The National released the excellent Sleep Well Beast on Friday, and there is a section in “Walk It Back” unlike anything the band has ever committed to wax before. A spoken word interlude comes mid-way through the song, and it’s cribbed from a famous quote from writer Ron Suskind’s 2004 piece for New York Times Magazine on the Bush White House that’s attributed to a “senior advisor to Bush” long thought to be Karl Rove. The quote:
“People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
The quote, in which the advisor denigrates people who makes judgements on those annoying things known as facts, made waves in political circles for being exactly the kind of despicable thing it seemed the Bush White House was thinking as they lead the country into a war for profit based on outright lies. In his piece, Suskind even went as far as to say the quote reached the “very heart of the Bush presidency,” a statement that seems incredibly accurate. Given our current political situation where facts and reality are obscured literally every day by the Trump White House, the quote seems all the more relevant, something lead singer Matt Berninger told Consequence of Sound he picked up on.
“The second time Suskind published that quote was right after Trump won, a day or two afterwards. I remember, it was in the Times; I remember that quote just really haunting me and I kept rereading it because it’s an admission of the plan to change the nature of what we understand as truth, and do that through the media, radio, and propaganda.
“Once you control the idea, control the people understanding this reality, then you can do whatever the fuck you want, right? So that’s what Karl Rove was saying 10 years ago when he was already in the White House and he’s saying this to The New York Times. They’ve been up to this for so long, and all of this, Donald Trump, he is the product of a very long game plan for conservatism and religious extremism. But mostly it’s not even that, it’s just corporate interest. All corporate interest is figuring out a plan to change what we understand as truth, and that’s why we’re in this state where no one knows what to think or feel or believe. They’ve been building Trump, whether they knew it or not, for 30 years, and that’s what Karl Rove talking about: ‘What if we can lie and get away with it, we win, so fuck you.’ So it stuck with me.”
Newsweek scribe Zach Schonfeld reached out to Rove for his thoughts on the song, and Karl the Lying and Terrible offered up some unintentional gold in his response emails. “Not familiar with the band and the quote is fictitious,” Rove wrote. “The only person in the room who supposedly heard this quote was the ‘reporter’—none of the other people in the room heard anything like it, including its supposed author (me).”
Rove has always denied the statement was his, but then again Karl Rove is a liar. Schonfeld sent Rove a link to the song and asked him for his thoughts on the tune via a low quality YouTube rip of the song. (Rove, who apparently thinks he’s still in the White House and could dictate the reality of the convo, strangely tried to make his review “off the record”, however no such agreement was ever reached between he and Schonfeld.) “Off the record: starts with a Euro Tech Pop thing and transition into a more peppy tune that’s easier to dance to and has a sound track that on YouTube is impossible to heard,” Rove masterfully opined, before proving how hip he is by adding, “Suspect it won’t make Casey Kasem’s Top 40.” When offered a higher quality Spotify link, Rove decided he needed to get back to lying and replied, “Off the record – thanks – but wasted enough time on this already. Now you tell me there’s a best audio available.”
Karl just wants danceable jams y’all—perhaps he’d be more into Liars? Clearly, if Rove hadn’t loved war profiteering based on misinformation so very much, he could have been the world’s finest music critic. Berninger, who also told Variety that while Suskind will be receiving a royalty check, he’d enjoy it if Rove got one as well, saying, “I’d love Karl Rove to see that check, just to remind him we know he said that.” The band wasn’t done trolling ole Karl yet, as their response to the Newsweek piece and Rove’s statements reflects my thoughts on the man any unfortunate time Rove pops into my head:
Perhaps The National should take some time to review Karl’s dope-ass rapping skills:
Check out the Karl Rove-featuring “Walk It Back” below: