09/29/2015 archive

Zombie TPP

A short notice meeting has started in Atlanta to attempt to resolve the disputes that caused the Maui talks to collapse in acrimony.

There is a great deal to be concerned about, not only the terrible provisions that seem to be settled and the rumored sausage making sellouts, but the fierce urgency of Obama and his Administration to conclude a deal that is good only for multi-national mega corporations (and only the specially influential like Banksters and Big Pharma) and Billionaire Plutocrats of no particular allegiance (Global Citizens don’t you know) BEFORE the 2016 Elections heat up and Representatives and Senators (and Presidential Candidates) have to start worrying that voters, regardless of their long term memory deficiencies, will hold this shameless and despicable theft of prosperity and sovereignty against them at the polls, costing them their Phony Baloney jobs.

Personally I think the sticking points are a little too… well, sticky, and that this round will dissolve in a similar discordant futility.  Others are not as sanguine but our old buddy dday argues that it is already too late for Obama and the reason may surprise you.

The unexpected upshot of John Boehner’s ouster: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is in danger

David Dayen, Salon

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2015 05:57 AM EST

(E)ven if negotiators work out a tentative agreement this week, the biggest announcement on TPP may have already happened. That would be last Friday’s resignation of House Speaker John Boehner.

Trade promotion authority, which allows the president to negotiate trade agreements and bring them to Congress for an expedited vote, barely passed the House earlier this year. Fifty-four Republicans voted against it, among them practically all the ringleaders of the campaign against Boehner – like Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who took the leadership role in ousting him; David Brat, the man who upset Eric Cantor and took his House seat; Jim Jordan, chairman of the anti-Boehner House Freedom Caucus; and 23 members of that caucus in all.

Obviously, those who spurred the Boehner revolt are emboldened by their apparent victory. In the short term this will not bear fruit. Boehner has vowed to use his final month to prevent a government shutdown and defuse other potential crises. He could reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, pass highway spending, and even raise the debt ceiling. “I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets here,” Boehner said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

But the peculiarities of trade promotion authority make it impossible for Boehner to be in the speaker’s office when TPP comes up for a vote. Under the law, even if trade officials announce an agreement today, they must provide notification to Congress, wait 30 days, and then post the deal’s text on a public website for an additional 60 days before signing. Then there’s another 30 to 60 days where the administration must submit the final legal text and describe what changes to U.S. law must be put into implementing legislation. Only after that does the congressional process start.

What this all means is that an agreement announced at the end of the ministerial meetings could not reach Congress until Feb. 1, 2016, at the very earliest. Trade expert Lori Wallach of Public Citizen puts the earliest possible date at Feb. 15. And these are based on very accelerated timelines that assume no slip-ups or delays when the legal text gets scrubbed.

Wallach correctly calls this “the most politically perilous moment in U.S. politics.” Feb. 1 is the current scheduled date of the Iowa caucuses. And rank-and-file House Republicans would have to vote on TPP around the same time that potential challengers can raise the issue in their 2016 primaries.

Without a liberated John Boehner around to partner with Democrats, the task of shepherding through a trade agreement disliked by conservatives becomes difficult. After a potential blitz of legislation in October, right-wing House members will be frustrated and eager to flex their muscle. The new leadership – presumed Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his team – will have to look over their shoulders, mindful of exactly what happened to Boehner and what can happen to them if they get tangled in an issue opposed by the base. And the same right-wingers animated by Boehner’s perceived slights are also animated against TPP.

Given all these forces, how exactly will the House muster the votes necessary to pass TPP, after the text has been available (and demagogue-able) for months? What House Republican will vote to give Obama a long-sought victory, after seeing the outcome of the House speaker who committed the offense of merely not wanting to embark on a futile fight over defunding Planned Parenthood? And while a few corporate Democrats have joined with Obama to support TPP, how many would McCarthy need – and could he even try to get them, given the power of the naysayers to his right?

Maybe if there weren’t a clear example of what happens to GOP leaders who are seen as betraying the base, Republican elites could fend off resistance to TPP. That seems remote now given the Boehner outcome. Renegade conservatives, with positive feedback from the presidential campaign at their back, could simply make it impossible for TPP to pass.

