07/21/2010 04:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Eliot Spitzer and CNN

Over two years ago, Governor Eliot was down the road from where I live in Washington, D.C. with call girl Ashley. And now? A joint prime time CNN slot.

We have seen it time and time again: the rise and the fall of the politician. Some seem to fade into the shadows (Congressmen Gary Condit, Mark Foley and Senator Larry Craig for example), whereas others bounce back (Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Governor Eliot Spitzer). What makes Governor Spitzer able to be one of those who bounce back, especially after Client #9 was literally caught with his socks on in an act of pure political hypocrisy?

Governor, I have to say (no sarcasm here): I give you a lot of credit for this comeback. Comebacks are never easy. And one on prime time, night after night, is unusual to say the least.

Yet, what is even more interesting to point out is that CNN is moving away from its targeted programming. After getting slammed on "Crossfire" by Jon Stewart for doing nothing but bantering back and forth (rightly so), it moved into an untapped zone: the middle ground. President Jon Klein's strategy (a thoughtful one) seemed to be one in which he would let FOX take the right-wingers and MSNBC take the left-wingers and CNN would take everyone else. Guess what? Despite the outstanding journalism (and this is not sarcasm either, I think Anderson Cooper is a pure genius), the ratings showed that there was barely anyone else. Media professors debate this: do political extremists flock to their media extremes or is it the other way around - in other words - do the networks pull them in? I give Jon Klein a lot of credit for trying; the sad part is that our polarized state can't always process neutrality.

CNN has released statements suggesting that Governor Eliot's new program with conservative columnist Kathleen Parker will not be a "Crossfire" type program. However, only time will tell; they are in fact removing Campbell Brown to bring in two talking heads.

And so the polarization conversation continues (a topic I studied in depth throughout college): CNN may go back to its old ways. It may just have to in order to survive in an era of polarized politics. And bringing on Governor Eliot may just be what begins to bring them back, just as this show will likely bring Governor Eliot Spitzer back too.

David Helfenbein has also posted this blog posting on his site,, under his blog, The Bean Blog.