NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Stephen Colbert showered thanks on Donald Trump, his “Late Show” guest.
“I want to thank you not only for being here but for running for president,” Colbert told the GOP front-runner Tuesday night. “I’m not going to say this stuff writes itself, but you certainly do deliver it on time every day.”
Colbert’s gratitude for Trump’s comic assistance was well-placed. Peppering Trump with questions and wisecracks during his appearance, the CBS host reduced the usually domineering Trump to straight-man status, an unaccustomed role Trump performed with rare grace.
Trump’s campaign has often focused on the country’s failures, but Trump said he doesn’t blame the American people.
“No I’m not blaming America, I’m blaming people that have run the country for many years, in all fairness,” Trump said.
“On both sides?” Colbert asked.
“It certainly hasn’t been good over the last six years, but I would certainly say on both sides,” Trump said. “I mean we got into a war that we shouldn’t have been in, look at what happened with Iraq because we totally destabilized the Middle East.”
Bringing up Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, Colbert offered his own mocking version of a way to bar illegal immigration: Two walls, and in between them a moat filled with fire and fireproof crocodiles. “Is that enough?” Colbert asked.
And focusing on Trump’s insistence that Mexico would pay for the wall, Colbert drew him into a role-playing exercise — a phone call where “you’re you, and I’m the president of Mexico.”
Colbert noted that Trump is leading the field while he vows to finance his campaign out of his own pocket.
“The Republican Party has been a big pusher of the idea that money is speech, and you’re a $10 billion mouth,” said Colbert. “You’re their worst nightmare.”
“I think the establishment in the Republican Party probably isn’t that thrilled,” he agreed.
Trump repeated his contention, as a former heavy campaign donor, that candidates who accept major contributions are typically “owned” by those donors once in office.
“You gave them a big contribution and you want something and all of a sudden they’ve very receptive,” he said. If you didn’t make a healthy gift, “believe me, you get the cold shoulder.”
Colbert asked if Trump really wants to be president: “If you actually got the gig, would that be a step down for you? You know what the pay is like, right?”
Trump replied that he is running “not because I want it, but because I think I can do a great job.”
When pressed on his past contention that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, Trump deferred.
“I don’t talk about it anymore,” he said.
But he was gung-ho for a game that called for guessing who in the past had made certain outlandish remarks: Trump or the comically conservative blowhard Colbert played for a decade as host of “The Colbert Report.”
Trump or Colbert? “Medicare is like a nice pair of cufflinks. Nobody wears cufflinks anymore.”
“That’s you,” said Trump. Correct.
Trump or Colbert? “It’s freezing and snowing in New York. We need global warming.”
“I think it’s you,” Trump hedged, “but it’s close to being me.”
It was Trump.
And finally: “The real strong have no need to prove it to the phonies.”
“It’s not me,” said Trump after a pause. “It COULD be you.”
“It’s not me, either,” Colbert said. “It’s Charles Manson.”
“Ooooo,” said Trump.
Trump will also appear on “60 Minutes” this weekend.
During the interview, correspondent Scott Pelley questions Trump about his response to the man who denigrated Muslims at a Trump event in New Hampshire.Tune in to watch the full interview on CBS2 at 7 p.m. Sunday.(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)