20 Questions with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer’s new CNN show, “Parker Spitzer,” debuted Monday. The syndicated conservative columnist and former New York Democratic governor fill the 8 p.m. time slot that Campbell Brown left earlier this year.

How have your show preparations gone?
Parker: Great.
Spitzer: We’ve been performing to a studio audience of three: the guys behind the cameras.

Was that a 5-Hour Energy I saw on the anchor desk in one of the pre-released clips?
Parker: I drink a 5-Hour Energy drink during hair and makeup. I try to slam one before the show. 

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So how did this duo come about?
Spitzer: The Yellow Pages. TV hosts have an 800 number you can call.
Parker: This is [former CNN President] Jon Klein’s idea of a fun blind date. He engineered it. He was interviewing about 100 people for the 8 o’clock time slot. I think they were looking for a male and a female, and people who could disagree agreeably. We arranged to meet in New York. Eliot didn’t get elected governor without some charm. He’s instantly likable, and apparently I am, too.
Spitzer: After we met, I instantly called Jon, and I said, “I think you have a TV star” — and I was not talking about myself.

Are you two being played off each other’s political ideologies? What, if anything, do you two agree on?
Parker: We’re not ideological, either one of us, and I think that’s what makes us unique, in this time frame. We are different people from different backgrounds, and that gives us different ways of looking at things.
Spitzer: It’s not one of these left-right things where we have to disagree. We just view the world through slightly different prisms, and that makes for good conversations.
Parker: Basically, if you’re having a dinner party, you’d want us there. We agree on a lot of things, but that won’t necessarily be characterized on the show itself. There’s a realm of normal where we both dwell.
Spitzer: We’ve had a lot of friends and guests come in, and we agree on who the really good guests are, because they’re smart.

Ms. Parker, when you were told that the CNN executives wanted to pair you with Eliot Spitzer, what was your first reaction?
Parker: I remember it very well, because Jon Klein wanted me to meet the person who he thought might be my co-anchor. I said, “Are you going to tell me who it is?” He said, “Yes. Eliot Spitzer.”  I didn’t say anything for a couple of beats. And then I said, “Bold.”

And Mr. Spitzer, what about you, upon hearing you’d be working with Ms. Parker?
Spitzer: I did a quick Google search.
Parker: He didn’t know who I was. But why would a New Yorker know who I am?
Spitzer: Kathleen points out, rightly, outside of the New York-D.C. bubble, anywhere else, you go … Kathleen’s a celebrity. I had heard her name.
Parker: You’re lying.
Spitzer: I had the foggiest idea of who she was.

What attracted you two to TV? Neither one of you has a TV background.
Spitzer: Nobody buys newspapers anymore.
Parker: It just looked like fun. I don’t know about Eliot, but I thought it would be a great adventure, and thought, “Why not?”
Spitzer: Every day’s got to be an adventure.

What’s the hardest thing to adjust to about working in television?
Parker: An hour in the makeup chair. That’s an hour of my life wasted.
Spitzer: Making it as real as every other conversation we have.
Parker: It’s a little harder to do with 15 cameras pointed at you. And the earpieces.
Spitzer: And the director telling you to sit up straight.

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A lot of people have already said you guys are trying to do a Joe-Mika thing [from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”]. Any response to that?

Parker: We’re not trying to do anything of the sort. It’s natural when you have a male and a female — you can’t ignore that we’re opposite sexes. I think we’re our own shtick.
Spitzer: We both like their show a lot. … We’re on at a different time, so that calls for a different style.
Parker: “Morning Joe” very much still has that guy-club feel to it, and Mika is often the only female on set, and I sympathize with that. But if I look as good as Mika, I’ll be very happy.

Ms. Parker, how are you working out the commute? You live in South Carolina, right?
Parker: I have a home there, but I live here now. I’m not really commuting. My husband is the chief commuter now.

So you moved to New York for the show?
Parker: Yes.

Who are some guests you have lined up for the show?
Parker: We’d like to have everybody. … But we’re going to be a pundit-free zone, primarily.
Spitzer: Cultural people, athletes here and there. That’s the best thing about a TV show — you get to invite on whoever you want to talk to.

Which members of Congress would you like to chat with?
Spitzer: We obviously can’t avoid those guys. We’re going to have the ones on that are interesting. I think [Rep.] Barney Frank [D-Mass.] is always a great interview.
Parker: I can’t wait to remind Barney Frank that he met me when I was 27 years old, and he took me on a tour of the Massachusetts statehouse.
Spitzer: People like [Rep.] Ed Markey [D-Mass.], who happens to be a friend, but I think he’s always interesting to talk to. [Sen.] Ron Wyden [D-Ore.] — he’s always trying to do bipartisan things.
Parker: Now that my son no longer works for [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.], I’d like to have him on.

I didn’t know your son worked for Lindsey Graham.
Parker: No one knew. Breaking news! I couldn’t write about Graham for three years.

Ms. Parker, you’ve had a big year. You won a Pulitzer Prize in April. You got a CNN show in June. How have you taken it all?
Parker: The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to walk on air quite as long as I would’ve liked [after winning the Pulitzer], because [the show] came on quickly. It’s been a good year for an old broad.

How did you celebrate your Pulitzer?
Parker: I celebrated for two straight months, and I was headed to the Betty Ford Center when Jon Klein called. I gained a little weight, but CNN has taken it all off me.

Mr. Spitzer, how do you hope to get viewers to look beyond the headlines you generated in 2008 when they watch your show?
Spitzer: I think they will. I think people who will listen will listen —
Parker: I’m going to interrupt here, but I guess that’s always the question that people seem to have to ask. When you meet Eliot, I think when people get to know him beyond the stupid headlines and hear what he has to say, they’ll see he has a perspective people need to hear. I think yesterday’s headlines will be out of their heads in a week.

Mr. Spitzer, do you miss being in elected office?
Spitzer: Of course you miss it. If you ever were in it, you miss parts of it, because there were things you liked about it.

Ms. Parker, would you ever run for elected office?
Parker: Oh, heavens, no. I don’t remember what I did, but I’m sure someone does. I’m much more comfortable in the role of observer, which makes this all a strange period. I’m finding out I have a bit of inner performer in me, too. I would never run for political office. I don’t know why anyone does, to tell the truth.


To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Kris Kitto at (202) 628-8539 or e-mail him at kkitto@thehill.com.