THE BIG IDEA: Happy Labor Day, and welcome to a special edition of The Daily 202.
— Nine months after his Comedy Central show went off the air, Stephen Colbert’s new “Late Show” debuts on CBS tomorrow at 11:35 p.m. Eastern. Jeb Bush will be Colbert’s first guest in the remodeled Ed Sullivan Theater, signaling that Colbert plans to be a major force in humor about the 2016 presidential race even as he ditches the conservative character that catapulted him to stardom.
Colbert hit the press circuit hard in recent weeks. The result is dozens of positive pieces previewing his highly-anticipated move from cable to network television, including Time and GQ cover stories. Much of the coverage grapples with his attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience. Here are some telling nuggets:
- Colbert felt smothered by the need to act like “Stephen Colbert” during the final seasons of his old show: He got frustrated by constantly translating everything through his character’s faux ignorance. “My show was almost always an argument with someone who wasn’t there,” he told the New York Times. “I had to be karate-yes or karate-no. I couldn’t be karate-maybe on anything. … The story is either ‘transformative president’ or ‘subversive president,’ but that nails you in the same direction, emotionally. It’s always either attack or defense, but on one issue. Everything was channeled through the president.”
- But while he’s dropping the mask, he still plans to talk plenty about politics. “It’s combed into our DNA after the last 10 years,” he told TV critics. He got Mitt Romney to cut a promotional ad and lampooned Donald Trump in a viral video earlier this summer. “I’m not just a pundit – I’m a comedian,” he said in an interview with CBS “Sunday Morning.” “The goal is to have fun with my friends, and that means sometimes talking about things that you care about. We’re going to want to be talking about what’s going on in the world.” (Watch the 11-minute package here.)
- Colbert’s early guests suggest he will book lots of political types: Besides Jeb tomorrow, he has Joe Biden on Thursday, Justice Stephen Breyer next Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon next Thursday and then Bernie Sanders next Friday. He’s also got Tesla’s CEO, Uber’s CEO and Kevin Spacey from “House of Cards” in the first two weeks.
- CBS execs want Colbert to do political humor. It’s one of the reasons the network picked him, according to CBS President Leslie Moonves. It will differentiate him from others in the 11:30 timeslot just as 2016 is heating up. “Frankly, that’s not what Fallon or Kimmel does, particularly,” Moonves told Dave Itzkoff. Much of Colbert’s staff came with him from Comedy Central, including, importantly, most of the writers. There’s only a few holdovers from Letterman’s team, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes.
- Colbert’s emphasis might even prod the other late-night hosts to cover more politics. Jimmy Fallon has booked Trump for Friday night.
- But there’s risk in being too political. Jon Stewart went off the airwaves last month, and his South African replacement isn’t that interested in U.S. politics or mocking Fox News, leaving a real vacuum. But the Los Angeles Times notes “there is danger in being too highbrow — the equivalent of ‘Charlie Rose’ with more laughs — especially given that Colbert’s rivals have had a long time to establish themselves creatively and to find an audience.” Speaking to the paper, Robert Morton, a former Letterman executive producer, compared Colbert to Jack Paar, the “Tonight Show” host who interviewed the likes of Albert Schweitzer, Robert F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro.
Four other interesting themes emerged from the blizzard of Colbert coverage:
- The loss of Colbert’s father and two brothers in a plane crash, when he was 10, heavily shaped his worldview. “It’s built into me the way marble is built into a statue,” he said on Howard Stern’s show. “It’s kind of, at a certain age, what I was made of.”
- Colbert relishes taking his guests out of their comfort zone. He’s the opposite of most late-night hosts, who want everyone to have fun. “I just want to do things that scratch an itch for me,” he told GQ. “That itch is often something that feels wrong. It’s wrong because it breaks convention or is unexpected or at times uncomfortable. I like that feeling.” The central tension in his life, he added, is between being a “reasonably friendly, good-at-a-cocktail-party guy” and walking around the world feeling like he’s not quite a part of it: “I like to do things that are publicly embarrassing, to feel the embarrassment touch me and sink into me and then be gone.”
- He’s a devout Catholic who believes strongly in the principles of social justice. “Stephen is a practicing Catholic, but he is the kind who uses the Bible in the tradition of Matthew 25, to help the least among us,” comedian John Fugelsang said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” recalling when he testified for migrant workers before Congress in five years ago. “I do think you can look forward to seeing an underlying morality and love of humanity informing the outrage behind a lot of his sketches.” The New York Post focuses on Colbert’s two years teaching Sunday School at St. Cassian in Upper Montclair, N.J., from 2003 to 2005: He’d strum his guitar in class, stage games of Religious Jeopardy and brought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for everyone.
