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662: Where There Is a Will

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

My friend Etgar, his mom does not take no for an answer. Etgar's Israeli. Etgar Keret, we run his short stories here on the radio show now and then.

Anyway, years ago, Etgar's older brother was in the army serving in Lebanon. Israel had just invaded Lebanon. It was war.

And it sounds incredible to us, but the policy of the Israeli army is that if it's at all possible, you go home on leave every two weeks. And Lebanon's close, just next door to Israel. Etgar says his brother was coming home every month. And then that stopped. He wasn't getting any leave.

Etgar Keret

And my brother didn't come home for almost two months, and it drove my mother crazy. And she decided that she should get my brother back home. And it's very difficult to deal with anything during the war, because everybody is hysterical and crazy.

But she decided that she needs to speak to the chief of staff. And she started calling--

Ira Glass

And the chief of staff is the head of the army?

Etgar Keret

Yeah, it's like the head general.

Ira Glass

For the entire army?

Etgar Keret

Yeah.

Ira Glass

Etgar explained her strategy was simple. She'd call the guy's office, talk to whoever answered.

Etgar Keret

And she would talk for long enough until she would have something that she could say offended her or made her angry. And then she asked to speak with that person's superior.

Ira Glass

She did the same thing with that person and then that person's superior.

Etgar Keret

And so on and on and on and on. And in the end, she found herself speaking to the head general, Rafael Eitan, who is one of Israel's most famous kind of war heroes.

And she said to him, listen, General Eitan, I know that you're fighting a war. And I really don't want to waste any of your time, so I will make it simple. My son didn't get a leave from the army for the past two months.

I give you 24 hours to send him back home. If you know what's good for you, he'll be back before tomorrow evening.

Ira Glass

Wait, if you know what's good for you?

Etgar Keret

Yeah. And the guy says to her, I just want to understand, Mrs. Keret. Are you threatening me? And she says, yes, I am. I'm threatening you. And I didn't want to put it in the subtext, because I know that you're busy. So if you know what's good for you, you'll send my son back home.

[LAUGHTER]

And he says to her, Mrs. Keret, do you know who I am? And she said, yeah, you're Rafael Eitan, the war hero. And he said to her, if you know anything about me, then you know that I'm not easily scared.

So my mother said, yeah, but I don't think you had many chance to fight with elderly Holocaust survivors, who are 5 foot tall and weigh 82 pounds. And I want to tell you something, and I'll make it very simple and very quick. After you quit the army, you either go to politics or you go to the free market.

In both cases, you're going to be very exposed. In both cases, every time, there'll be a TV camera around or journalist. You'll have this elderly lady sitting in the first row, shouting at you, accusing you of any bad things that you might have made and maybe of some bad things that you've never made. Because I'm a very good liar. And you really don't want that. And at that stage, he hung up the phone in her face.

Ira Glass

The next afternoon, Etgar's brother arrived home. So they pulled him out of his ranks, told him to get on a helicopter. He had no idea what was going on, nor did anybody else.

He assumed some family member died or something, Etgar says. And he got his break.

Etgar Keret

He came and took a shower, slept for 16 hours. My mother saw that he was OK. And a day after that, he went back to Lebanon.

Ira Glass

I should say, we cannot confirm the details of this story, including the dialogue between Etgar's mom and Rafael Eitan. This happened over 30 years ago. Eitan's dead. When we got Etgar's mom, she said, sure, whatever Etgar says.

But there are many stories of Etgar's mom doing things like this. There was a time she threatened a mugger so effectively that he abandoned the idea of mugging her in the middle of the mugging. There was a showdown with the president of Poland that ended when the president of Poland finally gave her the passport she demanded, as somebody who had been born in Poland.

Etgar is the same way in certain situations. He doesn't threaten. That's not who he is. He just reasons people to death.

Case in point, a couple of years ago, he and his wife Shira and their then 8-year-old son, Lev, were traveling, and they left a backpack on an airplane. In the backpack was Etgar's iPad, which had all of his son's games on it.

Lev had spent months on his games working his way up the levels of the games. Now, that was gone. Lev was really messed up about it. Any parent knows what I'm talking about.

And they called the airline. The airline says, no problem. When you get to the airport for the return flight, go to lost and found. It'll be there.

So comes the day. They're on their way home. They get to the airport. This is in Rome. They can't find the lost and found. Time is getting short. They've got a plane to catch.

Finally, a guy at the car rental-- super nice guy-- offers to take them to it.

Etgar Keret

His name was Massimo. And he took us to the lost and found place, where there was this really, really nasty woman. And I said to her, you know you have our bag. And we're supposed to take it, and we're going to fly really soon.

I said to her, I can actually see it. And I pointed to the bag, because it was behind her.

Ira Glass

She says to Etgar, she needs a letter from the airline saying he was on the same flight as the backpack. Etgar doesn't have this letter.

Etgar Keret

She said, sir, I'm not going to give you the bag without the letter. I'm sorry. And I said to her, but I go to Israel. I never get to see the bag. And she said, you know, that's your problem.

Ira Glass

As somebody who knows Etgar, I'll just say, wrong move. Something deep and powerful kicks in inside him.

Etgar Keret

My wife said to me, OK, let's go, so we won't miss the flight. I said, no, just a moment. And I said to the woman, look, don't give me the bag, but just do this kind of thing.

Please, unzip the outside pocket of it, and see if there are crackers in it with a Hebrew writing on the package of crackers. And she said, why would you want to do that? I said to her, I just ask you to please do it.

And she went and said, yeah, there are crackers in it. So I said to her, so we both agree that this is my bag? She says, yeah, this is your bag. So I said to her, so would you please give it to me?

She said, no, sir, I won't give it to you, unless you give me this letter. And I said to her, but you understand that my son is here, and his game is here. Are you a parent? And she said, yes, I'm a parent.

And I said to her, so think about it. If your son had a game he really wanted to win, you had to go and confront with the person who said, yeah, I know this game is yours. But your son is never going to get it just because of some kind of technicality. You're Italian. Be Italian. Be warm, be nice, be like in a Fellini movie. Give me the bag.

And she said, no, sir. I'm not going to give you the bag, and you're wasting your time. You better go to your flight, because you're going to miss your flight. And Shira said, let's go. She isn't going to give it to you.

