John Dickerson Makes Tepid Debut as ‘Face the Nation’s’ New Face

John Dickerson Makes Tepid Debut as

John Dickerson could hardly have picked two better subjects to exhibit his grit, or lack thereof, as the new anchor of “Face the Nation,” a promotion he received after Bob Schieffer’s emotional sendoff. Yet hosting two combative figures from the right and left – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio – seemingly exposed Dickerson as someone who will be courtly to a fault, allowing his guests to deliver complete answers but scarcely challenging them on anything.

In his unflappable demeanor and style, Dickerson does seem to fit the CBS News mold established by Scott Pelley, the kind of guy who looks like he wakes up with his shirt pressed and hair perfectly in place. But the new host also conveys a sense that he sees his role strictly as asking the questions and letting politicians run through their talking points.

While that approach doesn’t figure to unleash a lot of the partisan bombast the position entails – Schieffer, notably, came under fire from the right in recent months for asking the Family Research Council’s chief, Tony Perkins, about being labeled a hate group – it also reflects an inside-the-Beltway mentality, one where having access to everyone frequently comes at the expense of ruffling feathers or rocking the boat.

In perhaps the most glaring example of that on Sunday, Christie spoke about the need for vigorous congressional oversight regarding the conduct of national security issues. Yet if that sounded like an obvious invitation to ask the governor about oversight of his own administration – clearly an issue, given the controversy over the closure of the George Washington Bridge, leading to indictments of former New Jersey officials – Dickerson didn’t take the bait, preferring to focus on his potential presidential ambitions.

Similarly, Dickerson didn’t press De Blasio — an equally polarizing and oversized personality — about his push regarding income inequality, or the soak-the-rich concerns raised when Democrats start talking about raising taxes on top earners.

About the only teeth Dickerson flashed were with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, opening the interview by asking the obligatory question of his latest presidential campaign, “Why are you gonna do better this time than you did four years ago?” Those expecting any kind of follow-up regarding Perry’s fitness, however – or simply questioning his claim that the U.S. economy has suffered since President Obama took office – were left waiting, while Dickerson moved on to whether governors or legislators are more suited to the Oval Office.

Dickerson, who is clearly knowledgeable and exhibited a light touch presiding over the roundtable discussion, might not have wanted to come out of the gate guns blazing. Yet even charitably allowing for that, this was a tepid debut — one calibrated to policy wonks, while giving newsmakers zero reason to have any qualms about facing the new host. Several of the guests congratulated Dickerson on his new role, and if he maintains this sort of kid-gloves posture, it’s no wonder why being happy to have him around will be a source of rare bipartisan agreement.

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  1. Ich war mir bilder anal klar, dass er das kleine Köpfchen aus seiner Falte heraushob.

  2. Carrie says:

    Your guest Salam should not be invited to Face The Nation he seem so angry and bias. Its clear to hear that he is a Republican which I do not care to know. Then he would turn around and try to draw analogy with candidates from both parties. Get with the program Salam. Keep your party preference to yourself. Just be professional and objective

    • Albert says:

      What about the infiltration of Isis in our hemisphere? What is being done about the Isis cell 8 miles from our southern border?
      Are we sitting on our hands?

  3. Cheryl Whalen says:

    What a horrible telehone interview with Donald Trump this morning. I may have to stop watching this show if you can’t do an interview . You asked him to tell you about a failure he had. He responded by telling you the opposite. You should of asked him if he could tell everyone about all the bankruptcies he file and what was the total numbers of dollars he has gotten out of paying. The media is responsible for the clown act we are all having to watch unfold.

  4. Golgi Kanji says:

    Wow, tough crowd. I have listed to John Dickerson weekly for years on Political Ganfest (Slate). H is brilliant, knows government better than anyone, and is fair to a fault. I’m not even sure he is a liberal! Give him time, he will be everyone’s favorite moderator by year’s end.

  5. grace kohan says:

    I missed the debut of John Dickerson on “Face the Nation”, however I plan on seeing it this coming weekend. My most compelling reason is he is the son of one the first women television broadcasters, Nancy Dickerson, who was my childhood hero. I’m curious to see if John inherited her well-respected journalistic abilities that would make him truly worthy of his new position.
    Preferably I would have liked to see a woman anchor a Sunday morning program, i.e. Andrea Mitchell, Candy Crowley etc., and I’m sure the time will come soon.

  6. Lorraine Lovelady says:

    I do not plan to see FACE THE NATION while Dickerson is the host, he did a lousy job and allowing a guest to slander another person on TV is bad prodcasting for CBS, you picked him, you watch him, your choice was not a good choice, Sundays show was insulting to the viewer.

  7. Richard Poor says:

    David Wildstein and Bill Baroni are not New Jersey officials. They were not drawing paychecks from the State of New Jersey.

  8. G. Trep says:

    I must have watched a different episode than you. Completely disagree with you! He did great for a first show. Give him the time anyone would need to get comfortable with this job.

  9. Linda says:

    Why didn’t Dickerson ask De Blasio about his contentious relationship with the NYPD? Obvious dodge.

  10. The first part of my comment was deleted. I said to give Dickerson some time to settle into his new role as moderator. Then I said, “Like any individual, in a new position, he’ll have to find his niche in what works best for him, as he interviews newsmakers, every week.”

  11. William Zimmerman says:

    You say: “Similarly, Dickerson didn’t press De Blasio — an equally polarizing and oversized personality — about his push regarding income inequality, or the soak-the-rich concerns raised when Democrats start talking about raising taxes on top earners.

    I don’t believe you were watching the same program? At 3:20 mark he asks de Blasio specifically if talking about “income inequality” will scare off voters who think that phrase means raising taxes.

  12. individual in a new position, he’ll have to find his niche in what works best for him as he interviews newsmakers, every week.

  13. caleb mayo says:

    Dickerson is a gentleman, historian, and, yes, brilliant, curious person. He will rarely ask silly questions like “What about Bridge-gate? Doesn’t that disqualify you?” because he knows that a) such questions will get blown-off immediately with pablum answers, and b) real news is not about bellicose character performance, it’s about reasonable people deciding for themselves, at home, what to think about important issues. Despite this disappointing review by an excellent publication, I basically can’t wait to watch this show for the rest of my life.

  14. BillR says:

    In the context of where we are in the election cycle I didn’t find John Dickerson tepid at all. Perry, while better prepared than last time, was weak on his economic message (we need better economic regulation, without any specifics other than saying Texas, Texas, Texas… but state versus national regulations are quite different in scope and impact). He gave Christie a chance to reiterate some of his policy stands for the record and he did, how it plays out in the election we have to see. It’s just so early in the process that I think the goal at this point is to get the candidates talking, the tough stuff will come later.

  15. John says:

    Pretty tepid critique of Dickerson…

  16. Carl Heltzel says:

    Better this performance than trying to please the critics.

  17. Drew says:

    Tepid? You need to watch again and compare his approach to his competitors. Dickerson actually asked the follow up on Dodd Frank with Perry and he pressed Christie on issues unrelated to bridgegazi. No need to crowbar gossip into a conversation on policy. There were no softballs this Sunday morning. First time we can say that in years

  18. John Dickerson is ten times smarter than you (or me). He knows what he’s doing.

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