- And, finally, there’s the South-Carolina-boy-made-good angle. The Post and Courier, highlighting Colbert’s ties to the state with the first Southern primary, describes him as “the most successful celebrity to come out of Charleston in modern times — likely ever.” Colbert flew down this June after the church shooting left nine dead, walking with thousands of community members across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge during the Bridge to Peace Unity Chain. “Colbert also returned to Charleston in 2013 to campaign for his sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who ran for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat in a special election. She lost to Republican Mark Sanford. He’s supported many local causes, particularly education. Just this year, he donated $800,000 to fund nearly 1,000 projects at statewide schools.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— President Obama is poised to sign an executive order in Boston requiring federal contractors to offer employees up to seven paid sick days a year, a move that could benefit more than 300,000 workers. The announcement will come momentarily during a Labor Day speech in Boston, part of an effort to push Congress to approve legislation that would provide similar benefits for millions of private sector workers. “The president’s trip aims to highlight a Massachusetts law, approved by voters in November, that provides employees with up to 40 hours of sick leave per year,” David Nakamura reports. “An estimated 44 million private sector workers — about 40 percent of the workforce — do not have access to paid sick leave, according to the White House.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Pope Francis called on “every” parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to take in one refugee family — an appeal that, if honored, would offer shelter to tens of thousands. (Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum)
- It is not just Syrians any more. Germany’s welcome of refugees has encouraged and emboldened people in other violent and impoverished countries, namely Iraq, to try the perilous sea crossing to Greece. (Liz Sly reports from Turkey)
- Lawyers for Kentucky clerk Kim Davis have filed an appeal challenging a judge finding her in contempt for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. (Courier-Journal)
- In Las Vegas, a man is in custody after allegedly walking up to a police SUV as it sat at a stoplight and shooting at a pair of officers with a semi-automatic handgun. One of the officers was struck in the right hand but is expected to recover. (Review-Journal)
- “The Iraqi military has used the F-16 fighter jet in combat operations for the first time, more than a year after Iraqi officials began pressing Washington to deliver them to assist in the fight against Islamic State militants,” Dan Lamothe reports.
- Washington state’s charter school law, which narrowly passed in a 2012 referendum with financial support from Bill Gates, has been struck down as unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court.
- The U.S. Army has launched an investigation after an annual pillow fight among students at West Point led to injuries ranging from broken bones to concussions. Twenty-four cadets were diagnosed with concussions, and other injuries included a broken nose, a dislocated shoulder and a hairline fracture to the cheekbone of one of the concussed cadets, Army officials said in a statement. (Dan Lamothe)
- Hillary Clinton and her family personally paid a State Department staffer to maintain the private e-mail server she used while heading the agency, an unusual arrangement that allowed her to retain control. Republican lawmakers are now considering an offer of immunity to the IT staffer who declared his intention to plead the Fifth. (Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol D. Leonnig)
- Those five Chinese Naval vessels that approached Alaska during President Obama’s trip to the state last week came within 12 nautical miles of American soil. They were there for a joint Russian-Chinese military exercise.
- Jeb Bush’s campaign will spend $500,000 on ads in New Hampshire between Wednesday and the end of the month. The first spot will highlight his conservative record as governor of Florida. That’s in addition to the $11 million that the Bush super PAC plans to spend in the state from September through December.
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz choked up as she endorsed the Iran deal during an interview on CNN. She called it the most difficult decision she’s made in politics. “There’s nothing more important to me as a Jew than to ensure that Israel’s existence is there throughout our generations,” she said.
- Colin Powell also endorsed the deal on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” something welcomed by the White House after Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, came out against it Friday.
- Rep. Dave Loebsack, the only Democratic member of Iowa’s congressional delegation, will endorse Hillary at a Labor Day picnic today. (Quad-Cities Times)
- Mary Pawlenty, Tim’s wife and Minnesota’s former first lady, is weighing a run for the House seat opening up with John Kline’s retirement. (AP)
- Bernie Sanders joined a picket line in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, outside a plant that produces potato starches. The union is in a contract dispute with new owners, and the Vermont senator wants to highlight his ties to organized labor.
- Martin O’Malley called on the U.S. should accept at least 65,000 Syrian refufees next year.
- Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig announced that he’s definitely running for president on ABC’s “This Week,” hoping to draw attention to problems in the campaign finance system.
- Jeb will be in D.C. to see the Pope on Sept. 23. He and his wife plan to attend the mass at which Francis canonizes Junipero Serra, who founded the missions in California.
— “A hands-off Democratic race: Clinton, Sanders won’t speak ill of each other,” by Philip Rucker and John Wagner: NBC/Marist polling released yesterday showed Bernie Sanders leading Hillary by 9 points in New Hampshire (41-32) while Hillary leads by 11 points in Iowa (38-27). Neither mentions the other publicly. Here’s the calculus of each camp:
- Sanders has calculated that to beat Clinton, he must expand the electorate — and going negative will turn off too many potentially new voters.
- Clinton cannot afford to alienate impassioned Sanders supporters; should she win the Democratic nomination, she will need their votes and enthusiasm in the general election. Elevating him would help his fundraising and make her look panicked. Plus, Hillary’ surrogates can do the dirty work. If the race is still tight closer to the caucuses, she can always run blistering attack ads.
— “An American family saved their son from joining the Islamic State. Now he might go to prison,” by Adam Goldman: “Asher Abid Khan sat in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and considered his next move — forward to Syria and enlistment in the Islamic State, the militant group that had drawn him to the possibility of dying for Allah, or home to Texas and his bewildered family whose imploring messages were filling his voice mail…Hours later, without ever leaving the airport, Khan boarded a plane and flew home to this Houston suburb…Fifteen months later, in May 2015, the FBI charged Khan with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. Instead of life inside the caliphate, Khan, now faces up to 30 years in prison.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
In honor of Labor Day, we’re bringing you one big round-up of what candidates and lawmakers were up to this weekend:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “Jeb Bush, family ties and a museum that never materialized,” by Steve Eder: “When Jeb Bush set out to build a political base of his own in South Florida three decades ago, he did not lack for new friends. He was a magnet for a long line of Republicans eager to be associated with him and his powerful family, including a Cuban immigrant and former corrections officer named Tony Campos…But Mr. Campos’s interests in the family were not entirely innocent. Ultimately he would try to exploit those relationships, entangling Jeb Bush, by then the governor of Florida, in a case of misplaced trust and the theft of public funds.”
— Des Moines Register: “The labor vote is still lucrative in Iowa,” by Grant Rodgers: The “influence wielded by unions comes despite declines in the number of Iowa workers who belong to a union. In 1984, 17 percent of Iowa workers were union members compared with 10 percent in 2014, according to unionstats.com, a database maintained by two university professors…But even if enrollment is down, the messages organized labor has pushed about threats to working families and the middle class are resonating in the conversation in the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination, said Charlie Wishman, secretary/treasurer of the Iowa Federation of Labor. For instance, all of the Democratic candidates have championed a minimum wage increase in some form.”
— Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Walter Palmer speaks: Hunter who killed [Cecil the lion] will resume Bloomington dental practice Tuesday,” by Paul Walsh: “Palmer declined to address whether he would abide by any request, either informal or through extradition proceedings, to return to Zimbabwe to answer legal allegations. ‘I have a lot of staff members, and I’m a little heartbroken at the disruption in their lives,’ said the casually dressed Palmer, calm and all business, during the back and forth as attorney Joe Friedberg and a public relations consultant flanked him in what the dentist said would be his only media availability. ‘And I’m a health professional. I need to get back to my staff and my patients, and they want me back. That’s why I’m back’…Palmer added: ‘This has been especially hard on my wife and my daughter,’ he said…’They’ve been threatened in the social media, and again … I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all.’
— Los Angeles Times, “U.S. builds up Arctic spy network as Russia and China increase presence,” by Brian Bennett and W.J. Hennigan: “Over the last 14 months, most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently convened a “strategy board” to bring the analysts together to share their findings…The growing focus shows how the United States and other polar powers are adjusting as global warming opens new sea lanes and sets off a scramble for largely untapped reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals. The United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are pursuing jurisdiction over the Arctic seabed.”
