CNN’s Crossfire aired Monday for the first time since the show ended eight years ago, with Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich hosting as guests Rand Paul and Bob Menendez debated U.S. military action in Syria. The conversation neatly captured a lot of the points each side has been making in this conversation so far, but the hosts (neither of whom is exactly new to a public forum) seemed really uncomfortable. Cutter laughed awkwardly and stumbled a few times, while Gingrich blew his farewell to Paul and Menendez. “It was great of you to come and help us launch Ceasefire, I mean Crossfire. And now next we are going to ceasefire,” he said. Perhaps Van Jones and S.E. Cupp, who are also slated to host, will do better.
Part of the problem was the seating arrangement. Gingrich and Cutter sat close together on one side of the table so the camera could capture them in the same shot, but that meant that when they addressed one another they had to twist to the side awkwardly. There was also an incredible amount of pressure as CNN has been promoting this show pretty heavily. The network even moved up the premiere date by a week to take advantage of the Syria debate, but as it turns out there was a bit too much news on Monday; the hosts had to address the breaking report on President Obama’s interview with Wolf Blitzer.
Cutter and Gingrich mostly tried to keep the conversation on topic and moving forward, which Politico’s Dylan Byers pointed out was part of the problem: “They just to need to start acting less like the debate’s moderators and more like it’s partisan participants.” And with a bit of practice, they likely will. But in the meantime, we’ve stitched the most awkward moments into a solid, 58-second cringe.