It has been hard for comedians and commentators alike not to contrast George H.W. Bush with Donald Trump during tributes to the 41st president. Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost highlighted Bush’s ability to laugh at himself, The View’s Joy Behar noted his relatively strong environmental record.
And now Stephen Colbert has pointed out that unlike Trump, Bush knew what it meant to serve his country in war.
The Late Show host began his tribute Monday night by describing Bush as “the last president of the Greatest Generation,” and showed his viewers actual footage from 1944 in which he could be seen being rescued by the crew of a submarine after he was forced to bail out of his plane.
“The closest our current president has gotten to a submarine is a five-dollar footlong,” Colbert joked of Trump, who infamously dodged the Vietnam draft.
“Of course almost 50 years later, Bush did get back at Japan when he threw up in the lap of the Japanese prime minister,” Colbert added, recounting a story that made for great late-night TV fodder decades ago.
Characterizing Bush as a Republican who “wasn’t a bitter partisan,” the host ended the opening portion of his monologue by playing a clip from a 2009 Colbert Report special in Iraq in which the former president shared a message for the troops serving there. It was yet another example of his generous sense of humor, especially given the fact that Colbert had spent the past several years brutally roasting his son’s presidency night after night.
“Back in World War II, the USO used to send us great big stars like Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall and the Rockettes,” Bush said in the video. “I’m just saying, this Stephen Colbert guy better have great legs.”