Jonathan Swan: I had no idea my face was making those weird shapes.
Fitz: Oh, come on. Just between us – it will go no further than The Sun-Herald readership – you must have known at the time your facial expressions would go viral, so were you being a teeny bit theatrical?
Jonathan Swan: I promise you I didn’t. I only realised afterwards what a ham I was.
Fitz: You also kept interrupting him, trying to get him to answer the question. We have all seen Trump bite the heads off reporters that “don’t respect the office”, and yet he didn’t seem to mind. Did that surprise you?
Jonathan Swan: I didn’t think of it that way. I tried to listen and react naturally … which preparation allows.
Fitz: Last time we chatted, you mentioned Trump had no clue what the impact of the interview would be. What did he say to you, after you wrapped it up?
Jonathan Swan: After the interview ended the president’s only request was that we not edit him too much because he wanted the “sentences to flow”. He also predicted it would get “great ratings”. He was right on both counts.
Fitz: After the interview went viral, and became known as “Trump’s train-crash interview”, did you take heat from trolls, “fake news!” etc?
Jonathan Swan: Uh yeah … my inbox was a sewer for quite a while.
Fitz: Last time I saw you in the flesh, was in Washington for Joe Hockey’s farewell as US ambassador. But we kept getting interrupted by DC heavyweights and media titans wanting to get in your ear. It was like a scene out of the West Wing. Do you ever pinch yourself?
Jonathan Swan: My recollection was we were on our own in the corner getting ignored by everyone. But if that’s what you remember, I won’t disabuse you.
(He’s being modest. It was a heavyweight gathering, and of the assembled media, though he wasn’t regarded as Muhammad Ali – the NYT’s Maureen Dowd was – he was at least Joe Frazier.)
Fitz: Do you still talk to Trump?
Jonathan Swan: We didn’t talk again during his presidency, but I have talked to him a couple of times this year when I’ve reached out for comment on stories.
Fitz: How deep is the fear that Biden is just a blip and America will return to a Trumpian Republican leadership sooner than we think?
Jonathan Swan: Among Democrats and quite a few establishment Republicans the fear is real and very rational. Anybody who dismisses Trump’s political future as a potential GOP 2024 nominee is reading different polls than I am.
Fitz: Do you think when you hit 50 in a decade and a bitty, you will most likely be in DC? Do you ever think you might move back to Sydney, or have you outgrown us, you sniffy bastard! Never forget, we at the Herald made you, and we can BREAK you!
Jonathan Swan: My dream is to come back to co-host [the ABC coronavirus podcast] Coronacast … a Weekend at Normy’s situation.
Fitz: Go well, and thank you. (But we still knew you when you were nothing!)
As to last week’s FMWF with Simon Holmes a Court on the subject of his Climate200 fund having raised $1.4 million to fund half-a-dozen or so independents in the next federal election, I was bemused to see a facsimile of the interview used in a notably alarmed Liberal Party newsletter the following day, as they sounded the sirens.
“That’s right- $1.4 million! And it appears only Coalition MPs are being targeted by this network … We can’t risk more left-leaning independents tipping Labor (and the Greens) into power. Friend, your support is vital. Can you make a contribution to our Fighting Fund to help stop them?”
Goodness! Here’s another snippet for them, for this week’s newsletter. Climate200 blew past $1.8 million late on Friday, and will cruise through $2 million in a day or two from 2000 donors.
But it gets worse, Libs.
Holmes a Court credits the newsletter for generating interest and says, “The federal director of the Liberal Party has raised more money for us than anyone else!” What is more, on Thursday evening they went live with a matching campaign, whereby cleantech investors Anna and Simon Hackett are matching the next $100,000 in donations. Oh, and the famed Independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, have just joined their Advisory Council.
Please make space in the Lib newsletter, which is appropriately titled You’re Welcome!
Sign of the Times
Love this hand-written sign, seen hanging in the shopfront window of Dulwich Hill’s Fred’s Oil & Oregano Lebanese Bakery: “Have faith in the Pfizer vaccine. Don’t forget they make Viagra. If they can raise the dead, they can save the living.”
Groaner of the Week
I went to the cemetery yesterday to lay some flowers on a grave. As I was standing there I noticed four grave diggers walking about with a coffin. Three hours later and they’re still walking about with it. I thought to myself, they’ve lost the plot!
Tweet of the Week
“I feel like Malcolm Turnbull has shown Morrison that revenge is a dish best served nuclear. #abc730 #auspol” @_bxou
Quotes of the week
“The biggest failure of public administration I have ever witnessed.” – Malcolm Turnbull at the National Press Club, excoriating the Morrison government’s efforts on the vaccine rollout.
