With a guest spot on the very first Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jeb Bush had an opportunity to prove that all of Donald Trump’s taunts are untrue. Instead, he helped Colbert confirm that after years of chatting with academics on his Comedy Central show, he knows how to coax a fun interview out of a “low energy” guest.
Bush kicked things off with a rehearsed answer about why he wants to be president, but Colbert pushed him to explain how he’d get past the partisanship in Washington. “So I’m going to say something that’s heretic, I guess: I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives. I just think he’s wrong on a lot of issues.” After letting Jeb elaborate, and jabbing him for his lack of timing, Colbert responded: “I’ll restore a degree of civility right now: There is a non-zero chance that I would vote for you.”
Next Colbert inquired about Bush’s campaign slogan, “Jeb!” The candidate explained it “connotes excitement.” So yes, it appears the exclamation point is intended to be ironic.
Finally, after noting that he and his own brother (who was in the audience) disagree on politics, Colbert asked Bush to explain how he differs politically from former President George W. Bush — and he wouldn’t accept Jeb’s usual crack about being younger and more attractive. “I think my brother probably didn’t control the Republican Congress spending,” he said. “I think he should have brought the hammer down on the Republicans when they were spending way too much, because our brand is limited government.” New campaign slogan: Vote Jeb! if you want to repeat the second Bush administration, with a little less government spending.
Bush’s most animated moment came in a bonus clip posted online, in which he impersonated Trump (by reading off a Teleprompter).
The candidate definitely came off better in his earlier appearance on the Tonight show, but he deserves credit for taking a risk with the newly out-of-character Colbert. As Politico notes, Hillary Clinton was offered a spot on Colbert’s first Late Show, but instead she decided to appear on the Tonight show next week, since Jimmy Fallon “offers a friendlier foil to would-be guests.”