Tom Braden, ‘Crossfire’ Creator, Dead at 92

Tom Braden has passed at the ripe old age of 92.

Tom Braden, the creator and co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” which pioneered the talk-show format that pitted a conservative against a liberal, died Friday at age 92.  Daughter Susan Braden said he died of natural causes at his home in Denver, Colorado.

In 1982, Braden took “Crossfire” to CNN from a local station in Washington and served as the program’s host “from the left” until 1989.

“Many people believe that Tom created the genre of political talk shows and debate programs that has now been copied and copied and copied,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s political director and senior executive producer of political programming. “He was a giant of a man and one of the most decent human beings you’d ever want to meet. CNN was a better place because Tom Braden worked here.”

While his successor, Michael Kinsley, was the best of the “from the Left” hosts of the show (and Kinsley-Buchanan was my favorite pairing) Braden was a thoughtful commentator.  Whether it was actually so or merely a reflection of the naivety of youth, the early versions of “Crossfire” seemed much more like a genuine conversation than the caricature that it would eventually devolve into.  Still, even then, it was something of a role-playing game:

Braden played the establishment liberal — a Rockefeller, Kennedy man, and Buchanan played the Goldwater, Nixon man.

“He was a cantankerous character,” Buchanan said. “He really didn’t like conservatives, especially the new breed. It made for great chemistry and opposition.”  But the dislike didn’t get personal. “He would laugh at something that was at his expense if it was a good line. That’s what you need in the show. An appreciation if the other guy scores a good point.”

Braden had a rather impressive past that I was completely unaware of until reading the CNN obit:

Born in Greene, Iowa, Braden graduated from Dartmouth in spring 1940, when the Germans overran France. He volunteered to join the British army, said his good friend and conservative sparring partner, Pat Buchanan.  After fighting in the African desert, Braden joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services when the United States joined the fight, then joined the CIA, Buchanan said.

Nor did I realize this:

In 1975, he wrote the best-selling book, “Eight is Enough,” about his eight children, which was made into a television sitcom that starred a crusty political columnist named Tom Bradford.

I don’t know if that show would stand up in today’s more cynical age, but my parents and I watched it every week during its run.  Oddly, I remembered it having run for years but it was only on from 1977-81.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Robert Prather says:

    I read this article yesterday and came away thinking he was a class act. The “Eight Is Enough” thing tickled me too. RIP.