— CNET, “‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s son said to have tweeted out his location,” by Chris Matyszczyk: “The head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known as “El Chapo” Guzman, is on the run after escaping in July through tunnels beneath the Mexican prison in which he was held. But where is he now? Costa Rica’s ICR News believes it may have a clue. It espied a tweet sent on August 31 from an account that claims to be Guzman’s son, 29-year-old Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar. The tweet included a picture of Guzman Jr. with what may have been his dad. The message roughly translated to: ‘Satisfied here, you already know with whom’…The location of the tweet was marked as “Costa Rica,” which could mean the country or the village of Costa Rica, Culiacan. This happens to be in Sinaloa, Mexico.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
Snowden attacks Russia rights curbs as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ From Agence France-Presse: “Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — who has been granted asylum by Russia — criticized the country’s crackdown on human rights and online freedom Saturday as ‘wrong … disappointing and frustrating.’ Snowden called Moscow’s restrictions on the web “a mistake in policy” and “fundamentally wrong” as he accepted a Norwegian freedom of expression prize by videophone from Russia. It’s wrong in Russia, and it would be wrong anywhere,’ said Snowden.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Fox News anchor sues Hasbro over toy hamster with her name. From the Associated Press: “An anchor for Fox News is suing Hasbro for more than $5 million over a toy hamster that shares her name — and possibly even her resemblance. Harris Faulkner sued Hasbro this week over its plastic Harris Faulkner hamster, sold as part of the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company’s popular Littlest Pet Shop line. She says the toy wrongfully appropriates her name and persona, harms her professional credibility as a journalist and is an insult.”
–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Hillary Clinton stops by labor events in Cedar Rapids, Hampton and Burlington, Iowa. In New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders campaigns in Manchester, Milford, Amherst and Concord; John Kasich attends a Labor Day parade in Salem; Scott Walker hits Twin Mountain, Conway, Sanbornville, Rochester and Salem as part of his motorcycle tour; and Lindsey Graham stops in Milford and Salem. In South Carolina, Marco Rubio attends a town hall meeting in North Charleston while Rick Santorum participates in the Chapin Labor Day Parade.
–On the Hill: Both chambers are in recess until tomorrow.
–At the White House: President Obama travels to Boston to deliver remarks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast. Vice President Biden speaks at the kickoff of the Allegheny County Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh, Pa.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “With the good Lord as my judge, I am undecided,” West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told a crowd during a two-hour town hall meeting to solicit constituent feedback on the Iran deal. “I was leaning towards it, but I am absolutely, truly undecided.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Today’s the unofficial last day of summer and it certainly has that summery feel. “After Sunday’s blissfully low humidity, some mugginess returns today as we bake under abundant sunshine. Tuesday and Wednesday stay sticky, their heat and humidity more characteristic of mid-July than September,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts.
— The Nationals beat the Braves 8-4 yesterday, sweeping the series with Atlanta.
— The Affordable Care Act isn’t all that affordable, continued…: In a Friday news dump from the state Insurance Commissioner, we learned that the price of the most popular health plans sold through Maryland’s insurance exchange will jump, on average, by about one quarter next year. “The 26 percent average increase in monthly premiums are for CareFirst plans, which cover three-fourths of the state residents who have bought insurance under the federal health-care law,” Amy Goldstein reports.
— Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring will NOT run for governor in 2017, opting instead to seek reelection. This paves the way for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam to become the Democratic nominee to succeed term-limited Terry McAuliffe.
— Loudoun County Supervisor Shawn M. Williams (R-Broad Run) resigned yesterday, hours after being charged with assaulting a neighbor in the latest in a string of legal run-ins for the politician. Williams, 44, was arrested after police said he pushed his way into a neighbor’s home around 1 a.m. He was charged with simple assault and unlawful entry, both misdemeanors. … Williams, who withdrew from this year’s race for board chairman after admitting a history of drunk driving and domestic disputes, was accused in one of those cases of brutally attacking his then-girlfriend.”
— Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, who lost a three-way primary for the Democratic nomination in June, announced that he will run a write-in campaign this fall in an effort to win a fifth term. (Patricia Sullivan)
— A damaged Pepco pipeline in Northwest Washington has spilled several thousand gallons of a ‘non-toxic’ mineral oil into Rock Creek Park, and authorities are likely to spend the next several weeks repairing the damage. “Pepco and the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment said that investigators discovered the leak last week, after detecting traces of the oil in Rock Creek. The Department warned pedestrians and pets to avoid the area until further notice.” (Abigail Hauslohner)
VIDEO OF THE DAY:
— Sarah Palin recommended herself for Energy secretary, but she also said she’d try to kill the department as quickly as possible:
— An anti-Nazi song that topped the German charts in the 1990s is back on top. “Cry for Love” is being recirculated as a statement of support for the refugees and against right-wing extremists. “Your violence is just a silent cry for love,” the song goes. Listen in the original Deutsch, with English subtitles, here.