Late Night Tackles 2020 Democrats
January 15, 2020

The Late Show has some suggestions to spice up the Democratic presidential debates.

"Tonight was the last debate before Democratic voting begins in February," and "for the first time in the election cycle, the Democrats had an all-white debate stage," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's live Late Show. "Once again, J.Lo. was robbed." Former Vice President Joe Biden "admitted he was wrong" to vote to authorize the Iraq War, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) "provided some historical context," he said, and he ribbed Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for flubbing her "local example of women succeeding in politics."

But "the big story heading into the debate tonight was the falling-out between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren," Colbert said. It flared up over a disagreement on whether Sanders told Warren a woman can't win the White House in 2020, and "when Bernie was asked about it" at the debate, he "categorically denied the charge." Asked to respond, "Warren brought down the hammer," he said, joking that the men on stage had collectively lost more than 10 elections after her answer.

"To a lot of young Democrats, the beef between Bernie and Warren must feel like seeing your parents getting divorced" or "R2-D2 and C3PO become enemies," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Bernie was sticking to his story that he never said a woman can't be president," and Warren shot back that "maybe none of these men could be president," he marveled. "Not since Kill Bill have I seen one woman obliterate that many men in one fell swoop."

Warren "definitely won this exchange, although it would have been a much cleaner victory if she didn't come back a few moments later to create one of the weirdest moments we've ever seen in a debate," Noah said, showing her and Bernie's "unnecessary, nitpicky" fight over whether 1990 was 30 years ago. "It felt like we were watching an old couple fight in a diner."

But "other than what we just saw, there wasn't much new in this debate," Noah said. "They touched on health care, trade policies, impeachment, and to be honest, it was more of the same ... All in all, today's debate wasn't that exciting. And I guess this is what happens when you only have white people at your party." He ended with a devilishly clever strategy for Mike Bloomberg. Watch below. Peter Weber

December 20, 2019

Thursday's night's Democratic presidential debate "was the final debate of the year, and honestly, it was really exciting," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's live Daily Show. It was also the "smallest" and "whitest" debate between 2020 Democrats, he noted. "No Julian Castro, no Kamala Harris, no Cory Booker — basically, Democratic debates are like horror movies: They start out with a very diverse cast of characters, and then all the black people are quietly and quickly killed off."

Andrew Yang kept the stage from being entirely white — "basically it was a bunch of white people and then one Asian guy, like an adult reboot of The Goonies," Noah quipped. And Yang had "a really insightful take" on why he was the only non-white person up there. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)? Not so much: "Did Bernie just yell, 'And I'm white!'? You can't just say that, Bernie! That's Trump's campaign slogan."

The candidates made some decent points about "why all that glitters is not gold" in President Trump's booming economy, Noah said, but "the big beef tonight wasn't between Democrats and Donald Trump, it was between the Democrats and Pete Buttigieg," the candidate "everyone was gunning for" Thursday night. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), for example, made "a great point" that "Buttigieg shouldn't be holding fundraisers in wine caves — he's not even old enough to drink," Noah joked. And "even Bernie decided to jump in on that white-on-white crime." Buttigieg "threw some punches of his own," he added, making his second '80s movie reference of the night: "I don't know what it is, but whenever Bernie and Pete fight, I feel like I'm watching Back to the Future."

Mehdi Hasan, a columnist at The Intercept, told Noah he thought Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had a good night, even though he prefers Warren or Sanders. He said any of the top candidates can beat Trump and advised viewers to "just vote for the person you think is best. ... Stop trying to be a pundit. I'm a pundit, we don't know what the hell we're talking about."

The Daily Show did have another, creepier suggestion for choosing the right candidate for you, featuring Jaboukie Young-White and Desi Lydic.

Or, you could follow your bliss, Yang-style.Peter Weber

December 6, 2019

"There were big campaign fireworks in Iowa today," thanks to former Vice President Joe Biden, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "Biden is on his 'No Malarkey' bus tour," and at an afternoon event, "he said no to one questioner's malarkey," calling the 83-year-old man a "damn liar" for saying Biden sent his son Hunter over to Ukraine to sell a gas company access to former President Barack Obama. "Man, Biden is getting feisty," Colbert said, showing more of the "ugly" exchange.

Biden challenged the man to push-ups or a race, told him to "get your words straight, Jack," and then said he was "too old" to vote for him anyway, but it was Biden (probably) calling the guy "fat" that prompted Colbert to stage an intervention: "Sir, I totally get it, you're understandably upset, you love your son — but can I just talk to you over here? You can't call an Iowa voter fat! They deep-fry butter! Their faucets have hot and cold running high-fructose corn syrup! For Pete's sake, their state bird is a funnel cake!"