And I said to her, but don't you understand, as a human being, there will be one day when you die, and you look back at your life, and you think about this day. And when you think about this day, you'll think about this father who came with a child. And basically, technically, you could solve all the problems, but you chose to stick with some kind of technicality. Would that be a nice dying thought to leave the world with?

And she was beginning to say, sir, I'm not going to give you anything. But as she was about to say that, Massimo, the guy from the car rental, jumped over the counter, picked up the bag. And she said to him, what are you doing?

And he said to her, I can't take it anymore. And he jumped back over the counter, and he gave me the bag. And she said to him, if you don't get the bag back, I'm going to call airport security, and they're going to arrest you.

So I said to him, look, it's not a good solution. Take the bag. And Massimo said to me, look at me. Do as I say. Run.

[LAUGHTER]

Ira Glass

These things happen so often that Etgar's wife, Shira, worries that someday, somebody is just going to go nuts on Etgar or something, hurt him.

Etgar Keret

There are situations when my wife just says to me, just shut up. Shut up. Shut up now. Don't talk about it anymore. Shut up.

And I always listen to my wife. But when it starts, I can't stop it. But at the same time, I'll say to myself, I'm this asshole, who just keep arguing and doesn't move on. And I really think that this has to do with something very kind of primal that when I was a little child, my parents were both Holocaust survivors.

They kind of raised me to say people are good. But sometimes, they don't get it that they're good. So you have to kind of tell them things a few times, maybe slap them around a little. And then they understand that they're good. And then they're going to listen, and everything's going to work.

Ira Glass

Well, today, on our program, we have a story about somebody else who can't help himself. He sees something he needs to fix, he needs to take care of, he needs to make it right. And then through sheer force of will, he makes things happen boldly, heroically. Though is it heroic if you can't stop yourself?

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One: When Cooperation Doesn’t Get You What You Want

Ira Glass

Act 1, Loudspeaker.

So we start today with a guy, who-- I don't want to overstate this, and it sounds really big when you say this out loud, but I really think it might be the truth-- a guy who, with sheer force of will, utterly changed our politics and created the political world we live in today, alongside a second man who helped him. Zoe Chace tells the tale.

Zoe Chace

It's probably helpful in telling this story to remember for a second what politics was like before today-- how different, informal, and quaint things used to sound.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Zoe Chace

This is President Reagan walking onto the South Lawn. It's 1983, April, but apparently, a cold day. One of the lawmakers is looking very Soviet in his big coat and fur collar.

Ronald Reagan

Well, I want to extend to all of you a very warm welcome. Something ought to be warm.

Zoe Chace

Reagan's in this '70s, all brown suit, with a brown tie.

Ronald Reagan

But it's especially fitting that so many of us from so many different backgrounds-- young and old, the working and the retired, Democrat and Republican-- should come together for the signing of this landmark legislation.

Zoe Chace

Social security legislation, a major bipartisan compromise involving raising taxes and cutting spending to things that only go together when it's a bipartisan compromise.

Ronald Reagan

And now, as a special treat, I would like to ask two of our leaders from Congress. First, to step forward for a few words is Speaker of the House of Representatives, the honorable Tip O'Neill.

[APPLAUSE]

Tip O'neill

Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, my distinguished colleagues in government, this is indeed a happy day.

Zoe Chace

A special treat, the Democratic leader. The friendship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill is one of the most famous friendships in American politics. These days, it's regularly trotted out, like a fable, to demonstrate what the good old days were like back when things worked.

If you knew anything about Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, you know he was a bipartisan schmoozer, a big Muppety guy, who took up a lot of space in the room. He'd invite members from both parties to poker nights in DC. He was in Congress for decades and by the time he was Speaker, he was a living legend type.

Ronald Reagan

We got along. And Nancy and I had Tip and his wife over for dinner.

Zoe Chace

This is Reagan talking to William F. Buckley.

Ronald Reagan

Then one day, I picked up the paper and read where he had made a statement about me that was pretty harsh. And I called him, and I said, Tip, I thought we had a relationship here, where we could do business together. And, oh, now, I read in the paper that you said--

And he interrupted me and said, well, buddy, that's just politics. He said, after 6 o'clock, we're buddies. We're friends. I did take it that every once in a while, when we had a meeting, I would visibly set my watch at above 6 o'clock.

Zoe Chace

To be fair, O'Neill had been known to call Reagan a real Ebenezer Scrooge. Truth is, their relationship was complicated. They disagreed profoundly about a lot of stuff.

But that's the point. It's why people tell each other this story. The two were able to come together and talk, compromise, and pass legislation. Anyway, here we are today.

Donald Trump

The MS-13 lover, Nancy Pelosi.

Zoe Chace

People are mean about each other now in public, all the time, in particular, the president. And of course, people fight back. This is Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Maxine Waters

He's not a role model for our children. He is a liar. He's a con man.

Donald Trump

Maxine Waters, a very low IQ individual. You ever see her? And Conor Lamb-- Lamb the Sham, right? Lamb the Sham.

Zoe Chace

Lamb the Sham never caught on. But you know what I'm talking about. It's different now.

Here, I want to lay out for you one theory of the case as to how we got from there to here. We've always had two parties. But we didn't always have two teams like we do now.

Red versus blue, us versus them. Each side routinely demonizes the other side as un-American. You sign up for one issue-- the wall, the Mueller investigation, Colin Kaepernick, climate change-- you basically sign up for all of them.

It wasn't always so zero sum like it's become. You could explain what happened in different ways. But I'm going to argue it was the work of these two guys that got us to this point, two guys, one quarterbacking the other.

And so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the first of the two men who created the modern world. You know him from Fox News. You know him from Republican primaries gone by, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich

I hope I can convey this in a way that you can really feel. If we lose, we will be able to look our children and our grandchildren in the face and say, we did everything we could to save this country.

[APPLAUSE]

Zoe Chace

Gingrich was a weird, nerdy kid growing up. People close to him say he always pictured himself as a historical figure, someone who would bend the course of American history, someone who anticipated stories like the one I'm telling you now. From his teenage years, he thought this way.

He ran for Congress twice in West Georgia, lost, and then finally won a seat in the House in 1978 with a 1778 attitude, like there was a revolution on, and the country's very existence was at stake. We're fighting a war, Gingrich said back then, a war for power. Raise hell. Raise hell all the time.

