The video manipulates CSPAN broadcasts (“the primary medium for political and commercial ideology”) of several notable political events – like Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address and speeches by Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and Karl Rove – to create a tableau that illustrates “the performance and spectacle of governance.”
The video’s director Casey Reas said in a statement of “Walk It Back,” “It captures the pomp and rituals of Congress and its vainglorious, televised culture.”
Reas added, “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.'”
The quote first appeared unattributed in New York Times Magazine in 2004; when it was tied to Rove three months later, the advisor to George W. Bush “claimed ignorance” of its origin.
The National will continue to tour in support of Sleep Well Beast, one of Rolling Stone‘s 50 Best Albums of 2017, throughout 2018, including curating their own Homecoming Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio.