I’m gonna start owning the fact that I like the guy we’ve elected to the presidency, even though it’s divisive and not especially pertinent to whatever it is I’m doing here and it might invite trolls. So be it.
Now that he’s president-elect I don’t feel like I need to chew my nails and wince at Biden’s gaffes—and so, a couple nights back, when I had the apartment to myself, I fixed a signature meal of instant ramen with a pepperoni Hot Pocket on the side and then I watched Stephen Colbert’s long interview with Biden from back in September.
And it was rough.
Part of what’s stressful is that Biden—bless his heart—he rambles. It’s a good kinda rambling insofar as it shows he’s got a grasp on the issues, he appreciates their nuances and sees how they’re interconnected, but you can see he also gets mired in that interconnectedness. He’s not good at delivering soundbites. At distillation.
Barack Obama, maybe with a chip on his shoulder, says in his memoir A Promised Land that one of the differences between left and right wing news outlets is how the left is willing to cannibalize its own candidate—which actually doesn’t sound like a bad thing!, right?, cuz it suggests a free and indiscriminately scrutinous press…
That being said: I’m watching Colbert’s interview with Biden and part of what’s shaking me up about it—even though the election’s over and everything turned out fine!—is that the questions are fucking hard-hitting. Like legit journalistic interviewing.
And Biden’s floundering under the scrutiny.
I hate to say it, but part of me was like, “Stephen, take it easy, do a fluff piece, you’re not helping.”
And here’s my quandary about that reflex: Stephen Colbert is not Bob Woodward. He’s not reporting this shit for the Post. He’s a comedian. So what the fuck? Have fun! Show Biden as an affable dude. After all, Colbert would go on to weep in the middle of his show, just a month later, because Trump was trying to sabotage the election.
If he was so emotionally invested in a democratic victory, why did he set the democratic candidate up with questions that might have hurt his odds?
But! Just because other latenight hosts are being flippant and playful, tousling Trump’s hair or whatever, doesn’t mean that Colbert can’t strive to imbue the role with a little more decency. In fact, the latenight landscape might be better for the country if every host aspired to be a journalist as well as a comedian.
Colbert hates Trump. I think that’s clear. And then here comes Biden, the democratic candidate who is literally our only option for getting Trump out of office. Wouldn’t you want him to win even though he’s prone to gaffes and sometimes aloof (these were the issues on which Colbert grilled him).
I’m wondering: if you went to Colbert as a time traveler from some alternate future, a future in which Joe Biden lost the presidency, and you said to him, “Hey, those tough questions you asked him on your show: we can’t tell if they cost him the election, but you certainly hurt his chances,” would Colbert have chosen not to ask them? Would he instead have just allowed Biden to a platform for espousing his talking points?
The more explicit question that I’m reluctant to ask is whether Colber was doing this for the good of the country or because he wanted to boost his image as a serious reporter? Or, if not that, then as a more dignified alternative to the Jimmies Kimmel & Fallon (which he clearly is).
And what’s edgy about it is that I’m basically asking him to pull punches when interviewing the person who’s aspiring to the highest office on Earth.
Shouldn’t that person be subject to scrutiny?
But anyway: you know what I mean.