter, and I was right. They think it is OK to criminalize the press for doing its job.

And how do some members of the press react? CNN invites Cutter to be a star on its network. People like Cutter do everything they can to keep reporters from getting certain information citizens have a right to out of the government, and CNN rewards them when they have cashed their last White House check with a big job. And she's now a lobbyist to boot!

I can't even do Gingrich. My head is exploding at the thought of him being rewarded with a job on CNN.

Gingrich is so compromised, with his PAC giving money to conservative politicians and then those politicians either being favorably mentioned or coming on the show, that CNN recently issued a ruling that said that the channel does not have to disclose Gingrich's conflicts of interest, because viewers know he's riddled with them.

I swear, that's what the ruling from some faceless VP who is supposed to be in charge of standards said when you strip away all the bull.

I have taught media ethics for 18 years at Goucher College, and I have never seen or heard anything as Bizarro-World strange offered as a ruling on ethics by a journalistic institution. That's how compromised and dirty CNN has become by getting into bed with folks like Cutter and Gingrich.

On the other hand, I suppose someone has to pay for Callista's tiaras.

If I sound mad, it's because I am.

CNN built its credibility as a news organization on the backs of men and women who risked their lives to bring American citizens trustworthy information about the world in which we live. This is especially true of its international correspondents.

Now, CNN management sullies that reputation and debases its tradition with the likes of Gingrich and Cutter.

P.S. The ratings for "Crossfire" stink.

May they only get worse.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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