Stephen Colbert joked on Wednesday’s Late Show that having MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow as a guest allows him to coast in his nightly role of trying to make comedy hay from the squalid, murderous death throes of the Trump administration. Calling his guest “a champion talker,” Colbert yet clearly pepped up at having another on-air sifter of Trump detritus to swap war stories with, as the pair spent two spirited segments comparing notes on the too-long, badly written horror movie that has been 2020.
First up, Colbert asked after Maddow’s partner, the artist Susan Mikula, who Maddow memorably shared on her show earlier this year, had contracted the coronavirus. Calling Susan’s resulting illness “the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Maddow told Colbert that while Mikula—like so many COVID-stricken patients—is still coping with lingering effects months after being “out of the woods,” that fear continues to shape Maddow’s reporting on the still-worsening pandemic. Saying that it’s easy for reporters (and the rest of us who choose to social distance, wear masks, and generally not be selfish irresponsible assholes) to simply scold those people—like the current, outgoing president and essentially his entire, sycophantic staff—who flout sensible safety measures, Maddow explained to Colbert that, “We need to pay more attention to people’s motivation and their behavior around risk.” Adding, “People take risks for a reason,” Maddow said, adding that these anti-mask types aren’t necessarily “bad people.” Eh.
Still, Maddow was more upbeat in response to Colbert’s questions about the flailing, farcically inept efforts of current occupant of the White House, his confused, COVID-riddled Kraken of a legal team, and a truly shocking number of Republican cowards, milquetoast fascists, and spineless toadies to overturn the results of the election. Which Trump lost. Some 36 days ago now. Maddow noted that there are signs of life emerging through the crumbling ruins left by the Trump administration already, pointing to the “battered” CDC actually speaking “with one voice” about how fucking serious the COVID pandemic is, and the need for everyone to wear a mask whenever they’re outside the home. That’s something Maddow claims those once-respected health professionals were unable (or unwilling) to do when Trump’s “quack squad” and “clown show” were running Trump’s circus. Noting that, with a vaccine (or three) in the offing, it’s more important now than ever for everyone to be on the same page, Maddow and Colbert shared hope that the Biden administration will be marked by some nice, boring, vanilla professionalism as it tries to wrench America back from the pit. “Two scoops, please,” Colbert joked, as he and Maddow basked in the comforting thought of government officials with actual qualifications and base-level competencies taking the wheel for a change.
As to what’s next for Donald Trump—the reality show steak salesman, casino-ruiner, and court-affirmed conman who’s still clinging to the last, fraying fringes of power while scamming millions of dollars from like-minded rubes— Maddow was relatively sanguine. Pointing to Team Kraken’s current (as of press time) 1-55 record in the various courts across the land, Maddow chalked up Trump’s obstinance to both a sociopathic unwillingness to process rejection and, perhaps more relevantly, a desire to fleece as many MAGA sheep as possible on his way out the door. Noting that so-called “safe harbor day” has passed (in that all 50 states and the District have officially certified for Biden), and that the last ditch legal challenge from some 17 GOP Attorneys General to wipe out that whole silly democracy thing and just hand the presidency to their boy is led by a Texas AG himself under indictment (and angling for one of Trump’s get-out-of-jail-for-a-fee pardons), Maddow was refreshingly unfazed.
As to whether Trump—currently known as “un-indicted co-conspirator” and “individual #1" in various ongoing legal proceedings—will ever face prosecution, Colbert steered viewers to Maddow’s newest book, Bag Man, about the Justice Department legal clusterfuck (not her words) caused by another crooked White House. Gazing over the sketchy precedent set in not prosecuting either resigned Republican crook Spiro Agnew or resigned Republican crook Richard Nixon, Maddow called the current ability to hold Trump and his henchmen accountable for the crimes (known and as-yet unknown) committed in office “a mess.” And while that assessment may be (to dumb things down for Trump) par for the course when it comes to how shaky and uncertain four years of this brazenly corrupt nonsense have left our as-it-turns-out fragile democracy, both Colbert and Maddow both chose hope for a better 2021. Honestly, what’s the alternative?