His goal was to retake the House of Representatives. At the time, an impossible dream. Republicans had been in the minority for 24 years. People called it the permanent Democratic Congress.

Once Newt finally got there, he discovered, as he'd suspected, was a place full of losers with Stockholm syndrome. It was chummy, mostly guys in suits and ties, smoking cigars, playing poker together and generally, getting along, hanging out, talking to each other. Also, depending on your perspective, it was a corrupt cesspool of bribes and giveaways. That's definitely how Gingrich saw it.

Republicans didn't have much power, but they'd go along to get along and occasionally do some deals. And most of them had stopped imagining it could be any other way. I learned most of this story from the great political reporter Steve Kornacki. He'd just published a book about this time called The Red and The Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism. He's also that excited guy at the big board on MSNBC during elections.

He explained that Newt arrived in Congress determined to turn the place upside down. Newt didn't want everyone getting along. Republicans were never going to take the majority that way. He wanted to fight, and the weapon he used was the media.

Steve Kornacki

His arrival in the House coincides with a historic moment in the house, and that is the first television camera is placed in the chamber in 1979-- his first year there. And its C-Span.

Zoe Chace

C-Span may not sound exciting to you, but A, it's still awesome. And B, it's a major change. Now anyone can see for themselves what's going on in Congress if they want to. And people in Congress can speak to anyone on the outside.

Newt gets it right away. The rest of the House does not.

Steve Kornacki

There's a lot of opposition to it, because this is a club here. But once the camera's there, most members, they just kind of ignore it. And they leave at the end of the business day. And they go and they do whatever it is they do after business hours.

To Newt Gingrich, here it is. I want people to notice this around the country. I got an audience now.

Zoe Chace

Yeah, it's Twitter.

Tip O'neill

The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Gingrich, is recognized for 60 minutes.

Newt Gingrich

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to pick up where Mr. Walker left off on the document entitled What's the Matter with the Democratic Foreign Policy by Mr. Frank Gregorsky.

Zoe Chace

OK, not Twitter exactly. He's professorial, pedantic, not a lot of flair.

Newt Gingrich

Somehow, someday, this country has got to learn to live with revolution in the third world. It's endemic.

Steve Kornacki

And he starts claiming there's this rule in the house that at the close of business and any day, any member can claim the floor for any reason they want for pretty much any amount of time they want. And it's called special orders. And Gingrich starts claiming these special order speeches that were 10 o'clock at night, 11 o'clock at night.

It's an empty chamber. His colleagues are asleep. They're drinking. They're not there. They're not listening to this. They're never even going to hear about this-- most of them. But Gingrich knows there are people all across America, who've got these new cable boxes in their house, who are scanning the dial and seeing what's out there.

And some of them are going to pause when they see him. And what they're hearing is he's not giving a dry speech about and now, if I can direct your attention to subsection 3 of the agriculture funding-- he's giving these grand speeches about American politics, and an American identity, and the corrupt Democrat machine.

Zoe Chace

Often Gingrich or one of his few allies was explaining how the Democrats were fringy, communist radicals. The whole party, everyone in the party was, more or less, a socialist. It was sort of his version of all Democrats want open borders, but less punchy.

Newt Gingrich

Since communism doesn't strike them as an independent, inexorable force, feeding on totalitarian personalities and concepts, McGovern Democrats don't fear it. Trash America, indict the president, and give the benefit of every doubt to Marxist regimes. That's the standard formula.

Steve Kornacki

He is producing what you would now recognize as a cable news show on the floor of the House. And he's performing for the camera, and he's giving his monologue. He's giving his monologue on the decay of the Democratic Party, the decay of American culture, the promise of a Republican Party that embraces opportunity and responsibility, and all these things.

And there is an audience that starts to tune in. And he knows it. He gets that. He gets the potential of that before anybody else.

Zoe Chace

Newt believed there was a Republican majority out there. Because just a decade earlier, Richard Nixon had trounced the Democratic candidate for president. He won 49 out of the 50 states. Clearly, there was an appetite for Republican rule.

But Republicans were still a minority in the House. People somehow weren't syncing up their Republican votes into one Republican ticket. What he needed to do was paint all the Democrats more clearly as the enemy to the voters. And he'd do that by associating all of them with a candidate who'd lost to Nixon-- George McGovern.

George McGovern was sort of the Bernie Sanders of his day. So lefty, he even freaked out a lot of Democrats in '72-- the counterculture, anti-war candidate.

Steve Kornacki

If Republicans were able in 1972 to score that epic of a landslide running against the Democratic Party of George McGovern and the activists behind him, Newt Gingrich believed that's the key to the Republican Party winning everything. If you nationalize politics, and you make voters everywhere in the country see in whatever Democrat it is in their backyard, who's running for whatever office it is-- Congress, or Sheriff, or state legislature, or dog catcher-- if you get the voters to see that Democrat as no different from George McGovern and the folks around him, well, you know how those voters are going to react.

They're going to go, and they're going to vote Republican. And so his idea was to make voters across the country judge politics based on what they saw coming out of Washington, based on what they saw coming out of the national media.

Zoe Chace

Based on what they saw on C-Span, where over and over again, Newt brought up McGovern.

Newt Gingrich

In the late '60s and early '70s, it became a truism with the entire American left from bomb throwers in Chicago, to eastern writers, to progressive, pinstriped supporters of Eugene McCarthy and McGovern. The Southeast Asia would be fine once the US left.

Zoe Chace

Attacking congressmen by congressmen by name and footnotes.

Newt Gingrich

Congressman Harkin, on June 26, 1979 told the house that the Sandinistas knew more about nurturing democracy than America did. Quote, "should the United States feel empowered to meddle once again in Nicaragua?"

Zoe Chace

This speechifying made the Speaker of the House furious. You remember the Speaker, the affable Muppet, Tip O'Neill. Newt Gingrich and a couple of the other guys, Gingrich acolytes, are talking smack about specific congressmen. They're questioning their patriotism on the public record, and they aren't even there to respond.

That was not done. It was against the gentlemanly code of the House. As Speaker, Tip O'Neill controls the cameras. And he orders them to pan out and show the empty room that Gingrich and his buddies are addressing.

Bob Walker, Republican from Pennsylvania, happens to be speaking right then. And he takes great umbrage when this happens.

