Friday, February 3, 2023

Secretary Antony J. Blinken On NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

QUESTION:  And now the game where important people do something quite pointless.  It’s called Not My Job.  You could say Antony Blinken went into the family business – his father was a U.S. ambassador, his uncle was one as well, but even though he rose through the ranks of diplomacy and foreign affairs to be the U.S. Secretary of State, he still wishes he could have rebelled and become a rock musician.  Ah, well, now he just plays for people who have to pretend to enjoy it so they can avoid a war.  (Laughter.)

Secretary Blinken, welcome to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Peter.  (Applause.)

QUESTION:  It is an honor to have you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  And I don’t know if you’d call this good fortune, but we happen to be your first media interview after this particular news broke out of the State Department.  We have to ask you about it.  You have changed the official typeface of the State Department from Times New Roman to Calibri.  (Applause.)  NPR audience, they’re font nerds.  Sir, what do you have against Times New Roman?  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First, I’m called to make very weighty decisions (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Oh.  Type joke.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I’m always trying to be a font of wisdom, (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Oh, God.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I could go on.  Maybe we should stop there.

QUESTION:  Nah, you’re good.  Yes.  (Laughter.)

I am actually genuinely curious, because we usually hear only about secretaries of state when they do something wrong, like use a private email server or bully an NPR reporter.  (Laughter.)  But I don’t know about what your day is like.  So what is the average day of the top diplomat of the United States like?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, it depends where you are.  If I’m at home here in the United States, the day starts with something really important to me, which is actually trying to have breakfast with my kids —

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — who are soon to be four and three years old.  I’ve got real little ones.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Oh my God.  (Applause.)  I want to ask you about that.  And before you have breakfast with them, does your staff brief you?  Like, “Sir, he’s really into trucks?”  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I find it’s actually incredibly good practice for the rest of the day.

QUESTION:  I can imagine.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Because my son is really good at saying no.

QUESTION:  Oh, sure.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.  So if I can figure out how to get him to say yes, hey, it’s no problem with some of the folks we deal with.

QUESTION:  All right, so how – so I happen to have a small son right now.  How old is your son?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  He’s almost four.

QUESTION:  He’s almost four.  And so I know what that’s like.  He’s not quite a toddler, so he’s saying no, and do you – are you able to use your skills?  Are you able to, like, for example, if he won’t eat his lunch, offer him a significant package of arms?  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That —

QUESTION:  We can get, like, Patriots, HIMARS, missiles if you just eat the sandwich.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That works, or sometimes I just call up the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and ask him if he can —

QUESTION:  Oh wow, yeah, sure.  Exactly.

I have to ask again – and you, of course, are the first secretary of state of the Biden administration, so you’re going out there after the previous period, and I wonder if – (laughter) – speaking of children, if you ever have to comfort, like, foreign dignitaries and heads of state like you’re putting your children to bed.  They’re like, “The bad man’s not going to come back, is he?”  Like, “No, it’s all right.”  (Applause.)

You’re not going to say anything.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, I’m not.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Because you’re —

QUESTION:  Good job.

QUESTION:  Because we might have mentioned you are a diplomat.

Okay, let’s – I understand.  I understand your reticence; it makes perfect sense.  Let’s move on to something I’m sure you can talk about.  When you bring classified documents home, where do you put them?  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Next to his —

QUESTION:  He’s just staring at me, ladies and gentlemen.

QUESTION:  He doesn’t have a Corvette yet.  He puts them next to his Volvo.

QUESTION:  Exactly.  (Laughter.)

As I mentioned – okay, as I mentioned, your father was an ambassador – your father, who I know passed away recently at the age of 96.  He saw you become Secretary of State.  Having been a diplomat himself, did he have any, like, advice for you?  “Now that you’re in charge, son, this is what I want you to do.”

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So the one time when my dad and I overlapped was during the Clinton administration when he was ambassador to Hungary.  And President Clinton went to Hungary, and I was a speechwriter for him at that time.  And we arrived in Hungary, and usually the ambassador’s at the bottom of the plane to greet the president when he arrives.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  President Clinton was wonderful.  He said, “Why don’t you come off the front of the plane with me,” which is not something a junior staffer would normally do.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So this great moment, right, getting off the plane with the president.  My dad’s at the bottom of the stairs.  Incredible moment, right?  And my dad looks at me after greeting President Clinton, and the first thing he says is, “You need a haircut.”  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I just want to clarify – he said it to you.

QUESTION:  Of course.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  To me, yes.

QUESTION:  Not – he didn’t —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, he did say it to me.

QUESTION:  He didn’t say it to Clinton, because that wouldn’t be very diplomatic.  (Laughter.)

I want to circle back to the reason I know you’re here, which is to talk about your music career.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  This could be a very short conversation.

QUESTION:  Again – again – again – no, we were like, “Well, why would he want to be in the show?”  Because he wants to talk about ABlinken, which is the name under which you put out music on Spotify.  And if you’re listening at home and you’re tired of the show or – well, wait till we’re over – you can go to Spotify and listen to four tracks, I think.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There are three tracks, but if anyone actually follows up at home I’ll have my fourth streamer, which would be huge.