Pete Buttigieg's campaign also had a little kerfuffle in South Bend, Indiana, late Wednesday, when a white Black Lives Matter protester interrupted black leaders supporting Buttigieg — and almost got caned by an elderly woman, Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. But the real drama was Biden versus the Iowa voter "parroting Fox News talking points about Joe's son Hunter's activities in Ukraine." He showed the video. Biden "said 'No Malarkey,' and I think he meant it," Kimmel deadpanned.

Biden's sparring with President Trump, too, Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. In a new ad, "Biden has just called Trump 'the laughingstock of the world.' When he heard that, Rudy Giuliani had to change his Twitter bio." Watch below. Peter Weber

December 4, 2019

"The big story is that Senator Kamala Harris has dropped out of the presidential race," Jimmy Fallon said on Tuesday's Tonight Show. "Apparently, this weekend, Kamala saw Joe Biden bite his wife's finger in public and thought, 'There's no way I can beat this guy.' Actually, Kamala broke the news to her staff over the phone — they had a feeling she might be quitting when the caller ID said Cancun."

"A lot of people were surprised Kamala dropped out — Andrew Yang was like, 'How the hell did I last longer than Kamala Harris?" Fallon said, cracking some other jokes about the Democrats still running. "Now that Kamala is out of the race, it looks like we're one step closer to President John Delaney," but at least Harris can consider "taking some time off and maybe getting her hearing back after standing next to Bernie Sanders at three debates."

Trevor Noah noted that Harris had actually qualified for the next debate, and reminded everyone that that Marianne Williamson is still running. "I don't think anybody saw this coming," he said on The Daily Show. "Because when this race started, she was one of the favorites." He compared Harris to Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, and he was apparently unhappy with how that show ended.

"What's been really interesting for me is to see the conversations that have been sparked by Kamala dropping out," Noah said. "Some people say it proves that even in the Democratic Party, black women don't have the support that they deserve. But others say there wasn't enough 'black girl magic' to erase Kamala's record as a prosecutor. In a way, i think it's a little bit of both. All I know is, Cory Booker, I'm gonna say a phrase you've probably never heard before in your life: You are now the blackest person in the room. Don't let us down, Cory!" Watch below. Peter Weber

December 3, 2019

The House impeachment hearing is migrating to the Judiciary Committee, and President Trump is insisting Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky has totally exonerated him, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live. "That is some argument. The idea that Trump is innocent because the guy he shook down said so is ridiculous even for him. This is like if he tweeted: 'Breaking News: Kid whose lunch money I stole says he GAVE me his lunch money because he admired my fists! Case over!'"

Trump is in Britain for a NATO summit, Kimmel said, but his friend Prime Minister Boris Johnson "is actively avoiding him because they have an election next week and he doesn't want to be seen with him. Relations between the prime minister and an American president have not been this shaky since Love Actually." Still, he said, "Trump is very popular in his party," and a new poll found that "53 percent of Republicans say they believe Donald Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln." Nobody really believes that, he added. "Donald Trump thinks Four Score is a strip club in Florida."

On the Democratic side, former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to rev up his campaign with a "No Malarkey" but tour in Iowa. "Who says politicians are out of touch?" Kimmel laughed. "It's like Grandpalooza is on. Good news for Billy Bush: This is now the No. 1 most embarrassing thing involving a candidate and a bus." Kimmel sent a camera crew out to poll young people on whether they know what "malarkey" even means. One guy nailed it.

"Is Joe Biden's slogan really going to be 'No Malarkey?'" Trevor Noah asked at The Daily Show. "'No Malarkey'? What does that word even mean? It sounds like the dish your vegan cousin serves at Thanksgiving. You know: 'It's not turkey, it's Malarkey! The main ingredient is mold. Namaste!'"

"Unless you're over the age of 80," Noah said, malarkey "is a term you definitely had to google." Correspondent Michael Kosta acted like the slogan was the cat's pajamas, but he also had a problematic Plan B. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 21, 2019

Ten Democrats gathered at Tyler Perry's studio in Atlanta on Wednesday for the fifth presidential debate, and Stephen Colbert took The Late Show live so he could cover it. Sen. "Amy Klobuchar had the first laugh of the night," recalling that in her first Senate race she "raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends," he said. "Now I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, senator, but technically, if they're giving you cash, they've not called boyfriends."

But Joe Biden had the toughest night, Colbert said. For example, he appeared to agree with Kim Jong Un that he's "a rabid dog who needs to be beaten with a stick," then he "emphasized the importance of ending violence against women, but with a really, really poor choice of words." Sen Cory Booker (D-N.J.) "had a little fun when he lit up Joe Biden," he added, "then Biden tried to brag about his appeal to African Americans," awkwardly. Colbert sighed: "You know somewhere out there Donald Trump is going: 'Oh my god, I can't believe I risked impeachment over Joe. Someone please tell me there's a Hunter Buttigieg!'"