Bob Walker

But I do want to take a note of something that's evidently happening right now, which is a change of procedure here.

Zoe Chace

Tip O'Neill thinks this will make the guys look petty talking to no one. Watching it, it's like a surreal Beckett play. A tiny man at the bottom of the screen gestures wildly from a podium as though he's speaking to a big crowd, but he's surrounded by empty chairs.

Newt Gingrich

It is my understanding that as I deliver this special order this evening, the cameras are panning this chamber, demonstrating that there is no one here in the chamber to listen to these remarks. That is evidently the work of a change in the pattern of rules around here. It is one more example of how this body is run, the kind of arrogance of power that the members are given that kind of change with absolutely no warning.

I see the gentleman from California, Mr. Coelho, was standing in the back of the chamber just a moment ago. Mr. Coelho has talked in recent weeks about shutting off these special orders and not allowing them to even be seen in the countryside. And he stands in the back of the chamber now smiling.

I have to feel that perhaps he is getting worried that some of the things that are being said in this chamber in these special orders are, in fact, influencing people out across the country to think that this body is something less than what the American people think it ought to be.

Zoe Chace

Lots of C-Span watchers today understand the congressmen are putting on a performance. There isn't always someone in the audience. But it was new back then.

This all sets up a wild showdown between Newt and the Speaker Tip O'Neill. A few days later, Gingrich gets time on the floor.

Newt Gingrich

OK, I'll be delighted to yield to our distinguished Speaker if he wishes to continue this.

Zoe Chace

The Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill asking Gingrich to yield, so he can say something. And Newt does, knowing the Speaker is going to yell at him. This time, the chamber is packed with congressmen and reporters both. Here's Tip O'Neill.

Tip O'neill

My personal opinion is this. You deliberately stood on that well before an emptied House and challenged these people. And you challenge their Americanism. And it's the lowest thing that I've ever seen in my 32 years in Congress.

Newt Gingrich

Mr. Speaker, if I may reclaim my time.

Zoe Chace

As insults go, in the US House, circa 1984, this is big, so big, Trent Lott, Republican from Mississippi, standing near the Speaker says, I move we take the Speaker's words down.

Trent Lott

I move we take the Speaker's words down.

[APPLAUSE]

Zoe Chace

This means that would Tip O'Neill just said to Gingrich is so offensive, so toxic that he wants the wrongness of it officially acknowledged, perhaps even struck from the historical record as though it had never been said. For five full minutes, everyone shuffles around, clutching their pearls about Newt, about the Speaker's behavior, how do we preserve the dignity of the House.

The clerk reads out the offending speech once again so that the Chair can decide what to do about it.

My personal opinion is that you deliberately stood in that well before an empty House and challenged these people, and you challenged their Americanism. And it is the lowest thing that I have ever seen in my 32 years in Congress.

Trent Lott

The Chair feels that type of characterization should not be used in a debate.

Zoe Chace

This is like saying, that was out of line. Don't do that again. That was very bad. But it doesn't actually erase the words from the historical record. Still, it was an epic showdown. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill being scolded in front of America.

Maybe it's hard to understand what a coup this is for a younger congressman. But think of him as a producer, a producer of his newly-formed experimental cable news show on C-Span, how expertly produced this moment was.

Everyone's in the room. The Speaker of the House basically promotes Gingrich's late night program. Then the Speaker gets called out in front of the whole country, and he looks arrogant and mean. And Newt Gingrich is at the center of the room, like a conductor, pointing from one guy to the next guy, doling out time, as the Speaker gets red in the face and yells over the room.

Tip O'neill

Does the gentleman from Georgia yield?

Newt Gingrich

The gentleman, Mr. Weaver--

[BANGS GAVEL]

Tip O'neill

Does the gentleman yield?

[BANGS GAVEL]

Newt Gingrich

And the gentleman, Mr. Walker, if they would express their opinion to the members of the floor, it would be fine.

Tip O'neill

Point of parliamentary inquiry.

Zoe Chace

And the story is covered on the nightly news. This is a turning point for Newt Gingrich. He's now the Pied Piper, and other Republicans start rallying to his causes.

Not long after this episode, Tip O'Neill retires. And he's replaced by Speaker Jim Wright. Newt sees an opening to take Wright down. He thinks it'll rally the Republicans in the House. It's a battle they can win.

Wright is both cocky and dismissive of the minority party, with none of the hail buddy Tip O'Neill warmth. It'll be a branding exercise for the new aggressive Republican Party Newt was selling.

Here's what happens. He reads a story in the Washington Post about the new Speaker getting $0.50 on the dollar for every one of his books he's selling. It's more of a pamphlet than a book, actually, but it's a way to give the congressman backdoor donations. The people buying it were like the local Teamsters in his district and supporters at rallies.

Newt talks to the papers about this, compares Wrights to Mussolini, makes speeches. Think of it as though he's standing on his tiptoes, shouting over the heads of Congress to the American people-- drain the swamp. That's his intention.

Steve Kornacki

Again it's just the idea that here's this clubby, elite, arrogant institution that the corrupt Democrat machine is powering. And they are so disdainful of you everyday Americans that this is how they behave. And so Gingrich is calling for an ethics committee investigation on the House Speaker.

It's like shooting the general. The code of the House is you don't do this.

Zoe Chace

Newt's striking at the top of the food chain. It's brazen. I want to say here, as tactical as Gingrich's attack on Wright was, from one perspective, this was an attack on corrupt, lazy Democrats that was long overdue. It felt idealistic for everyone sick of being pushed around in the minority.

Gingrich promised a new system that was less corrupt, more transparent, more accountable to the voters, not just like we're putting on a play that we're two parties. But at 6:00 PM, we dropped the mask and make it work. Democrats freaked out when this happened, but Republicans were getting into it.

Steve Kornacki

It's not like Gingrich launched the campaign, and the entire Republican Party signed the letter, and that's it. But they didn't pull him aside and say stop. And I think, even a couple of years earlier with Tip O'Neill, that would have happened.

Zoe Chace

Newt gets his ethics investigation into the Speaker's behavior. Wright defends himself petulantly on the House floor.

Jim Wright

It is true, I think, the people on my staff were eager to sell these books. I've got to accept some responsibility for that if it was wrong. But the rule doesn't say it was wrong.