We don’t even know if the meetings in Atlanta can produce a deal, given all the deadlocks and unresolved provisions between the nations involved. But even if there’s a big announcement this week, don’t get ahead of yourself, because the administration won’t have John Boehner in their corner to help them this time.

Elizabeth Warren Said What We Needed To Hear

In an address at Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, established by her late predecessor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got to the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and what everyone should be doing to end racial inequality.

Transcript for the speech as it was written can be read here

True Lies- Only 10% More Racist than Faux Noise

Oh and by the way, the misogyny with which the two Arnolds (Schwarzenegger and Tom) treat Jamie Lee Curtis make this film unwatchable for me.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: Janet Yellen Shows the Need for a 4 Percent Unemployment Target

In a speech last week, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen inadvertently told us why Congress should set a 4 percent unemployment target for the Fed in its conduct of monetary policy, as is proposed in a new bill put forward by Michigan Representative John Conyers. The context was Yellen’s dismissal of such a target. [..]

The 4.0 percent target was not pulled out of the air. The United States, in fact, had a 4.0 percent unemployment rate as a year-round average in 2000, following two and a half years in which the unemployment rate was less than 5.0 percent. There is little evidence of any increase in the inflation rate as a result of this prolonged period of low unemployment. The increase in bargaining power from a strong labor market did allow tens of millions of workers at the middle and the bottom of the wage ladder to achieve strong gains for the only time in the last 40 years.

This is why low unemployment matters so much. It is not just about getting people jobs, as important as that is. It is also about allowing tens of millions to be able to share in the benefits of economic growth.

David Dayen: John Boehner’s ouster: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is in danger

We have heard so little about the Trans-Pacific Partnership over the past couple of months that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Obama administration simply abandoned it. But tomorrow, representatives from the 12 TPP nations assemble in Atlanta for a two-day meeting designed to produce a final agreement.

Previous “final” talks in Maui revealed multiple hurdles, from dairy markets to auto parts manufacturing to the length of prescription drug patents. But this Atlanta meeting was abruptly put together, suggesting progress on the sidelines. While nobody thought TPP could conclude before Canada’s parliamentary campaign ends Oct. 19, the New Zealand prime minister said Canada is “negotiating as if there’s no election.”

But even if negotiators work out a tentative agreement this week, the biggest announcement on TPP may have already happened. That would be last Friday’s resignation of House Speaker John Boehner.

John Nichols: On Climate Change, Listen to Pope Francis, Not Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush may not be very good at running for president. But he has a remarkable talent for wedging his foot in his mouth.

The former front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination-who struggles to get above single digits in the polls-has frequently played the fool on the 2016 campaign trail.

But he will have a hard time topping his argument against accepting Pope Francis’ counsel on the need to fight climate change. After the pontiff urged members of Congress to engage with the rest of the world in “courageous actions and strategies” to combat global warming, Bush declared that the pope’s call should be disregarded.

Why? Because, Bush announced, “He’s not a scientist, he’s a religious leader.”

Bush, who is Catholic and who has attended mass with Pope Francis, needs to study up on the pontiff’s background in science. And on the rigorous research that underpins the pope’s advocacy on climate-change issues.

David Swanson: Bernie Sanders Gets a Foreign Policy

After 25,000 people asked, Senator Bernie Sanders added a few words to his presidential campaign website about the 96% of humanity he’d been ignoring.

He did not, as his spoken comments heretofore might have suggested, make this statement entirely or at all about fraud and waste in the military. He did not even mention Saudi Arabia, much less declare that it should “take the lead” or “get its hands dirty” as he had been doing in interviews, even as Saudi Arabia bombs Yemeni families with U.S. cluster bombs. While he mentioned veterans and called them brave, he also did not turn the focus of his statement toward glorification of troops, as he very well might have.

All that to the good, the statement does lack some key ingredients. Should the United States be spending a trillion dollars a year and over half of discretionary spending on militarism? Should it cut that by 50%, increase it by 30%, trim it by 3%?  [..]

And which of today’s battles would Sanders like to end? Drones are not mentioned. Special forces are not mentioned. Foreign bases are not mentioned. The only hint he gives about future action in Iraq or Syria suggests that he would continue to use the military to make things worse while simultaneously trying other approaches to make things better:

E. J. Dionne: John Boehner’s Impossible Task

John Boehner was a deal-maker who took over the House speakership at a moment when making deals had, for many Republicans, become a mortal sin.

