Tuesday night's CNN debate in Las Vegas will feature two veteran television journalists and one conservative radio host as moderators. Meet Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and Hugh Hewitt.
Who is Wolf Blitzer?
If you've watched CNN at all during major news events of the past 25 years, you are familiar with Wolf Blitzer and his signature white hair with matching beard. Blitzer joined the network in 1990, played an integral role in its coverage of the Persian Gulf War, and from there swiftly became a cable news star. Currently he anchors The Situation Room and a daytime show called Wolf; his coverage mostly focuses on US politics with a special interest on Middle Eastern affairs.
But Blitzer's path to US cable news ubiquity is fairly unusual. He was born in 1948 in Augsburg, Germany, to parents who were refugees and Holocaust survivors originating in Poland. The family moved to Buffalo, where Blitzer was raised, but his journalism career started in Reuters' Tel Aviv bureau. He left Israel rather quickly to return to the United States, but did so as the Washington correspondent for an English-language Israel newspaper, the Jerusalem Post. Blitzer also reads and writes Hebrew, and contributed stories to the Hebrew-language press under the names Zev Blitzer and Zev Barak. During this time issues in the US-Israel relationship were, naturally, his core subject, and his first two books, Between Washington and Jerusalem and Territory of Lies, are both on this subject.
DC-area NBA fans, however, may be more familiar with Blitzer for his support of John Wall and the Washington Wizards. He's frequently in attendance at games, and every Wizards home game features a video introduction by Blitzer done in the style of an episode of The Situation Room. I've been to enough Wizards games over the years to be accustomed to this, but when I went to one with my dad last season he found it baffling. This town.
Who is Dana Bash?
Alongside Blitzer will be Dana Bash, another CNN veteran and familiar face, though one who hasn't been on air for as long. Bash joined CNN shortly after graduating college and was initially a producer for politics-focused weekend programs such as Late Edition, Evans & Novak, and Insider Politics. From there she shifted to a role as a specialist producer focused on coverage of the United States Senate, which set up a natural transition to her current role as an on-air reporter covering Washington politics.
At the moment, she's once again assigned to Capitol Hill, though she recently served as CNN's White House correspondent.
Bash was one of the moderators for the September 16 Republican debate, which, in retrospect, was the most boring of the bunch.
Who is Hugh Hewitt?
Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk radio host, is going to be on hand to lend some conservative authenticity to the proceedings. And while Hewitt isn't necessarily the highest-rated of the conservative talk radio personalities, he is probably the one whose demeanor and outlook are best calibrated to appeal to a mainstream audience.
Hewitt went to college at Harvard, has a law degree from the University of Michigan, worked in a range of midlevel positions in the Reagan administration, and was the first executive director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. In other words, he's a smart, mainstream Republican with ties to the world of practical politics.
He's also highly — and self-consciously — partisan in a way that's not always true of conservative talkers. His books include such titles as If It's Not Close, They Can't Win: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It and Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority. He wrote a book designed to make mainstream American Christians feel comfortable with voting for a Mormon president.
He's the kind of person, in other words, who's likely to be concerned with making sure the GOP picks an electable and reliable standard-bearer — a proxy for the Republican establishment working from inside the debate moderating team.