Zoe Chace

It's kind of, yes, I had a private email server, but it wasn't that big a deal. You know by now how that goes over. After an investigation, the most powerful man in the House, who had served for 34 years, is forced to resign. Wright gives a speech on the House floor that reminded me of Jeff Flake retiring from the Senate last year.

Jim Wright

And it is grievously hurtful to our society when vilification becomes an accepted form of political debate, negative campaigning becomes a full-time occupation, when members of each party become self-appointed vigilantes carrying out personal vendettas against members of the other party.

Steve Kornacki

And he frames it in terms of something wrong is happening in this institution.

Jim Wright

In God's name, that's not what this institution's supposed to be all about.

Steve Kornacki

When I came here, a congressman's word was a congressman's word, and that mattered for something. When I came here, we didn't question each other's honor. I mean, it's all subtext to all of this. He's not using his name, obviously, but the subtext to all of this is, this is Newt Gingrich.

Jim Wright

Harsh personal attacks on one another's motives and one another's character drown out the quiet logic of serious debate on important issues. Surely, that's unworthy of our institution.

Zoe Chace

Jim Wright painted his resignation as a sacrifice on the altar of civility. He seemed to think his resignation would be so dramatic, it would put an end to the wars Gingrich had started in the House. Obviously, the opposite is true.

Republicans in Congress are galvanized by Wright's fall and Newt's tactics to get him out. The wars that Gingrich dreamed of are starting to materialize. Newt becomes the second most powerful Republican in the House, and he starts making himself into a franchise in the mid '80s.

He starts running this organization called GOPAC. It's basically a candidate training organization and fundraising tool. That's where he develops these audiotapes, little by-mail cassette tapes that teach potential candidates how to do Newt's divisive brand of politics. John Boehner has talked about driving around, listening to tapes like this in the car.

Newt Gingrich

I don't want to repeat it. But I will just say, I have said this now for six months. And every audience I say it to nods yes and understands. You cannot maintain civilization with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds shooting each other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting a diploma they can't read.

And I stop audiences and say, now, if you disagree with that, and you think you can maintain a civilization with those things going on, the rest of what I'm going to say is irrelevant. You're not us. I don't want to waste your time.

Zoe Chace

You're not us. You're on one team or the other. So that's a lot. Gingrich is almost at the height of his power. He has an army of Republicans falling in line using the same language that they're going into battle-- he has media attention.

But it's the same old, entrenched Democratic Congress. The Republicans keep winning these big presidential victories, but the House is stuck with that permanent Republican minority. That's when the second guy comes into this story, the guy that made Newt Gingrich's dreams finally come true.

And no, I don't mean Democratic President Bill Clinton, though, you could certainly argue that that is why Newt gets his wish. But something happens before that-- someone.

Newt Gingrich

This is a man, who, I think, has had an astonishing impact on America. He is, in many ways, the quintessential American.

Zoe Chace

Here's Newt Gingrich introducing him at a training event for Republican candidates in 1995.

Newt Gingrich

One of the reasons I believe in the end we'll win is the person who's about to talk to you. We now have a media giant who stands astride the entire of society. Join me in welcoming a man who is creating the 21st century-- Rush Limbaugh.

[APPLAUSE]

Zoe Chace

Rush Limbaugh was the perfect tool for Newt's mission. He and Newt had basically the same views. But Rush was outrageous and exciting. He made his listeners feel like they were part of a righteous underground movement, the only people who were still sane in a world gone crazy and stupid.

Rush Limbaugh

Thank you. Thank you very much. Nice to be with all of you extremists tonight.

[LAUGHTER]

It's nice to be with like-minded souls, who want to starve our children and get our old folks sick and dying in the gutter. It's so nice to be with so many of you. I could just look out there. I see in so many hearts and faces the desire to poison the water and the air. Gee, isn't it great to be together here tonight?

Zoe Chace

Rush's communications' ambitions were just as high as Newt's political ones. He never wanted to be in politics. He just wanted to make the greatest radio show ever.

Rush Limbaugh

Half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair. It's The Rush Limbaugh Program. From New York and our flagship station--

Zoe Chace

He set the standard for political talk radio. And of course-- wait, I have it right here-- widely imitated. Rush was funny.

Rush Limbaugh

Did you know that the White House drug test is a multiple choice test?

[LAUGHTER]

Zoe Chace

He could also be cruel. He said things like if you don't want to get AIDS, don't have gay sex. He was heavily anti-political correctness. He ended up acting almost as Newt's de facto interpreter. He zhuzhed up his message.

Rush doesn't sound like a nerdy YouTube professor. Gingrich talked about saving America from liberal politicians. But Limbaugh sharpened the Us vs. Them. Democrats were about this. Republicans were about that. This is from Rush's TV show.

Rush Limbaugh

All right, Zoe Baird is in big trouble. She's been nominated as attorney general, but as you all know, she hired some illegal aliens to take care of her kids. Now, she only makes $660,000.

[LAUGHTER]

As Cokie Roberts of ABC says, she had the best line. With that kind of money, she could hire Mary Poppins. Why is she out there hiring illegal aliens? Now, I have a couple of points about this I want to make that I don't think anybody else has made, except me in other places. In case you haven't heard it, you should hear it, because it's brilliant points.

Zoe Chace

Bill Clinton's nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny for her kids, didn't pay social security taxes. At the time, I was 11. I remember it well. She was the only other Zoe I'd ever heard of. So I was thrilled.

Zoe paid the money back after she was nominated. And neither Senate Democrats or Republicans saw it as a big deal at first.

Steve Kornacki

But Newt Gingrich, that's the nerve of politics that Newt Gingrich is just conditioned to look for. And it's like, God, could it be any bigger? You've got a Democratic president coming in. And for attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the country, he's nominating a woman who just blatantly flouted social security taxes.

It's just that populist nerve of they get away with things you don't. They live lives of privilege you can't imagine. They lord it over you. They don't have to worry about the things you worry about. It touched all of those nerves. Gingrich got it immediately. He's railing against this. Limbaugh got it immediately. He's railing against this.

And what happens is the senators, who are in the committee and don't feel this immediately, they start feeling it because their phones start ringing off the hook. There are Democrats who start saying after a couple of days that their office calls are, like, 90 to 1 against Zoe Baird's confirmation.

