Over two weeks into his new program, Stephen Colbert finally got to break his dry-Trumping spell and sit face-to-face with Republican presidential candidate and incoherence aficionado Donald Trump. "Who knows—I might one day be able to tell my grandkids I got to interview the last President of the United States," Colbert said at the top of the show. On the surface, it seemed to be a much easier interview for Trump than many may have hoped. But Colbert being Colbert, the venom was still there, shimmering playfully under the surface.
— Daniel Kibblesmith (@kibblesmith) September 23, 2015
It was a bit disappointing to see Colbert go so easy on Trump in the first half of the interview, especially considering how tough he was with fellow Republican presidential punchline Ted Cruz the night before. More surprising than that, this was probably the least incendiary interview Trump has given during this election cycle. Outside of one or two moments, there were no obnoxious catch phrases and no eyebrow-raising insults. Trump truly went out of his way not to be a "wise guy." Trump hasn't seemed this sober in years—if anything, he seemed a bit scared of Colbert.
— Joe Adalian (@TVMoJoe) September 23, 2015
Despite the chummy atmosphere, it wasn't all classy compliments: there was Colbert's suggestion of Trump/Hat 2016, a discussion of campaign financing ("Money is speech. You're a ten billion dollar mouth"), and Trump daydreaming about a "beautiful big fat door" in the middle of his Mexican wall (even Colbert couldn't keep his improv game going at that line).
Then there were the two best parts of the interview. First, Colbert pressed Trump with a "big fat meatball" of a question: "[Was] Barack Obama born in the United States?" Trump did everything he could do avoid responding, deflecting with: "I just don't discuss it anymore," Trump said, sounding embarrassed by his own words. "I'm talking about jobs, I'm talking about vets...I'm talking about military build up, not talking about that." That is the sound of a meatball being dragged down the subway steps by a rat.
Of course, Trump may have been blushing on TV, but he couldn't help but comment on his birther past on Twitter.
Just remember, the birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015
The Trump/Colbert quote-off to end the interview was highly amusing, especially with the bonus Charles Manson quote thrown in.
So while it may have been pretty subtle—nothing like Colbert calling out Cruz about his Reagan hypocrisy—we shouldn't brush aside the fact that Colbert (very respectfully) did everything he could to undermine and insult Trump to his face. (You can watch the whole thing here.) There's no confusing this interview with Fallon's Trump interview last week. "I want to thank you...for running for president," Colbert said. "I’m not going to say this stuff writes itself, but you certainly do deliver it on time every day."