Matt Bai is national political columnist for Yahoo! News and the author of All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid. Before talking about journalism and political scandal, he explained in the Zócalo green room how he’s different from the guy named Matt Bai he plays on House of Cards, and why he despises food metaphors.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Today? Probably entitled people who drive like they shouldn’t have to follow the traffic laws like everybody else. I get pretty irritated with that.
When you’re lying, what’s your tell?
I don’t lie.
What’s your least favorite thing about Washington, D.C.?
[Laughs.] That’s a long list. No, I love D.C. The inability to get dinner after 10 in most neighborhoods. I believe there should be an ordinance that allows you to have one option in at least every zip code.
What’s the last great book you read?
I’m notorious for not remembering books the minute I read them. I just read a novel I really liked. A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers. It was a terrific novel. I really, really liked it. I don’t read political books. Neither do most people, which is why I try to explain that my book’s not actually a political book.
What embarrasses you?
Seeing myself on television. Not being able to answer simple questions from my kids having to do with anything scientific.
What’s the biggest difference between you and the Matt Bai character you play on House of Cards?
I’m not that feared.
What cheese best describes you?
[Laughs.] I’m not a big cheese eater. I’m going to decline to answer that question on the grounds that I despise food metaphors and never use them. I find them to be effete and meaningless.
What’s the nerdiest public policy document you’ve read lately?
I recently read a breakdown on global concentration of wealth that I found almost impenetrable. And I just got through poring over a proposal for a National Day of Non-Spending, which doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me.
Whose talent would you most like to have?
Derek Jeter’s probably. But that ship has sailed.
What’s your favorite movie about politics?
Probably The American President. I watch that every time it’s on and I come across it. I loved everything Aaron Sorkin did up to The Newsroom. I can’t watch that show.