News Updates

America This Week: Transcript

Walter for President, the Michael Morell and Uhuru fiascoes, Predicting the First Criminal Retweet, and more

Apr 23, 2023


On “America This Week” with Walter Kirn (audio version here):


On Walter Kirn for President:

Matt Taibbi: Has there ever been less certainty about who the candidates will be in an American presidential election?

Walter Kirn: Well, you’re usually not this uncertain about the incumbent, unless they’re Lyndon Johnson, but he gave certainty by declaring that he wouldn’t run. Biden seems to be being coy in some fashion about whether he’s going to. He says he’ll “participate,” but, you know, in some sense, I’ll participate in the next election. Will he participate as a candidate is the question.

Matt Taibbi: Walter, you should run!

Walter Kirn: (Laughs) I’m currently cleaning up my past. I have agents out on the street, dealing with all the compromising information that might arise later. So if that cleanup job goes as I plan, I should be announcing it in about 17 years.

Matt Taibbi: (laughs) You would win in a landslide if you ran.

Walter Kirn: Which party would I run for, though? I’d have to invent my own. I’m not even sure sometimes whether the parties are going to be around in any recognizable fashion. The Republicans seem to be having an identity crisis that is bottomless.

Matt Taibbi: I don’t know. If you run on the “Whatever” ticket, you’d be fine.

Walter Kirn: The “Whatever” ticket. I promise to deal with all the things that we’ve put in the closet over the last 20 years. I could run on the backlog ticket. Here are all the things that we were very excited about, but then pretended weren’t a problem, and I’m gonna bring them back out, set them on the table, and deal with them. (Laughs) That could work. I also think that just being in the debates would be wonderful. See, that’s the only part of the thing I covet. Doing the job, no.

But what is the pleasant part of running for president?

Matt Taibbi: Running? Nothing. Well, that’s not true. You could have fun with it. Trump had fun with it.

Walter Kirn: That’s true. I don’t have the ability to gather Kiss-concert-size crowds and generate vast amounts of swag for people to wear. I don’t yet have a hat designed. You know, all the paraphernalia of modern campaigning.

Matt Taibbi: (Rolling) “I don’t have a hat!”

Walter Kirn: I used to look through my mom’s drawer. My mom was a very — a sort of small town Republican and she had very high civic ideals. I think she might have been president of a tiny Republican club in our small town, and she kept all her campaign buttons in a drawer, going back to Goldwater or something. And I used to take them out, the way you rifle through your parents’ drawers, and think about the romance of each campaign. And they seem so simple in retrospect. They made a button, they gave a couple of speeches, they had a platform, and then they retired from the scene after losing.

But ever since the invention of pro wrestling, or big time pro wrestling and other fake blood sports, it’s just become a grueling spectacle that never ends. And I might be too old to insert myself in that. Although it seems that the latest qualification for you as president is that you be very old. This is the one field in which I might look young.

Matt Taibbi: You’d look like a teen actor compared to the people who are actually running.

Walter Kirn: Like young Michael J. Fox. I could run on the Fresh Breeze ticket — “A fresh breeze from across the plains. Vote Walter Kirn.”

Matt Taibbi: All you’d have to do is have a platform of promising to do absolutely nothing and say absolutely nothing.

Walter Kirn: I could resurrect the Hippocratic Oath, now that the doctors have let it go. Do no harm first! The Do No Harm ticket. I actually think that’s a winner. I promise that in four years, things won’t be that much worse.

Matt Taibbi: “I will do the absolute least in my power to make sure that things in this country improve…” Anyway, I’m serious about this. I think you’d be a good, good candidate. You’d appeal to both sides, anyway.

Walter Kirn: Dude, I doubt I could even win my own county in Montana. There are all sorts of conflicting interests, ranchers versus environmentalists and so on. And my problem as a journalist would be my problem as a candidate, which is that after I talk to people for fifteen minutes, I see their point of view, and I like them. Then I go home at the end of the day, and I can’t sort out my priorities, because the last person I spoke to was the most persuasive. That’s why I’m gonna stick with “novelist.”

Matt Taibbi: But imagine how refreshing that would be to go watch a candidate and have somebody stand up in the Q&A and say, “Yeah, you’re an asshole about this and that” — because that’s what always happens — and have the candidate at the end of it say, “Well, yeah, maybe you’re right. I never thought of it that way.” Has that ever happened? Has a candidate ever done that? It would just be so interesting.

Walter Kirn: There are certain maxims that they live by, and they never change their mind on stage — that’s one. Never be seen to change your mind. I could also be the candidate of open minds. You know, “Open minds, open hearts.” That could be my slogan. They always talk about listening tours, but I could actually listen.

Well, I’m going to keep it in mind. If Jesse Ventura could be governor of Minnesota, I could probably be president of the United States.

Matt Taibbi: I was going to help him if he ran last time. I offered to write speeches for him. I like Jesse.

Walter Kirn: When Trump was going to run with Ross Perot’s old Reform Party, Time Magazine sent me to cover him in a hotel ballroom in Minneapolis. And Jesse Ventura was going to be his Vice President. And so I got to see Jesse and Donald in one fell swoop. Wow. Two of the hugest candidates for president that have ever… I mean, two huge guys. And I just remember seeing them stand together thinking like, if these dudes ran the country, I’d be physically intimidated. Maybe we should have physically intimidating presidents. Shouldn’t they be the largest among us? If we had an ancient tribal civilization, that would’ve been obvious.

Matt Taibbi: That would be great if in America you had to be at least as big as an NFL offensive tackle to be the president. In the Constitution they’d add it to the other requirements. No person except a natural-born citizen, thirty-five years old, and at least six-seven with 37-inch arms…

Walter Kirn: Maybe they should just fight for the damn thing instead of all this symbolic combat. I’ve had enough. This symbolic combat is dragging us all down, you know? We should watch them draw blood — pin each other to the mat UFC-style, no holds barred.

Matt Taibbi: Hitting each other with oars, chairs…

Walter Kirn: Exactly. I don’t know if that’s what happens in the movie Idiocracy, how the guy gets to be president, but it would seem that he maybe did it in an open battle.

Matt Taibbi: What’s his name again? (looks it up) Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho.

Walter Kirn: Right! Like that.

On the Michael Morell scandal, in which the former acting head of the CIA organized an open letter saying the Hunter Biden laptop story had the “classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” reportedly at the behest of then-Biden campaign adviser Anthony Blinken:

Matt Taibbi: On August 5th, 2016, Morrell wrote an editorial for the New York Times called, “I Ran the CIA. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton…” And he said, “Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American interests, endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic states… In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” This put wind into the sails of the idea of Trump as a useful idiot of Russia.

Walter Kirn: We now know that Morell is a natural ring leader. For some reason, he was the guy that Blinken contacted who was going to be able to get the 50 other people. So apparently he’s got a big Rolodex and some influence. But it not only put wind in the sails, but now I do remember it — it pushed the damn thing off from the dock. To say someone has been recruited is interesting language that suggests there was a meeting, that suggests there’s a deal. Can you be recruited just sentimentally through the atmosphere, or does that require a negotiation somewhere? It would suggest that it does. In that statement, we have the seed of seven years of bullshit.

As a footnote, we should note that Buzzfeed News, the original publisher of the Steele Dossier, announced that it’s closing, after the scoop of the century. You’d think they could have run for another 30 years!


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