David Letterman — who is promoting his involvement with National Geographic’s series Years of Living Dangerously — gave an interview with the NYTimes this week and the conversation turned to one of Letterman’s frequent guests: Donald Trump. The first exposure many of us — including myself — ever had to Donald Trump was through David Letterman’s interviews. They were often amazing segments, where Letterman would bring out Trump and highlight all of his dopiest qualities. Trump would play right into Letterman’s mockery, oblivious to the fact that he was being made fun of for being an entitled, wealthy, spoiled brat. “Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show,” Letterman said. “I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest.”
Letterman — as always — has a knack for reducing someone down to their essence, and in Donald Trump, he believes that the essence of Trump is what we saw when he made fun of a New York Times reporter with a congenital disorder.
So now, he decides he’s running for president. And right out of the box, he goes after immigrants and how they’re drug dealers and they’re rapists. And everybody swallows hard. And they think, oh, well, somebody’ll take him aside and say, “Don, don’t do that.” But it didn’t happen. And then, I can remember him doing an impression, behind a podium, of a reporter for The New York Times who has a congenital disorder. And then I thought, if this was somebody else — if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbor, a guy at work — you would immediately distance yourself from that person. And that’s what I thought would happen. Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologize, you’re a person to be shunned.
If Letterman were still around, I doubt Trump’s handlers would let him anywhere near The Late Show because when Letterman wanted to, he could be outright brutal. Given a chance to host Trump now, Letterman might have asked Trump the question that would’ve ended his campaign:
If I had a show, I would have gone right after him. I would have said something like, “Hey, nice to see you. Now, let me ask you: what gives you the right to make fun of a human who is less fortunate, physically, than you are?” And maybe that’s where it would have ended. Because I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription.
Take note, Anderson Cooper. That’s the question that Donald Trump needs to be asked at the debate.
Letterman, who says he’s proud to have had clips from one of his Late Show interviews appear in a Clinton ad, also doesn’t think that Trump will win the election.
I kept telling people he will absolutely not get elected. And then David Brooks said he’ll get the nomination and he will be crushed in the general election. And I thought: Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I stand by that. The thing about Trumpy was, I think people just were amused enough about him to keep him afloat in the polls, because nobody wanted the circus to pull up and leave town.
In related news: I really miss David Letterman.