“Clumsy, deceitful and costly.” – Malcolm Turnbull characterises the Morrison government’s switch from the French subs to the American nuclear subs.
“She had big problems, and we felt that she should work out those problems for herself. Now, like everyone else, she gets paid by a radical left-leaning publisher to say bad and untrue things.” – Donald Trump slurring Stephanie Grisham, the author of the latest “insider” book on his time at the White House, I’ll Take Your Questions Now. The “radical left-leaning publisher” in question is Harper-Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch.
“Yeah, colonoscopy was no big deal — they only found three polyps and Rudy Giuliani.” – Jimmy Fallon on news that while in office Donald Trump refused a general anaesthetic for the medical procedure, as he thought it would “show weakness”, and he did not want to cede the Presidency to Mike Pence even for a few hours.
“I do talk to George, but this idea that somehow you can just go up there and demand that he sits, that he no longer talks or, I don’t know, put hobbles on him, gaffer tape his mouth up, that’s not going to work. What Voltaire said, I think – it wasn’t actually Voltaire, it was – I can’t remember the lady who used to summarise Voltaire’s . . .” – Barnaby Joyce on George Christensen’s latest rants, on Insiders.
“It’s great Matt Canavan is selling Kodak cameras, but the reality is the iPhone is coming.” – NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean on Radio National, responding to Senator Canavan’s championing of coal.
“Dear most Aussies, who are the Dees? What is the thing you all care so much about? Actually, no, please (PLEASE) don’t explain. This tweet is just for all those kids like I once was who could not give a toss & felt weird & had to pretend. It’s OK. One day you can just ignore it.” – Jane Caro tweets, after the Melbourne “Dees” won their first AFL Grand Final in 57 years. There was hell to pay, for days, but I thought it was fine!
“Today’s announcement about the winding down of the COVID disaster payment will provide businesses and households with the certainty they need to plan for the future.” – Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, putting sparkle on a toad sandwich.
“What happened to you should never happen to anyone. It is inexcusable. It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account.” – World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has pledged zero tolerance on sexual abuse, apologising after an independent commission found that more than 80 aid workers, including some employed by the WHO, were involved in sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“If they want to put their patients and their colleagues at risk, well they won’t have a position.” – NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard as thousands of healthcare workers face being placed on unpaid leave if they do not meet Thursday’s mandatory vaccination deadline.
“We do not intend, in the circumstances of the current pandemic, to give any encouragement to a spurious objection to a lawful workplace vaccination requirement.” – The Fair Work Commission backing the right of a business to sack an employee who refused to get a flu shot as required under a public health order. The commission’s full bench majority upheld the dismissal of a receptionist at a NSW South Coast aged care facility who refused to get a flu vaccination shot.
“Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.” – Tweet from the British medical journal The Lancet, apparently trying to appeal to women. Oddly, many women were not thrilled at being reduced to “bodies with vaginas”.
“Just like everything else when it comes to social justice outcomes, when it comes to Indigenous Australians, they are the worst on any scale.” – Labor’s spokeswoman for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, saying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the lowest vaccination rates among priority groups in the nation. So far, just 29.1 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 16 and over have had two doses, compared with 52 per cent for the general population.
“Let’s not give up at the last minute. I know how hard it’s been. I just say to everybody, it’s just this week and next week. Please hang in there.” – Gladys Berejiklian pointing towards the beginning of the end of lockdown.
“Circular Quay should be a world-class tourist and transport gateway, as well-loved as the two icons that surround it – the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s critical to our iconic harbour that the government gets this right, otherwise we’ll end up with another Cahill Expressway.” – Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen after the state government has quietly settled on a consortium led by property giant Lendlease for a major revamp of Sydney’s Circular Quay, six years after the government unveiled plans to upgrade the area’s ferry wharves.
“I support voluntary assisted dying, and I support the community’s view on it. It would be a matter for the party room, but I would hope that there is a conscience vote, and it needs to be resolved either way this year. I respect everyone’s views, so I would also like mine respected.” – Senior NSW minister Andrew Constance saying that Liberal MPs should be allowed a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying and the issue finalised this year in a significant move which will further deepen internal divisions. NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has said his MPs would be given a conscience vote.
“Pauline’s political views are the opposite of mine. I have never agreed with her on those issues. Never will. Kindness is at the heart of who I am.” – Jessica Rowe, reacting to the massive backlash to her light podcast interview with Pauline Hanson, while announcing she was taking the interview down.