“Fix” columnist comes to campus

JANUARY 18, 2013
by Sara Morano ’13, Contributing Writer

“They’ll really never invite me back now.”

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza repeated an ongoing joke during the question and answer session of his hour-long CLP event, titled “What the Heck Just Happened? The 2012 Election and the Fiscal Cliff” last night in the Watkins Room.

In a crowd of about 80, a member of the audience had just asked the columnist behind the popular blog “The Fix”  if he thought there was a candidate on the 2016 frontier that will be able to unite Democrats and Republicans.

Without missing a beat, the seasoned politico shot back, “John Huntsman,” a sarcastic answer that sent the audience into peels of laughter.

The irreverent political commentator offered a kind of apology as a follow-up to his sarcasm by lamenting, “I’ll really never get invited back now,” a phrase he repeated a few times throughout the hour.

The large audience of undergraduates seemed to appreciate Cillizza’s humor, even as it perhaps began to go off the cliff.

Cillizza  was welcomed to campus jointly by the College Republicans and College Democrats, who asked the  frequent commentator on MSNBC, NBSC and CNN to discuss the fiscal cliff crisis, and the 2012 and 2016 election cycles.

Cillizza has a reputation for analyzing Washington like a sportscaster. As he spoke Tuesday night, his marked styled helped build an unusual rapport with the Furman audience. His very funny comments on John Hunstman joke even included the crowd in a working political hypothesis.

“I have been asked more times about John Huntsman in the past six hours here than in the past six months in Washington,” Cillizza observed, “Greenville, South Carolina must just be the national hotbed of Huntsman support.”

“Three times is a story,” the veteran journalist invoked a politico’s maxim.

According to Cillizza, a “winners and losers” scheme is an expedient, if ignoble, way of understanding of politics.

Some candidates, Cillizza said, like Republican Chris Christie or Democrat Bill Clinton, have  that Lebron James, Huessin Bolt quality that  leads them to  political stardom, while others , like Hunstman, flounder for reasons  perhaps  independent of ideology.

“You would be horrified if you sat in on focus groups,” he said,  alluding to studies of how votes are actually influenced. All jokes aside, no one was horrified, though, by Tuesday night’s dose of political reality.

Cillizza picked Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and Tim Scott as rising “winners” in the Republican party, in desperate need of a strategy for appealing to Hispanic voters in the face of a rapidly shifting electorate.

Hillary Clinton, approaching her 70th birthday soon after the 2016 election, might easily win as the Democratic candidate for president, Cillizza reckoned, but was doubtful that the Secretary of State would be up to the demands of campaigning and presiding at this late point in her career.

The fiscal cliff, Cillizza predicted, would make losers on both sides of the aisle. Although the “cliff” itself is made up (“It’s like setting an alarm for 6 a.m. to work on a paper due at noon,” Cillizza explained), the consequences of the staggering federal debt are real. Government shutting  down, federal workers being furloughed and another credit rating downgrade from Standard and Poor’s are all still possible.

By 9 p.m.,“The Fix” columnist,  had suggested much of what needs to be “fixed” at the end of his lecture. “Going from crisis to crisis is not governance,” Cillizza said in closing, leaving the audience with a thought to resonate well beyond his first visit to Furman.