Stephen Colbert doesn’t hold back in John Bolton interview

Stephen Colbert (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Stephen Colbert (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) /

Stephen Colbert put the pressure on former National Security Adviser John Bolton

In what was a highly anticipated and highly polarizing interview, Stephen Colbert didn’t hold back when questioning former National Security Adviser John Bolton. The conversation between Colbert and Bolton covered nearly every significant detail from The Room Where It Happened in what was one of Colbert’s best turns as an interviewer.

Some fans of The Late Show expressed no desire in watching Bolton on television and disagreed with giving him more publicity. There are plenty who don’t forgive Bolton for working in President Donald Trump’s administration or failing to disclose what he knew until now.

But Colbert has never been afraid to invite guests unpopular with his regular viewers. And even those supported by his fans have been challenged and asked tough questions by the comedian. Colbert appeared to turn things up a notch when Bolton checked in for a virtual interview on Tuesday night.

Colbert started by asking what will be a common question for anyone in the Trump administration once it’s over: what were you thinking? The Late Show host grilled Bolton, a 30+ year veteran of government work, why he thought joining President Trump’s team was a good idea and how he couldn’t see the writing on the wall:

Colbert doesn’t buy the excuse that Bolton didn’t know how bad it was or that he believed Donald Trump was interested in the philosophy of international relations. Enough reports and anecdotes have been made public to make it clear that President Trump can’t be bothered with the nuances and specifics of any policy.

No matter how many times Bolton tries to defend his actions, Colbert either shakes his head or laughs in disbelief. The best question that Colbert delivers is another one that many will be forced to reckon with if Bolton’s allegations are true: what could be worse in a Democrat’s philosophy than betraying the country to a hostile foreign leader.

Colbert also questioned Bolton’s motivations during President Trump’s impeachment trial. Senate Republicans claimed it would be helpful to hear from someone close to negotiations with Ukraine. Bolton was that person but decided it wasn’t necessary to testify. Once again, Bolton’s attempts to explain himself were challenged by Colbert:

This back-and-forth was a good example of Colbert coming into the interview very prepared. He doesn’t try to move on when Bolton’s answers are satisfactory. When Bolton dances around a question, Colbert reminds him of the question and waits for an actual answer before going forward. An interview like this may not have been possible in the Late Show studio with stricter time limits and a potentially hostile crowd listening to Bolton.

Stephen Colbert and John Bolton discussed America’s future after the 2020 election

The interview on Tuesday night covered just about every topic that the public would want to see discussed. Colbert was able to get Bolton to call out Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani by name as examples of individuals doing harm inside the government. Comparisons were made between President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and President Richard Nixon during Watergate. Bolton also explained his issues with Democrats’ flawed impeachment strategy.

The interview concluded with Colbert and Bolton looking into the future rather than the past. Bolton has made it clear that he won’t vote for President Trump in 2020. He also won’t vote for Democrat Joe Biden in order to remain loyal to his conservative beliefs. Colbert pushed Bolton to reflect on the future of the Republican Party and where America is heading regardless of who wins in November.

Bolton argues that Americans cannot reduce political discourse into either being for or against Donald Trump. Instead, he says that there are many issues that require both sides to work together to achieve a common good. But Bolton’s personal philosophy is immediately challenged by Colbert. The Late Show host doesn’t let Bolton preach about morality and right vs. wrong when he didn’t go public with President Trump allegedly approving the use of concentration camps in China.

Bolton states that if President Trump loses the election, he hopes Republicans and conservatives will quickly denounce him and sever ties. His answer doesn’t quite acknowledge the hypocrisy that Colbert clearly sees but the two men agree on the point. Bolton doesn’t plan to leave the GOP as the party of Trump and Colbert will never let any GOP ally of President Trump forget it.

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What did you think of Stephen Colbert’s interview with John Bolton? Did you wish he did anything differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.