Last year, grown-up rock band The National got in a little online spat with with possible demonic apparition Karl Rove. On “Walk It Back,” the third track from the band’s latest album, Sleep Well Beast, lead singer Matt Berninger had read a long, creepy, pro-Empire, anti-reality quote from a 2004 New York Magazine report by Ron Suskind. Though only attributed to a “senior Bush advisor” back then, it had long been assumed that Rove muttered it. But when asked about the quote and the song by Newsweek last September, Rove denied that the words were his, put the word reporter in inverted commas when referring to Suskind, and proceeded to get snarky about The National’s music. The band responded with a straightforward “Fuck You, Karl.”
Rove’s response spoke, in some petty way, to The National’s thesis on “Walk It Back.” It clogged up the news cycle, intentionally diminished the work of a political journalist, and contributed to the clunky depression that the Trump presidency—like the Bush presidency before it—had brought out in America.
Yesterday, a year on from Donald Trump’s inauguration, The National released a new video for “Walk It Back.” It’s directed by Casey Reas, the artist behind all of the Sleep Well Beast videos. Built out of distorted CSPAN videos of Donald Trump, Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney, it aims to highlight the vanity and spectacle bound up in American politics, something that Rove—perhaps more than anyone—knew how to manipulate. “The video documents the performance and spectacle of governance,” Reas said in a statement. “It captures the pomp and rituals of Congress and its vainglorious, televised culture.”
Watch the video at the top of the page.
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