New Jersey Senator Cory Booker loves fun. Cory Booker also loves making sure people know he loves fun, which is why he agreed to an interview with the Washington Post while playing Pac-Man for its occasional Twitch series “Playing Games with Politicians.”
Booker and Post reporter Dave Weigel played what appears to be Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus on a Nintendo Switch while discussing a wide variety of subjects, including Booker’s questionable support of Bob Menendez, social media, the Kavanaugh hearings, legalized marijuana, Jamal Khashoggi and the 2016 midterms.
The format seems like a gimmick, but watching, it’s actually, well... fun. Booker’s naturally a charismatic guy, but there’s something fun about listening to him try to answer questions while playing the game. There aren’t that many people in the U.S. Senate right now who could actually pull this off, and Booker looks right at home in the Post’s little gaming studio, multitasking between vaguely trying to do well at the game and answering Weigel’s questions. It also makes most of his answers feel relatively unscripted—more like shooting the shit with a friend than a sit-down interview. Both Booker and Weigel agree to pause the gaming for a minute when they touch on more serious issues (like Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal death and the U.S. response to it), which keeps it from straying too far into the frivolous.
The segment is pretty long—about 40 minutes, and certainly sounds like Booker practicing some of the points that will be in his stump speech when he likely starts his 2020 campaign. His answer on marijuana decriminalization is particularly strong—he asks Weigel where he went to school (Northwestern) and then admits that for people like them (Booker went to Stanford), marijuana has effectively been decriminalized for years, but not so for over-policed minority and low-income communities (it’s early in the interview, if you’re looking).
From my skim of the interview, there’s nothing hugely newsworthy in it—Booker doesn’t say anything definite about his 2020 plans, but still, it was a cool format! The Post has done this before with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and several others, but Booker is definitely the highest-profile person to sit down and give it a shot.