He was thoroughly conservative in a Republican Party that had moved the goal posts on what constituted conservatism. He could never be conservative enough for his critics on the right.

His tea party antagonists call themselves “constitutionalists,” but they seem to ignore the part of the Constitution that provides the president-in this case, a president from the other party-with veto power.

The GOP’s most ardent conservatives thought they had won the right to run the country when they took control of the House in 2010. They felt this even more strongly after gaining a Senate majority in 2014. Democrats who controlled one or both houses of Congress when Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were in the Oval Office never presumed they had such power. But the standards Boehner was held to were more exacting.

Eugene Robinson: Carly Fiorina Is Too Mad to See Straight

How angry is Carly Fiorina? So angry she can’t see straight. That’s the only explanation for the yawning gulf between what she says and the plainly visible facts.

Fiorina stands out among the Republican presidential candidates not just because she is a woman but also because she has adopted a strategy of breathing fire. She presents herself as mad about everything, and she never gives an inch on anything she says, no matter how demonstrably untrue. Unhappily for our democracy, this approach has vaulted her into the upper tier of the multitudinous GOP field. [..]

Is she really, truly so filled with rage? Probably not. When she ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in 2010, she was a moderate, pro-business Republican. That erstwhile profile would get her nowhere in this year’s presidential race, however, when everyone is scrambling to get to the right of everyone else and “moderate” is a dirty word.

One has to wonder if the showy posture of ultraconservative anger isn’t the biggest lie of all.

The Breakfast Club (Cosette)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Germany annexes Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region; America returns to manned spaceflight for the first time since the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster; Pope John Paul the First is found dead.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.

Albert Schweitzer

On This Day In History September 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 29 is the 272nd day of the year (273rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 93 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is born this day near Madrid.

Cervantes led an adventurous life and achieved much popular success, but he nevertheless struggled financially throughout his life. Little is know about his childhood, except that he was a favorite student of Madrid humanist Juan Lopez, and that his father was an apothecary.

In 1569, Cervantes was living in Rome and working for a future cardinal. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the Spanish fleet to fight against the Turks. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he took three bullets and suffered permanent damage to his left hand. Later, he was stationed at Palermo and Naples. On the way home to Madrid in 1575, he and his brother Roderigo were captured by Barbary pirates and held captive in Algiers. Cervantes was ransomed after five years of captivity and returned to Madrid, where he began writing. Although his records indicate he wrote 20 to 30 plays, only two survive. In 1585, he published a romance. During this time, he married a woman 18 years younger than he was and had an illegitimate daughter, whom he raised in his household. He worked as a tax collector and as a requisitioner of supplies for the navy, but was jailed for irregularities in his accounting. Some historians believe he formulated the idea for Don Quixote while in jail.

In 1604, he received the license to publish Don Quixote. Although the book began as a satire of chivalric epics, it was far more complex than a simple satire. The book blended traditional genres to create a sad portrait of a penniless man striving to live by the ideals of the past. The book was a huge success and brought Cervantes literary respect and position, but did not generate much money. He wrote dramas and short stories until a phony sequel, penned by another writer, prompted him to write Don Quixote, Part II in 1615.

Cervantes died in Madrid on April 23, 1616. In honor of the date on which both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died, UNESCO established April 23 as the International Day of the Book. (Shakespeare and Cervantes, however, did not actually die on the same day, as the April 23 date for Shakespeare is Julian calendar (Old Style) and the April 23 date for Cervantes is Gregorian calendar (New Style) as those were the calendars in effect in England and in Spain, respectively, at that time. The Gregorian calendar was then ten days ahead of the Julian.)  

The Daily Late Nightly Show (Opening Night)

The New Kid

Overture, curtains, lights,

This is it, the night of nights

No more rehearsing and nursing a part

We know every part by heart

Overture, curtains, lights

This is it, you’ll hit the heights

And oh what heights we’ll hit

On with the show this is it

Tonight what heights we’ll hit

On with the show this is it

I’m prepared to give Trevor the benefit of the doubt, I really am.  I don’t expect the old Daily Show and I very clearly remember how flawed it was.  Firebreathing liberal my ass.

