Jimmy Kimmel started his week by hosting the craziest Oscars in history. He ended it by hosting former President George W. Bush, in his first late-night interview since he sat down with Jay Leno in 2013.
Kimmel’s first question for Bush? “When your Vice President Dick Cheney, when he shot that guy in the face, how did he tell you? Did he call you? Did he come in and close the door? How did that go down?”
“What really irritated me about that, he shot the only trial lawyer for me in Texas,” Bush joked, adding that it was an “unusual period” in his presidency. “Every time Cheney would come in, a lot of people would yell ‘Duck!’” he revealed.
This was the week Bush, who’s promoting a new book of paintings titled Portraits of Courage, finally broke his silence on Donald Trump. The 43rd president of the United States went eight years without criticizing his successor, President Barack Obama, but it only took him about four weeks to start condemning President Trump.
Earlier this week, Bush rebuked Trump’s attacks on a free press by telling the Today show’s Matt Lauer, “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” adding, “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”
Bush went even further in an interview with People magazine, saying of Trump’s first month in office, “I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated.”
Kimmel cracked Bush up by suggesting that maybe his father, former President George H.W. Bush was “faking” his illness a little bit so that he didn’t have to go to Trump’s inauguration. Bush the younger would neither confirm nor deny, simply saying of Kimmel, “He’s a funny man.”
“Want to hear something terrible?” Bush asked later when Kimmel brought up Will Ferrell’s famous impression of him on Saturday Night Live. He told Kimmel that he recently had dinner with Lorne Michaels, who claimed that one of his writers came up with the term “strategery.” Proving just how far the lines have blurred between parody and reality, Bush insisted that he was the one who first said that word, along with “misunderestimate.”
Bush said he enjoyed the annual White House Correspondents Dinner as well, telling Kimmel, “I love humor, and the best humor is when you make fun of yourself.”
“Tell that to the president,” Kimmel replied, making Bush laugh. “He doesn’t think so.” Unlike President Trump, Bush said he did not watch much television while he was in the White House. Not only did it not interest him, but he simply didn’t have time. “You’ve got a lot to do, you’re busy,” he said of the job.
Later, Kimmel asked Bush about his experience at the inauguration. “Were you jealous of the size of the crowds at Trump’s inauguration?” he asked, jokingly—but beyond that, he never pushed his guest to weigh in on the new president in any serious way. Instead, he simply gave Bush a chance make fun of himself for struggling to put his poncho on when it started to rain before Trump started to speak and then to show off his art skills for a good cause.
In a way, it was a missed opportunity. A former president speaking out against the current one can send a powerful message. But at the same time, Kimmel, who debuted his first “Trump-Free Tuesday” this week, made a choice not to let 45 dominate his interview with 43.