After watching Grover Norquist and Alan Simpson go after each other for years on cable news, TIME’s White House Correspondent Michael Scherer had a revelation. Why not invite the conservative wonk and former Republican senator to have a civil conversation in a disarming environment? And what’s more disarming than orangutans? As Scherer played moderator at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., TIME’s video team captured the wild animals on video (humans included).
Watch the video above to see the men mingling among bamboo, gaping at the primates and talking about how the day went in private exit interviews. Watch the video below to see Simpson’s unbidden digression on why President Obama is in danger of having a “failed presidency.”
Read Scherer’s take on the day, and an abbreviated transcript of the conversation, here. His article in the magazine, “Into the Wild,” can be enjoyed here for those with TIME subscriptions. Don’t have one? Click here to purchase your TIME subscription for $2.99 a month.