Obama tells Colbert of frustration with Trump's 'shambolic' Covid response

Adrian Horton
·4 min read

Stephen Colbert

More than three weeks removed from the election, Donald Trump’s public appearances have nearly ceased while his legal team baselessly argued against Biden’s victory in several now-failed lawsuits. “He knows that if he comes out of his bunker and sees his shadow, he’ll only have six more weeks of president,” joked Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. But on Tuesday, Trump had a “pressing matter of national security: the annual turkey pardon”.

This year’s pardoned turkeys, Corn and Cob, greeted masked fans on a red carpet in DC and in an annual show of executive pomp, were pardoned by the president. “There you have it: an innocent turkey pardoned by a lame duck,” Colbert deadpanned.

In a separate segment, Colbert aired his interview with Barack Obama, timed to the release of former president’s memoir A Promised Land. I just want to take a moment to drink you in,” Colbert said, half-facetiously, as the two faced each over a social distance gap. “I’m having to get used to looking at a president again. I’ve gotten out of the habit.”

Obama had nothing but praise for the incoming administration: “Joe’s going to be great, and Kamala’s going to be great,” he said. “They’re going to have big challenges ahead, but we’ve got the potential of returning to a presidency that is actually paying attention and trying to do right by all people and not just some.”

The 44th president also criticized the “shambolic nature of the government response” to Covid-19, and expressed “frustration” with an administration that discarded a pandemic response plan developed by the Obama team and cut the budget for a pandemic early warning system.

“This would have been hard for anyone,” Obama said. But “if we had done the work that was not rocket science – we’re not talking about inventing vaccines, although I’m glad to see the vaccine is now coming on board – but preliminarily communicating effectively, respecting the science, not undermining the leading epidemiologist in the country and saying he’s an idiot, being consistent in terms of masks and social distancing, not suggesting that this is some act of oppression but rather just a commonsense thing to prevent people from getting sick.

“Had we just taken those steps, there is no doubt that we would’ve saved some lives and ironically, the economy would be better.”

Related: Seth Meyers rips Sidney Powell, 'the craziest addition to the Trump Cinematic Universe'

Though loth to speak of the lame-duck president – “I’ve talked about the president a lot for four years, I’ve had my fill,” said Colbert – The Late Show host concluded the interview’s somber first segment with a look back on the photo taken immediately post-election in 2016, when Obama greeted Trump to the White House in a gracious nod toward the peaceful transition of power.

“That was a chilling moment for me to watch,” said Colbert, “because I perceived in that moment the dignity of the office – or, rather, the trappings of dignity and status that rightly falls upon the person who holds the office in that moment – and I saw the way, or rather I had an emotional flash of all the ways that could be abused over the next four years.

“Were you having a similar feeling in that moment?” Colbert asked Obama, who nodded. “It was a concern.” And was that concern borne out over the next four years? “Exceeded.”

Jimmy Kimmel

And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel recapped the president’s two public appearances on Tuesday: a 64-second “press conference” taking credit for the Dow’s record number, and his “ceremonial duty” of the annual turkey pardoning in the Rose Garden. “Trump actually did things a little differently this year,” Kimmel said. “Instead of the usual pardon, they did a prisoner exchange: we pardoned two of theirs, they sent us two of ours.”

Meanwhile, “Team Biden is now officially in contact with members of the outgoing administration,” Kimmel continued, as the General Service Administration finally “ascertained” the election, allowing the formal transition of power in Washington to begin. “But Trump still refuses to identify himself as outgoing,” Kimmel added. “He has not conceded. This is day 21 of Squattergate and he is ready to eat his own.”

Though rarely seen in public now, the president has turned to Twitter to express displeasure with longtime favorite network Fox News. On Tuesday, he retweeted a video made by actor and conspiracy theorist Randy Quaid performing an unhinged, strobe-lit dramatic reading of one of Trump’s critical tweets – a video Kimmel described as “look out, kids, Santa’s been eating bath salts this year.”