I mean, this is widespread. And then they feel the pressure. They feel the pressure that Gingrich and Limbaugh had stoked. And it kills the nomination.

Zoe Chace

When Newt needed to communicate something to voters, he now had a direct line to millions of them listening to Rush every afternoon.

Newt Gingrich

One afternoon, I'm in the middle of a big fight here. And I called Rush Limbaugh's program director, and I said, here is exactly what's going on. He turned on C-Span. He could see what was going on. It was an issue they cared about. And Rush went straight into talking about it. He's got somewhere between-- I don't know-- 4 and 14 million people. It's a lot, and they're intense.

An hour later, I had members walking up to me on the floor saying, what did you do? Because literally, in some places, their phones are so jammed, they couldn't use them.

Zoe Chace

That's from the documentary Rush Limbaugh's America. It describes how Newt would just fax talking points out to talk show hosts around the country. It was like he was calling in airstrikes.

Talk Show Host

I want to read to you now a paragraph from a letter that Newt Gingrich sent to all Republican members.

Zoe Chace

Newt wasn't just stirring the pot with divisive politics. He did have a policy vision. He got people to unite under it. Going into the 1994 midterm elections, hundreds of Republican candidates signed on to this thing-- the Contract with America. For a moment, they were all literally on the same page with Newt Gingrich.

The contract promised to fix everything they thought had gone wrong after 40 years of one-party control of the House. There were anti-corruption measures targeted at the Congress itself, plus a slate of 10 proposals to balance the budget, cut welfare, do tougher sentencing, lower taxes, basically, a limited government, law-and-order agenda. They ran the contract in full in an ad in TV Guide, because everyone read TV Guide, and they'd open it up several times a week.

And with that, Newt Gingrich, of course, got his majority, like he'd always dreamed, and became Speaker of the House in 1995. He moved into the office held by Jim Wright and Tip O'Neil before him. Here's Democrat Dick Gephardt handing over the gavel.

Dick Gephardt

With resignation, but with resolve, I hereby end 40 years of democratic rule of this House.

[APPLAUSE]

Zoe Chace

Newt Gingrich pledges to work across the aisle, as they always do, though, for the first time, Republicans don't have to. It's an epic hugely significant victory. Though it was Newt's dream, many people called it the Limbaugh Congress.

Rush Limbaugh

How does it feel to be part of a majority that's right?

[CHEERING]

Zoe Chace

It wasn't just the majority they'd gotten. People seem to be signing on to their vision of the country. That it was split into two clear camps. The Democrats were amoral, welfare state-loving, politically correct feminists. Republicans were responsible, balanced, budget-promoting, normal, regular Americans.

Rush Limbaugh

One of the questions I was asked as the reporters were peppering me was, do you think Newt will moderate his stance now that he is the Speaker of the House? And I said, better not.

[LAUGHTER]

Zoe Chace

From the moment Gingrich becomes Speaker, things get pretty red versus blue. One Republican I talked to this week quoted to me from memory, indignant, something ABC News anchor Peter Jennings said on the air when Republicans finally took the House and installed Gingrich as Speaker.

Jennings said the voters had a temper tantrum. The nation can't be run by an angry 2-year-old. This Republican's point was it wasn't just Rush Limbaugh who is stoking the fires of partisan warfare. It was the mainstream media, what he called the liberal media.

It was a new day in Congress. The Speaker and the president-- Gingrich and Clinton-- they did not hang out. The politics that follow are personal and vicious, as I'm sure you know. It's a storm of whitewater, Hillarycare, government shutdown, Vince Foster, impeachment proceedings. Seems like the two sides couldn't stand each other.

When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Clinton gives a speech blaming, in part, talk radio for spreading hate. It was gridlock politics. Depending how you saw it, it was obstructionism for its own sake or obstructionism in defense of bigger ideas that were finally part of the conversation.

People signed up for red or signed up for blue. Politics is team sports, no compromises. In other words, we've arrived at today.

The whole reason I wanted to remind myself of Newt and that time were these past midterm elections. They felt like the extreme sports version of Newt's game plan. Just like he worked really hard to make every Democrat into George McGovern, the campaign that the Republicans ran tried to make every Democrat into a caravan-loving, Kavanaugh-hating Nancy Pelosi.

Newt himself was on Fox a bunch. And his lieutenant--

Rush Limbaugh

What an honor. This is so exciting. I have been watching Trump rallies from the very first one.

Zoe Chace

Rush Limbaugh was the opener for Trump's last rally before the midterm vote.

Rush Limbaugh

I was just talking to people backstage. And somebody said that the president and all of us have been labeled by some Democrats to the media-- divisive.

[CROWD BOOING]

Divisive? The Democrats haven't even accepted they lost the election in 2016.

[CHEERING]

Zoe Chace

There is this one moment, where I think Newt realized maybe he'd gone too far in pushing people apart. Stephen Gillon reported the story years later in his book, The Pact.

It was October 1997. Newt was Speaker. Clinton was president. They wanted to cement their legacies as great men of history.

They decided to tackle two of the most daunting issues out there-- Medicare and Social Security. Fix them once and for all so they'd be safe for generations to come. The federal budget, for once, was about to run a surplus. Now was the time.

Because they'd fought so publicly, they met in secret. To avoid reporters, Gingrich entered the White House through a side door. If the partisans in either of their parties heard they were working together, the deal would fall apart. The zealots on both teams would punish you for working with the other side.

The deal never happened. Four months after they agreed to work together, the Monica Lewinsky story broke. A few months after that, Gingrich was pushed out of the House. He had to deal with ethics charges, like the Speaker he'd gone after 10 years earlier. And he was really unpopular by then.

The political environment he'd willed into creation had spit him out. I can't work anymore with these cannibals, he said as he left. But look at him now. He can't stay away.

Ira Glass

Zoe Chace is one of the producers of our program. Thanks to Steve Kornacki, whose book gave us the idea for this story. His book is called The Red and The Blue The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism.

Coming up-- now, I would say that one of our co-workers got the idea to do the story you're going to hear in a minute. He would say he had no choice about that or, for that matter, about anything ever in his life. And he'd say, you don't have a choice either. What the hell he means by that, and he is not kidding. In a minute, from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on the program, of course, we choose a theme, bring you different stories on that theme. Today's show-- where there's a will, stories of people who cannot stop themselves from trying to make things happen the way they think they should happen in this world. We've arrived at Act Two of our program.