The New York Times sent a reporter to the final rehersal show last Thursday-

This new “Daily Show” will be a substantially different program, based simply on the man now sitting in its anchor’s chair.

And yet, to gauge from this taping and the preparations that preceded it, “The Daily Show” has hardly changed at all. It features a new set, subtracting the familiar globe that hung over Mr. Stewart’s head while adding an elegant, expansive desk.

There is still an opening act in which Mr. Noah lampoons the events of the day (in Thursday’s case, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States); in-studio and field segments featuring “Daily Show” correspondents; and interviews with cultural and political figures, like the test evening’s guest, the CNN host Fareed Zakaria.

Even the familiar opening theme, composed by the rock musician Bob Mould, is sticking around for the time being.

But the program’s success or failure rests largely on the comedic chops of a performer who, despite his international reputation, is still learning how to fine-tune his act for an American audience.

As Mr. Noah explained at Thursday’s show, his goal is to optimize his jokes so that “no matter where you are, they cross borders, like Syrian refugees – and then get them accepted in more places than Syrian refugees.”

Mr. Noah was more assertive in a later, smaller meeting with his executive producers as they reviewed scripts for the test program.

He wanted to reshape a segment in which he and the correspondent Jordan Klepper discussed the pope’s travels in America, to emphasize that this news was overshadowing the also momentous visit to the United States by President Xi Jinping of China.

“We’re commenting on the fact that everyone is only covering the pope,” Mr. Noah explained. “Everyone’s going mad over the pope. What I found interesting is the fact that the Chinese president is there, and no one’s talking about it.”

Steve Bodow, a longtime executive producer for “The Daily Show,” agreed with Mr. Noah’s point. “The pope is the Donald Trump of international relations,” he joked.

(H)e scored a few laughs in what could have been an airless interview with Mr. Zakaria, who has appeared on “The Daily Show” 19 times.

“Yes or no,” Mr. Noah asked, “do you think Bernie Sanders stands a chance?”

Mr. Zakaria started to give a verbose reply when Mr. Noah cheekily interrupted him. “It was a one-word answer,” he said to laughter.

There will be noticable changes not all of which are going to make people happy-

(W)hen it comes to lampooning the media, it’s likely that we’ll see Noah move away from the cable news cycle that Stewart so loved to target. At a recent TCA panel, Noah explained that, while “The Daily Show” was in part a response to the “emerging 24 hour news cycle,” the media landscape is very different now.

“Half of it is online now,” he explained. “Now you’ve got the Gawkers, the BuzzFeeds. The way people are drawing their news is soundbites and headlines and click-bait links has changed everything. The biggest challenge is going to be an exciting one I’m sure is how are we going to bring all of that together looking at it from a bigger lens as opposed to just going after one source-which was historically Fox News.”

Not only will online media outlets serve as fodder, but they will also be intrinsic to the show’s growth. Recently we learned that Noah had hired a separate online team, headed by comic Baratunde Thurston, to lead production of original online content that will run in tandem with the show. And as late night shows increasingly compete for clicks and YouTube views as much as they do for Nielsen ratings, and given Noah’s remarks about wanting to pivot more to focus on online media, its safe to say that Noah’s “Daily Show” will be a much more digital-friendly, multi-platform experience than its predecessor.

If Noah’s stand-up routines are any indication, we can expect race to be one of the primary lenses he looks through in order to help make sense of the world around him.

“America is the one place in the world where I just innately understood what was happening because South Africa and the United States of America have a very similar history,” Noah told journalists on Friday, when asked about coming to terms with racial politics in the U.S. “It’s different timelines, but the directions we’ve taken and the consequences – dealing with the aftermath of what we consider to be democracy, and realizing that freedom is just the beginning of the conversation, that’s something I’ve learned. I’m not now trying to understand what segregation or institutionalized racism is.”

At Friday’s press preview, Noah repeatedly made reference to his outsider’s point of view, suggesting that his fresh perspective on U.S. politics and culture would be contrasted with the writing staff’s more seasoned views.