"The major change from the last debate is the rise of Pete Buttigieg," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Between Buttigieg, Biden, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, and Bernie [Sanders], this has become a four-way race — and if you include Cory Booker, it's still a four-way race." A lot of the debate covered familiar ground, he said, "but one new thing we did see tonight was some brand new beefs, like Elizabeth Warren versus Cory Booker on the wealth tax," and "Kamala Harris versus Tulsi Gabbard."

"There were weird, odd bedfellows, like Tom Steyer and Joe Biden going after each other; Tulsi Gabbard was like Yosemite Sam in a white pantsuit," political analyst Alex Wagner told Colbert, but she saw little of the typical Democratic "outright cannibalization." John Heilemann said he thought Buttigieg had a good night, Harris and Booker had some cable-friendly moments, and Booker and Harris both openly mocking Biden made it a bad night for Biden.

The Daily Show's Roy Wood Jr. actually spoke with a panel of black voters in Atlanta, and nobody dug Biden. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 12, 2019

"Right now, the Democratic Party has an option for everyone," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "There's moderates, there's progressives, there's X-Men, and there's even a guy who's worth $1.6 billion. But what if $1.6 billion just isn't rich enough for some voters? Well then, those people might be in luck." That's because billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "is on the verge of jumping into the Democratic primary, because he doesn't think any of the current candidates can beat Trump," he said. "And you have to admit, that's such a billionaire thing to do."

"Bloomberg may be making a fashionably late entrance into the presidential race, and his fellow Democrats aren't exactly giving him a warm welcome," Noah said, with a special laugh for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) reaction. So why is Bloomberg running? Reportedly, "Jeff Bezos told Bloomberg to run," he said. "You know you're rich when the Amazon guy orders something from you! That's money."

"Wow, he just ordered up a presidential candidate — what level of Amazon Prime is that?" Seth Meyers echoed at Late Night. "Bloomberg's interest in running and Bezos' prodding come after weeks of billionaires freakouts over the possibility that someone who's critical of big banks and Wall Street like [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren or Bernie could get the Democratic nomination. In fact, last week even Bill Gates expressed concern about how much he personally would have to pay in taxes and joked that he might not have that much left over." Warren trolled Bloomberg and Gates with their own internet calculators for billionaires.

"In reality, the vast majority of Democratic primary voters say in polls that they're actually satisfied with the choices they already have," Meyers said. "People aren't just mad at billionaires out of jealousy or because candidates demonize them. There are real-world examples that are informing people's doubts that the wealthy can solve everything," or anything. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 8, 2019

CBS News' John Dickerson "has been reporting on Washington since 1995, and no one is better at making sense of it," Stephen Colbert said to introduce his guest on Thursday's Late Show. They first tried to make sense of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's likely late entry into the Democratic presidential race.

"You only heard one 'woo,'" Dickerson noted when Colbert reported Bloomberg's move. Bloomberg's "a single-woo candidate," he added, "but the thinking is there's room for only one moderate" in the race, and Joe Biden "isn't getting the job done." Colbert asked what Bloomberg's entry would mean for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "because a lot of billionaires are not happy about her — I wonder why." Dickerson suggested "it's a good sign for Warren" and the Democratic left, because "he wouldn't be concerned if she weren't doing well."

"There are only, according to Fortune magazine, 607 billionaires in the world," Colbert said. "Why do we care what they think? Because there's a lot more of us, and they have too much money. ... Why is it a bad idea to attack billionaires?" "I don't think, in the Democratic Party, it's a bad idea at all," Dickerson said. "I mean, that's why Elizabeth Warren is doing pretty well." Still, he added, campaigning and governing are different things, and if a Democrat defeats Trump in what's sure to be a "scorched-earth" election, "expectations for a Democratic whirlwind in the first 100 days should probably be lowered a bit."

"It really does look like there's going to be an impeachment in the House," so what are Republican senators saying behind closed doors about the likely trial? Colbert asked Dickerson. Their "first thought is about the actual process of going through the trial," which involves no cellphones and no talking, "like being back in third grade," he said. Politically, Republicans don't seem to have decided what to say about Trump's Ukraine actions, and Dickerson suggested the ones willing to excuse Trump's behavior may be taking on more than they can bear.

"Last question: How goes the Republic?" Colbert asked. "Fine, we're fine," Dickerson said. "We are a durable country, and we've been through a whole lot worse." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads