Today, on the 1 year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, The National have released the music video for “Walk It Back” from their latest album Sleep Well Beast. The video’s director Casey Reas notes – “The video documents the performance and spectacle of governance. It captures the pomp and rituals of Congress and its vainglorious, televised culture. The spoken text at the center of the song has been attributed to Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s advisor, but he has denied the association: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re 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.”
This quote first appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 2004 without attribution. It was later pinned to Rove, but he derided the quote and claimed ignorance of its origins to Newsweek only three months ago. The quote references a move away from empiricism, toward George W. Bush’s style of trusting his instincts and faith for guiding policy decisions over discussion and research.
The video follows lines of politicians. Ronald Reagan sets the stage for George H. W. Bush. Reagan’s State of the Union address serves as a template for Newt Gingrich’s co-authored “Contract with American,” which coincided with Bill Clinton’s fraught presidency. As a key figure in the George H. W. Bush administration, Dick Cheney serves as the vice president for the former president’s son, George W. Bush.
The sessions of Congress during the Reagan presidency were the first to be broadcast through the C-SPAN network. From that time through to the present, every session of the House of Representatives and Senate is broadcast from start to end, without edits. For decades, the color CRT television, with its coarse resolution and high saturation, was the instrument through which politics were broadcast – it was the primary medium for political and commercial ideology. In 2009, at the end of the George W. Bush presidency, all analog broadcasts were discontinued as television completely transitioned to digital-only, higher-resolution signals.