20 Questions with Candy Crowley

In being named CNN’s newest anchor for “State of the Union,” senior political correspondent Candy Crowley became the first woman with a permanent role in the Sunday morning talk show lineup. The veteran campaign reporter enters the job well-rested — she took a vacation to New Zealand earlier this year — but is ready to sacrifice sleep to make her mark on a longstanding Washington tradition.

There’s been a lot of talk about you being the only woman to host one of the Sunday morning talk shows. How do you feel about that distinction?

It’s factually true that at this moment I’m the only woman in that genre, but it was not where I first went. When they offered me the job, I just looked at it as a journalistic opportunity. But so many women that I know and don’t know have said, “This is so great; this is so fun. I’ll be happy to see a woman on Sunday mornings.”

What was your initial reaction when your bosses came to you with the proposal?

I was surprised, that’s probably the lightest word. I didn’t expect to get it. I wanted to get it. There are so many people out there who would’ve been great at this. I was on vacation. I had been back for three days, so I was still in vacation mode. It had this unreal feel to it. Since then, I’ve been excited. Overall, it’s really fun to start something different.

So have you effectively said goodbye to your weekends?

Apparently. I’m getting that feeling. Actually, I thought I let go of all seven days the first week. Saturday, when a lot of things are put together for the show — graphics and things — that’s my research day. We’re going to try to take Monday and Tuesday off … I’m really trying to get my rhythm on how this is going to work.

How have your first two shows felt?

Great. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re a reporter, you have sort of a confined two and a half minutes. But to be able to sit down and talk to [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton for 25 minutes, and to be able to sit down and talk to [National Security Adviser] Gen. James Jones for 25 minutes ... In the end, I’m a consumer of news as I’m doing it, because I’m interested in the answers. I’m not thinking, “How can I use it? Where are the sound bites?” It’s fun for me to consume it as well as produce it, so I had a blast.

What will Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” look like moving forward?

I wish I had the answer to that. People say, “How will your show be different than [previous host] John King’s?” I know it will be different, but I think it’ll be a work in progress for a while.

Who are some of your dream guests?

The big international get that I’d like to see on the air — [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. An interview with him to me is always interesting because he seems to have an alternate reality, and that’s hard for the interviewer. Domestically, it’s always President Obama. As we go along, I think there are people out there that are interesting that I want to bring to the mix, but you always want to talk to the players.

This year is a pretty monumental campaign year — and campaigns are your specialty. How are you going to do both campaign coverage and State of the Union stuff?

Probably with not a lot of sleep, and it’ll just be 2008 again, where we didn’t sleep at all. I think you can’t show up on a Sunday morning in a vacuum and speak with any degree of authority. I couldn’t, at least. For instance, I’m going to the [Conservative Political Action Conference], so I’m going to be covering things because, a) you meet people there and you learn things there, and b) I’m a reporter. In the end, I think it’s going to be hard to shake that out of me.

What campaigns are you most interested in covering this year?

Florida is really interesting at the moment because you’ve got [Marco] Rubio and [Charlie] Crist and that whole internal Republican Party thing going on — as with Texas and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry.

In the general, Barack Obama’s old seat, [Joe] Biden’s old seat — I mean, our cup runneth over here. I think we could take an arrow at a map and come up with something good. And that doesn’t even begin to include the House races.

We’re not going to lack for places to go. I think we’re going to lack for time to get there.

Did you spend any time in Massachusetts for the Scott Brown election?

I was in New Zealand for vacation. It was a long-planned vacation — literally planned a year in advance. As sick as this is, we sat in Auckland to watch the returns. We didn’t watch for long, just long enough to see who won. My kids were wrapped up in it, too.

What are some of the most memorable stories you’ve worked on?

I tell people I would get to certain places in my career and say, “This is the biggest story I’m ever going to cover.” Bill Clinton impeachment trial. I thought, “We’re covering history here.” And then we got to the 2000 election, I was still in Texas in December, and we didn’t have a president yet. I thought, “Whoa, this is going to be incredible.” And then on the more tragic side, 9/11 happened, and it was so totally out of our world of possibilities. There kind of always is, either tragically, to the good or bad, there’s always something else. So I always say my biggest story is coming up.

What kinds of political stories draw your attention?

It’s really the ones with the interesting people in it, because in the end, it is about the person. We all know there’s an X factor — there’s something about the person that draws people to vote, whatever that X factor is. Look, what has been one of the best stories the last two years? It’s Sarah Palin, and it’s not so much about her positions — it’s her. What is it that brings people to her or repels them from her?

I always marvel at how television reporters can do live shots in front of angry protesters, in the middle of a political convention with music blaring — or in any other really loud, distracting setting. Does that stuff ever throw you off?

First, I would recommend that anyone who wants to cover a convention or anything with confetti should have children first. You tune out a lot of noise.

You know that when someone says, “Thank you very much, God bless America,” balloons are going to start falling down from the ceiling. It’s when a loud noise happens, someone jumps in front of the camera, that’s distracting. Sometimes you can’t hear. The worst part is you know when the anchor is asking you a question and you can’t hear. So you just say, “I can’t hear, but I think you may be asking this.” And you kind of just answer the question you think is being asked.

Do you have any on-air bloopers you’d like to share?

I was interviewing [former Sen. Howard] Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) on the Hill, and this huge gust of wind came, and we had these heavy lights. He saw it coming and ducked out of the way, and the lights didn’t hit him. It’s a totally funny interview to watch because he’s there one second, and then all of a sudden he’s gone.

I remember Teddy Kennedy’s dogs, too. They were always noisy when they walked around with their chain leashes dragging on the ground. We would have to stop sometimes for them.

Obviously, you’re out here, things happen. I don’t think it’s bad that the viewers see how insane it is on the convention floor — that’s why we’re there.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love to swim. Me and Mr. TiVo, we’re going to have to change our date night from Sunday night to Monday. There’s so much stuff that I save over the course of the week that Mr. TiVo is becoming a bit of a burden. I just like to kick back.

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