“For the writers, they’ve got a history with all of these people,” Noah explained of watching the Republican debates with his staff. “I’m watching the debate and someone says something about something one of the politicians did 10, 15 years ago, and they’re like ‘that’s like the time that happened.’ And I’m the person going ‘why is that funny? Who is that person? What is important about that?'”

Some people think it’s a good thing

Trevor Noah is under a lot of pressure. On Monday night, the 31-year-old South African comedian takes over the Daily Show from one of the most beloved late night show hosts of the last decade, Jon Stewart. It’s a tough act to follow.

Unlike Stephen Colbert, who was encouraged to bring a fresh sensibility to the tired Late Show when he took over from David Letterman earlier this month, Noah will have to walk the very difficult line of figuring out what bits of the Daily Show to leave unaltered – so that he doesn’t alienate its very loyal audience – and what to change.

Yes there is a solid foundation at the Daily Show, but Noah shouldn’t stick too closely to Stewart’s script. If he’s going to make the show his own, he needs to experiment. One thing we already know he’s going to do differently is make music a bigger part of the show (although apparently the theme song is staying the same). But he should also introduce new segments, new sketches and probably consider cutting the Moment of Zen because it’s so quintessentially Stewart.

No matter how good Noah is, there are going to be some fans who abandon the show now that Stewart is no longer shepherding it. But that shouldn’t be a hindrance to his success. Noah should see it as an opportunity to attract a new range of viewers – ones that might have found Stewart’s forthright comedy alienating – and bring them in.

That was from The Guardian, which I’ll note squealed like a pig on Corbyn just like the rest of Fleet Street.  “Ones that might have found Stewart’s forthright comedy alienating”?!  Oh, you mean Republican corporatist bigots?  Get me some of that ignorant, racist, authoritarian, Dominionist demographic so highly prized by multi-nationals and your local assault weapon emporium.

Yet I don’t think I am ready to give up on Trevor before we see what he does.

While there is much reason to hope that Noah will bring a fresh perspective, it would be a mistake to miss the very real ways that Noah’s leadership is likely to significantly change the show.  Even though Comedy Central has pushed a few promos that suggest the show will be the same, but different, it’s more likely to be mostly different and a little the same.

Noah himself has been one of the first to point out that Stewart and he come from vastly different perspectives.  He’s reminded interviewers that he is a 31-year-old half-black, half-white South African man who arrived in the United States in 2011 and Stewart is a 52-year-old Jewish man who grew up in New Jersey: “The way we look at the same story will be completely different,” he said. “We have different access to different jokes, different sides, different sensitivities … the most important thing is the place that you come from.”

Stewart and Noah are not the same sort of comedians. Stewart’s brand was self-deprecating, while Noah’s posture is cocky.  Stewart’s main angle was satire of media and politics; Noah has a history of mocking fat chicks and African Americans.  While Noah has since distanced himself from that sort of humor, and while he may well mature in terms of his comedy, it’s important to consider the fact that he comes into this job with virtually no history of political humor.

Stewart constantly targeted Fox News, a staple of “The Daily Show” that Noah has specifically said will now be absent.  Noah points to the shifting news media landscape that includes Gawker and Buzzfeed as new territory he will now mine. But let’s face it, Gawker and Buzzfeed are not the source of our nation’s problems the way that Fox News is.

Fox News commands a massive and loyal following that laps up their endless lies and misrepresentations.  They are a major player in creating the Republican extremism that depends on a politics of fear, hate, and delusion. In fact, Gawker and Buzzfeed could be considered helpful correctives to Fox News, so it is hard to see what sort of productive comedic angle Noah will pursue by covering them.  If Noah had said he planned to target Breitbart, The Blaze, NewsBusters or any of the other on-line Fox News-friendly media sources, then we might have been encouraged that he was opening the field but staying true to the concept.  But clearly that’s not the case.

When Stewart wasn’t targeting the disinformation machine that is Fox News, he was going after politicians.  Noah, in contrast, has made a joke of his confusion over the U.S. political process.  When he interviews Chris Christie later this week, we will get our first real glimpse of how he plans to address U.S. politics, but thus far his jokes have mostly been confined to his not understanding the U.S. system.