QUESTION:  That’s great.  (Laughter.)  And that’s wonderful because I know you’re in a government salary so I’m sure the Spotify income really helps.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Inaudible.)  I look for that check every month.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  So is it – and these are songs you wrote – like your – how would you describe your music?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m not sure how I would describe it.  Let me just say that for someone who is passionate about music all my life, just because I happen to wind up in this job and to put some music on Spotify, some of the most illustrious publications actually took note of it, including Rolling Stone, and I think they called it something like more or less credible dad rock.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  That’s not bad.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Something like that.  So I thought – I took that as high praise.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Tom and I are, like, going, “That’s good.”

QUESTION:  So you telling me that you out here diplomating and got a side gig?  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  It’s the economy we’re in, Dulcé.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Guy’s got to make ends meet.

QUESTION:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  I mean, I know you got to —

QUESTION:  Every now and then, an Uber passenger in Washington, D.C. gets the shock of their lives.  (Laughter.)  It’s all good, man.

Well, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, we have asked you here to play a game we’re calling:

QUESTION:  Blinken lawyer, meet Lincoln Lawyer.

QUESTION:  So you’re Blinken and a lawyer, and we – made us think of the Lincoln Lawyer.  That is Matthew McConaughey, right, who was also a Lincoln car pitchman.  So we thought we’d ask you three questions about him.  Answer two out of three questions correctly – (laughter) —

QUESTION:  All right, all right, all right.

QUESTION:  Exactly.  (Applause.)

QUESTION:  Somebody had —

QUESTION:  Honestly I bet – did – I have to ask you this question because I know because I met some of them.  You have a wonderful staff who prepares your travel and does advance work for you.  Did any of them try to guess what we were going to ask you about?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.  And they didn’t get it.

QUESTION:  Really?  All right.  (Laughter.)  Answer two out of three questions about Matthew McConaughey correctly, you’ll win our prize, a voice of anyone they may choose from our show for our voicemail.  This is for a listener.  Bill, who is the Secretary playing for?

QUESTION:  Jason Collins (ph) of Detroit, Michigan.

QUESTION:  Here we go.  Here’s your first question:  Like a lot of actors, Mr. McConaughey had a lot of odd jobs before he hit it big, including which of these:  A, at a Texas golf course shooting armadillos who were wandering onto the greens at night; B, working for Peck-an Pies (ph), Austin’s only male topless bakery; or C, he was an adjunct professor of anthropology at UT Austin?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I really want it to be B, but —

QUESTION:  You want it to be Peck-an Pies.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:   I’m going to go with A.

QUESTION:  You’re going to go with A.  That’s right, he did in fact shoot armadillos.  He says he enjoyed the work.  (Applause.)

All right, next question:  Mr. McConaughey did a famous series of ads for Lincoln automobiles a few years ago in which he would drive around and improvise these stream of consciousness monologues.  Which one of these did he actually say in one of those ads?  All right, here we go.  Listen carefully.  A, I’m driven, I also drive, so in a way I’m driving myself, but who’s steering?  Option B, that’s a big bull, 1,800 pounds, I respect that.  (Laughter.)  Or option C, cars are just a way of turning dinosaurs into distance.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So is there an all of the above option?

QUESTION:  No, there is not an all of the above.  Sometimes we do that, but I am promising you that is – two of those we made up.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Based on that, I’ve got to throw myself in the mosh pit and say B.

QUESTION:  B, that is right.  Yes.  (Applause.)  To be fair, it’s a little bit of a trick question because I did not tell you that in that moment in the commercial he is in fact looking at a very large bull.

All right.  Last question.  Mr. McConaughey sometimes draws on true life in his performances.  Which of these memorable activities from a movie he did is something he actually does in real life?  A, as in The Wolf of Wall Street, he really hums and pounds on his chest to focus himself.  B, as in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, he really talks to ghosts of his exes.  Or C, as in Dazed and Confused, he really hangs out at his old high school hitting on seniors.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I’m eliminating C.

QUESTION:  You’re eliminating C.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hmm.

AUDIENCE:  A.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  A and —

AUDIENCE:  A.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m feeling A.

QUESTION:  Really?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  It is A.  Yeah.  (Applause.)  Bill, how did the Secretary of State to do on our quiz?

QUESTION:  Perfect score.  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Yay.  (Applause.)

QUESTION:  I like – I like how you built consensus.  I mean – I mean, it was like all of a sudden everybody here was allied.

QUESTION:  Diplomat.

QUESTION:  I – we need to let you go, I know, but I have one more question, because how often do I get to talk to the Secretary of State?  So something I’ve always wanted to wonder:  What’s the worst country?  (Laughter.)  I mean, because you know.  I mean, you’ve got a list in your head.

QUESTION:  The one when the caller ID comes up, you don’t answer.

QUESTION:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Peter, I really appreciate the question.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Well, there you go.

QUESTION:  Wow.

QUESTION:  Ladies and gentlemen, Antony Blinken is the Secretary of State of the United States.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  (Applause.)

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-on-nprs-wait-wait-dont-tell-me/

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