Act Two: Life Is a Coin With One Side

Ira Glass

Act Two, Life is a one-sided coin.

So the entire premise of our show today is where there's a will, which presupposes that we all have a will. That we all have the ability to decide something and take action in the world. But it turns out that there are people who take issue with that premise. And one of them is one of our co-workers here at the radio show, David Kestenbaum. He now presents This Minority Report.

David Kestenbaum

Let me say upfront, I realize the ridiculous, late-night, college-dorm-room nature of what I'm about to say, but here it is. I do not see how free will can exist. By free will, I mean, when you're staring at the menu, and you pick the salad over the burger or any other choice you make-- big or small-- who you marry, whether you keep listening to me for another minute.

Free will is the idea that you really get to pick. I'm saying you don't. I don't see how free will can exist.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to be saying all this. For awhile, I couldn't even talk with my wife about it. It's been on my mind because I was wondering if I should talk about it on the show today.

And we'd be making the kids' lunches for the next day. There'd be a gap in the conversation. I'd open my mouth, but I just couldn't do it.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this now. I think the last time I did was in high school. But I just moved on.

It seems inescapable though. Years ago, I went to grad school in physics. And I think, if you haven't had the experience of actually doing something like that, it's easy to be like, oh, science. There's lots of stuff they don't know.

But the truth is, we know a lot about how the world was put together. And please excuse the lecturing quality of this. But briefly, there are only four basic forces in the world-- gravity, electromagnetism, and two others, the strong force and the weak force, the first holds atomic nuclei together. The second, crudely speaking, powers the sun.

Our understanding of these forces has been tested and explored again and again. In one case that sticks with me measured and confirmed to an astounding 12 decimal places. These four forces explain how atoms stick together, how every bit of matter moves, and yes, even the bits of matter that make up us and our brains. We are just collections of atoms.

I don't see how those atoms can truly have any will. When you think you're deciding, I'm going to wear this shirt today, you can't really have decided otherwise. We are subject to the forces of nature, not one of them.

It turns out there is this one friend of our family-- hey, Stu-- who also does not see how free will can exist. I was talking to him on the phone, asking if he knew any serious-minded, credentialed people who I could talk to and put on the radio. As it happened, he was staring at his bookshelf. He had a whole collection.

There are books by a bunch of dead philosophers, thinkers of various sorts, and then one book by someone who seemed perfect-- Robert Sapolsky. Sapolsky is a professor at Stanford, Genius Grant recipient. He's a neuroscientist, who also spent 33 summers staring at baboons.

Just last year, he published this big book that was on my friend's shelf, called Behave. So I read it. And there is something curious about it. He seemed to be making the argument that there is no free will. But he never quite came out and said it.

The words free will don't even appear until page 580. The first 15 chapters are all about research into what drives human behavior, different parts of the brain, hormones, genetics, how we respond to sensory cues. Was he just avoiding coming out and saying it, like I've been?

David Kestenbaum

So you ask this question, can there be free will? But I don't think you directly come out and say what you think. So what do you think?

Robert Sapolsky

I think I was basically trying to be polite there and sort of a good house guest. In actuality, I don't think there is room for the slightest bit of free will out there.

David Kestenbaum

Sapolsky said, this was, in fact, the entire reason he had written the book. He was trying to lead people slowly along a gentle path to this uncomfortable idea. I was reading it right.

I asked him why he doesn't believe we have free will. As a neuroscientist, he thinks about it this way. Take any action-- a movement of your eyebrow, something you say. Just trace that thing back. Behind anything like that are just some muscles that moved.

Robert Sapolsky

So let's simplify it. A muscle did something. Meaning a neuron in your motor cortex commanded your muscle to do that. That neuron fired only because it got inputs from umpteen other neurons milliseconds before.

And those neurons only fired because they got inputs milliseconds before and back and back and back. Show me one neuron anywhere in this pathway that, from out of nowhere, decided to say something that activated in ways that are not explained by the laws of the physical universe, and ions, and channels, and all that sort of stuff. Show me one neuron that has some cellular semblance of free will. And there is no such neuron.

David Kestenbaum

Your emotions, consciousness-- same argument. At the bottom, just cells and chemicals acting like they would in the lab.

Robert Sapolsky

There's nothing more or less than the mechanics.

David Kestenbaum

I mean, I feel like your whole book could have actually just been two sentences to cut to the chase, you know, not that I didn't enjoy the other chapters. What does it actually mean not to have free will? Do you think of it as, if you rewind the clock, it would all unfold the same way?

Robert Sapolsky

Basically, it's got to mean that.

David Kestenbaum

I should say, there is some debate about whether no free will means that if you went back in time, and let your life unfold again, you would make all the same decisions exactly the same way. The reason there's some debate is that way down at the subatomic level, there does seem to be a little wellspring of randomness.

Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities. Like when a radioactive atom breaks apart, the exact moment it happens seems random. It's unclear how often this apparent subatomic randomness escapes into the larger world. But it could be that if you rewound the film of life and played it forward again, you might get a different movie. But it wouldn't be because of free will. It would just be subatomic randomness messing with the plot.

A friend of mine had this experience where he kind of got to test this out. His brain was artificially rolling back the clock, and he got to see its machine-like nature. He went ice skating, and he fell and hit his head, which gave him some temporary amnesia.

When he was on the stretcher, he asked what had happened. His wife said, you fell and hit your head. And he made this joke. That's not how you want to leave the ice. But then he kept asking what had happened and making the same joke, like, oh, I fell on the ice. I know a good joke to make here.

After, he said it was like opening up the hard drive of his mind and seeing inside. He's fine now, by the way.

David Kestenbaum

For me, it is the one scientific fact about the world that I am just not OK with. I'm fine with the big bang and that all of existence came from a tiny point. That doesn't faze me anymore. But I am not OK with the idea that I don't have free will. That seems-- I can't give that up. If I give that up, I'm giving up everything.

Robert Sapolsky

I know. It's really, really hard.

David Kestenbaum

I feel like I'm deciding to say what I say right now. I feel pretty confident about that. When I think I'm making a decision, what am I actually doing?

