The presidential candidacy is up for grabs in the Republican party, and with several high-profile politicians making the rounds in town hall meetings, sports events, and talk shows, it can be easy to get lost in the world of stump speeches and carefuly rehearsed rhetoric. Stephen Colbert’s opportunity to leave the cover of his famous Colbert Report character and speak more as himself on The Late Show recently gave him a chance to address Senator Ted Cruz’s views on gay marriage – views that may become extremely important if Sen. Cruz succeeds in winning the Republican candidacy.
Colbert ran an intense but respectful debate on his show with Sen. Cruz, covering a wide range of topics from the economy and Constitutional values to gay marriage and the importance of the Supreme Court. Colbert also brought up former President Ronald Reagan, a figure whom Republican candidates frequently reference in speeches and policies, and how Reagan compromised on issues when it was necessary to do so.
“When conditions changed in the country, he reversed his world’s largest tax cut and raised taxes…will you be willing to compromise with the other side?” Colbert asked his guest. Though Sen. Cruz’s answers were vague and tended to redirect the question elsewhere, Colbert again put the spotlight on some of Sen. Cruz’s more unpopular views by mentioning how Sen. Cruz was against gay marriage, which then turned into a discussion about state responsibilities versus federal responsibilities.
Though the debate was intense at points, the tone between the two remained very civil and respectful. Colbert even admonished the audience at one point when they started to boo Sen. Cruz’s vague statements – “however you feel, he’s my guest, so please don’t boo him” – making sure that both the audience and the guest remained respectful of one another.
Colbert’s ability to speak in a mature tone and speak with his own voice (rather than that of the famously obstinate satirical character he portrayed on The Colbert Report) has afforded him the opportunity to press guests on important issues, as he did here with Senator Cruz, but also maintain a professional and open-minded atmosphere on his show. Though he may disagree with Sen. Cruz, Colbert’s arguments take the form of research and citations rather than plain expression of like or dislike, and he was able to keep this tone very successfully while hosting Sen. Cruz on his show.