He still has “The Best F#@king News Team Ever.” While there will be three new additions to the team, many familiar faces will still be there, including Jordan Klepper, Hasan Minhaj, Jessica Williams, Lewis Black, John Hodgman, Al Madrigal, Aasif Mandvi and Kristen Schaal.  The team is likely to give Noah a lot of support in his new post-and the fact that they have appeared in a number of the promos suggests that Comedy Central is trying to reassure fans by reinforcing that fact.

A global, millennial angle on political satire would be a welcome move for a show that redefined the intersections between politics and entertainment.  It’s worth remembering that Stewart himself started out slow, as he moved “The Daily Show” away from the frivolous comedy that was common under host Craig Kilborn.  All signs suggest, though, that Noah may well be more like a combination of Kilborn and Fallon since we have yet to see him offer us comedy that is even a distant cousin to Stewart’s satire.  We can remain hopeful that he will indeed adapt into his new role and that we have not lost all of the political punch of Stewart’s legacy. But as Noah has said, “Just the mere fact that I’m gonna be there in the chair changes a whole bunch of the show, you know?”  Tonight’s debut will give us a glimpse into just how much.

It’s taken Larry about 6 months to work out the kinks.  I’ll try to give Trevor at least that long unless he’s really, really bad.

Tonight’s guest is Kevin Hart.  The rest of the week looks like this-

The New Continuity

Tonightly the panel is Deray McKesson, Rory Albanese, and Mike Yard.

The dancing man

Peter Dreier, Salon

In his first three weeks as “Late Night” host, Colbert has had more serious guests (and more serious conversation) than Jimmy Fallon has had in the 19 months he’s hosted NBC’s “The Tonight Show” and the 12 years that Jimmy Kimmel has had his ABC nightly talk show.

But, in Colbert’s case, “serious” doesn’t mean dull. When he moved from Comedy Central, he didn’t leave his provocative political bite behind. Rather than play a character who parodies bombastic right-wing buffoon Bill O’Reilly (his previous incarnation), Colbert is now himself – a thoughtful, well-informed, religious, nice and clearly progressive individual with a sharp sense of humor. He can be sarcastic without being snarky, because his concern about the state of the world is a passion, not a pose. It’s his mix of talents, and the combination of entertainment and education, that allows the show to appeal to a broad audience and makes it more than a late-night version of “Meet the Press.” Colbert has done little to change the standard talk show format – the desk, the guests, the band – except that Colbert does his opening monologue sitting down.

In addition to some great musical guests (including Paul Simon and Pearl Jam), and a mix of interesting (Stephen Curry, Amy Schumer) and dull (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson) interviews with sports and showbiz folks, he’s asked telling, insightful questions to a variety of public figures that give the show an air of gravitas (Colbert likes to display his knowledge of Latin) that other talk shows lack.

Although Hillary Clinton apparently turned town an offer to appear on the show, Colbert has already interviewed presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Colbert’s conversation with Vice President Joe Biden – which focused on their shared experience of losing family members to early and unexpected death – was a remarkably heartfelt and intense moment. As with his interview with an upbeat Sen. Elizabeth Warren (“the game is rigged”), you could sense Colbert’s not-too-subtle effort to convince Biden to run for president.

His interview Friday night with 18-year old Nobel Prize-winning activist and author Malala Yousafzai was amazing. Although she was on the show in part to plug the new documentary “He Named Me Malala,” she captivated the audience with her discussion of her efforts to get the U.N. and world leaders to invest in education for young girls, her confrontation with the Taliban, and her willingness to forgive her attackers. Her radiant sense of humor and her ability to perform a clever card trick were unexpected bonuses.

Colbert also interviewed Global Poverty Project founder Hugh Evans and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon about the world’s income inequality. This is clearly an issue close to Colbert’s heart. He co-hosted the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday.

Unlike most talk show hosts, Colbert did haven’t to rely entirely on his notes to ask Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about his plans to make outer space a tourist destination. Musk told Colbert that Mars is a “fixer-upper of a planet.”

Colbert is still getting into his groove. When Donald Trump refused to say whether he thought Obama was born in the United States, Colbert let him off the hook too easily. The interviews with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, novelist Stephen King, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick lacked the drama and spirit of his other exchanges.

Tonight we have Michelle Obama, Mindy Kaling, and John Legend.

This Week’s Guests