Robert Sapolsky

Well, there's just a whole bunch of neuronal fulcra and some sort of Rube Goldberg sort of stretch of things that teeter this way or that and as a result, bounce something else in another direction.

David Kestenbaum

So while it feels like we could choose this or maybe that, the truth is, some set of events mechanically led to our final decision. We just aren't aware of it. Sapolsky brought of this famous experiment.

Robert Sapolsky

Sit somebody down in the room and ask them to name their favorite detergent. And who knows what they're going to come up with. Do the same thing, and there's a picture of the ocean in the room on the wall. And they're now significantly more likely to say Tide. Tide's my favorite detergent.

And ask them why. And they will give you some [? Foucauldian ?] rational explanation about what Tide does to their strawberry stains on their shirts.

David Kestenbaum

Sapolsky says, when we think we are making a decision, it is basically just some more complicated version of that. You were looking at the menu. The room was slightly warm. Your shoes were wet from the rain. The light above the table was just so, and so you picked the salad.

The mom who yells at the army general couldn't have done it any other way. Newt Gingrich, when he got to Congress-- same thing. Speaking of which, did we all just go and vote? Choose our representatives?

If you believe what I'm saying, no one really could have decided to choose differently. And look, I'm not saying, don't vote. You should vote. Do good things. Be kind. Give to charity.

I'm just saying, it's weird. We are machines that don't know it, but don't want to deal with it.

For Sapolsky, this idea that we don't have free will is truly profound and should change the way we think about lots of things. For instance, all those decisions you've made because you're a good person, all those things you're proud of-- don't be so proud. Anyone else starting with your atoms in the same place would have done the same thing.

When people do bad things, he says you shouldn't hate them. Probably also, he says, we should try to rethink the entire justice system, which, of course, is a weird thing to say since there is no trying.

David Kestenbaum

It's just such a crazy-making idea, you know?

Robert Sapolsky

Yup.

David Kestenbaum

Are you OK with it?

Robert Sapolsky

Not in the slightest. If I stop and really think about it, I get slightly panicked. There is no way to get out of an existential morass if you start really thinking about this stuff.

David Kestenbaum

How often do you find yourself thinking about it?

Robert Sapolsky

Oh, I don't know, maybe four or five times an hour. This is all I think about these days.

David Kestenbaum

It's amazing to me that scientists don't talk about this more. I think I went my entire graduate career testing the fundamental laws of nature without it ever coming up.

Melissa Franklin

Hi. How are you?

Robert Sapolsky

How was the exam, the midterm?

David Kestenbaum

This is Melissa Franklin, professor of physics at Harvard. And for years, she was my professor. I talked to her for the show when I was grappling with the possibility that we might be alone in the universe. So she seemed like the logical choice for this question.

David Kestenbaum

This is how you think about it too, right, that we can't possibly have free will?

Melissa Franklin

I think that there's no evidence that we have free will. I mean, I guess it's possible. It seems unlikely. It seems like we have free will.

David Kestenbaum

That's the thing, right?

Melissa Franklin

Yeah. So I was asking one of my colleagues today, do you believe in free will? And he says, absolutely. And I said, do you think our brains are made up of neurons and axons and things? He said, yes.

And then I said, so how do you reconcile those two things? And he said, if it walks like free will and quacks like free will, it's free will.

David Kestenbaum

So our word is wrong?

Melissa Franklin

No, the point is that operationally, we appear to have free will.

David Kestenbaum

But it's wrong.

Melissa Franklin

Yes, yes, it is wrong. But it seems like we do, so why not just go with the flow? That's the idea.

David Kestenbaum

She was at lunch when this conversation happened. And immediately, another colleague jumped in to argue the other side.

Melissa Franklin

And the other person was just saying, you're an idiot, without saying the word idiot. It's one of these things when you start to talk about things that you don't want to think about that you sort of hope that magic comes in some way.

So one of them was saying, well, there could be some complex thing that comes in that actually gives us free will. And the other person was saying, you're talking about magic or God. Just say it out loud-- magic or God.

David Kestenbaum

Melissa is actually OK with the idea of not having free will.

Melissa Franklin

I think maybe the problem of just a machine is not a nice way of thinking about it. A human is not just a machine. A human is an amazing machine.

David Kestenbaum

Yeah, I know. I love the machine that is my wife and my two little machines. They're really adorable. But when I think about it, that's what they are. They're so cute, though.

I go back and forth on what to do with this information. Sometimes I feel like Robert Sapolsky does. That this is something deeply profound. We are machines that are smart enough to have figured that out, to realize we probably can't have free will.

And so we should think about what that means for how we organize our society, how we treat other people. But there is another part of me that feels like maybe it changes nothing at all, which is weird to know that we are all living with this illusion of free will, but somehow doesn't matter. I've come to think of my daily existence as kind of like being in a movie, where I'm just along for the ride.

I'm making choices all day long. But the machine that is me couldn't really have chosen anything else. It gives me a weird lightness when I think about it that way. And if I'm being honest, it also feels kind of cool knowing this thing that no one wants to face up to, watching us all run around as if not true.

When you pick a song to listen to, when you decide to try a second date, when you go left instead of right, when I say something stupid instead of just sitting and thinking for a moment, when I pick what picture to draw on my son's lunch bag, those aren't really choices. But I'm good at living with contradictions. It's in the machinery.

Ira Glass

Our show was produced today by David Kestenbaum. The people who put our show together include Zoe Chace, Sean Cole, Jarrett Floyd, Damien Grave, Michele Harris, Chana-Joffe Walt, Seth Lind, Ana Martin, Miki Meek, Stowe Nelson, Katharine Mae Mondo, Robyn Semien and Alissa Shipp, Christopher Swetala and Diane Wu, our senior producer, Brian Reed, our managing editor, Susan Burton.

Special thanks today to Rob Long, Kelefa Sanneh, Stu Greenberg, Sean Carroll, Jim Naureckas, Charlie Schaupp, Stephen Talbot. And thanks to the Frontline documentary, The Long March of Newt Gingrich, our website, ThisAmericanLife.org, where you can listen to our archive of over 600 episodes for absolutely free.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. And as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. I said, Torey, we've got 30 seconds left in the program. What should we do?

Torey Malatia

Just shut up. Shut up. Shut up now. Don't talk about it anymore. Shut up.

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

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