Matt Miller is the host of KCRW’s Left, Right & Center. Before talking with Matt Bai about political scandal, journalism, and the downfall of Gary Hart in the 1988 presidential election, Miller sat down in the Zócalo green room to talk about keeping his private life private, the slogans he didn’t use for his 2014 run for office, and his favorite things about L.A.
What’s your most disgusting habit?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d tell you even if I could think of what it is. Especially in a conversation about whether the media’s going too far in intruding into the private lives of folks. It’s none of your business—exactly what Gary Hart told the press. I’m hoping it will work for me tonight.
What’s your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
The beach, the weather, the hiking, the beautiful, beautiful environment. The sun, the light, the weather. I’m from the East Coast, so every day is like vacation here. My wife’s from Philadelphia, and I’m from the New York area, and she always says, this is the kind of weather you associated with vacation when you were a kid.
What slogans did you rule out using for your 2014 Congressional bid?
We definitely brainstormed some. Matt Miller—new ideas, not the same old hacks. Something like that.
What’s your favorite L.A. beach?
Will Rogers is near us—we’re like five minutes from there. And we also go to a couple in Malibu.
What weapon would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
What is a zombie apocalypse exactly? [When the undead rise and try to take over the world, and you need to fight them.] Brute reason.
Who was your childhood hero?
Probably astronauts—Neil Armstrong, those guys. And then of course Joe Namath. I was a New York Jets fan, so Namath was a big hero. And Walt Frazier on the New York Knicks.
What’s the ugliest tie you own?
I had one that somebody gave me that Newt Gingrich used to wear in the ’90s—it looked like a bookshelf. I don’t know if it’s ugly. I probably wore it once.
You consider yourself a “radical centrist.” What’s radical about being a centrist?
It doesn’t have to be. I hope my brand of the center is about trying to solve our big problems, and I think we’re not getting the answers we need from either party today. The Republicans are in the grip of nihilism and Democrats in the grip of tumidity, and for that reason we end up getting answers that aren’t equal to the challenges the country faces. But if you wind me up you’ll get a campaign speech.
What’s the last album you listened to from start to finish?
Curiously enough, it’s a Bob Newhart comedy album from 1959. I just heard about this on Marc Maron’s podcast—he did an interview with Bob Newhart. I used to watch The Bob Newhart show in the ’70s when I was a kid. But I had no idea Newhart did a comedy album that became a surprise comedy sensation, so I downloaded it and listened to it.
What’s your favorite movie about journalism?
I mean, there’s All the President’s Men. I’m trying to think of what other movies come to mind. If there were five to pick from, what would they be? [Broadcast News.] I love that movie. How could I not think of that? When my wife is in a taxi, she’s like the Holly Hunter character in Broadcast News, the one who tells the driver exactly where to go and what streets to take.