Jon Stewart on Biden vs Trump

A useful insight from the former late night comic.

Clearing out my old tabs, this Daily Beast summary from a couple days ago (“Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Reveal Why Biden Is the Right Man to Lead America Past Trump“) was quite insightful:

Colbert asked Stewart to weigh in on the 2020 election. “Who are you liking this year, Biden or Trump?” he inquired. “Is it a coin toss at this point?” 

“It’s a toss-up, I’m going back and forth,” Stewart joked. When Colbert noted that 14 percent of voters in a recent New York Times poll just “aren’t sure yet,” Stewart dropped his head into his hands. 


As for the 2020 race, Stewart admitted, “Biden wasn’t my guy,” explaining that he was more in the Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren lane. “I’m not crazy about the ‘Uncle Joe’ character,” he said.

But while he doesn’t “like that shtick,” Stewart said, “I feel like that’s not the core of who that guy really is.” Given that the country is “in terrible anguish right now,” he said, “When I see Biden past the shtick, I see a guy who knows what loss is, who knows grief.” 

“That’s it,” Colbert chimed in.

“And I think that that kind of grief humbles you,” Stewart said, adding that it’s something he appreciates about Colbert as well. “There’s a humility to the randomness of tragedy that brings about a caring that can’t be faked. And it can’t be contrived.” 

“What I think in this moment this country needs is a leader of humility,” he continued. “That understands that he doesn’t understand, that understands the humanity of this experiment and the difficulty that it is in maintaining it, and that we have to connect with each other on a much deeper level without the bullshit. And it gives me hope that that can bring about—that maybe he is the man of the moment.”

“Trump doesn’t have that gear,” Stewart said. “He’s still in the mindset that COVID was created to stop him from a second term.”

“Right. It requires you to care about something other than yourself,” Colbert added. 

“So I’m not just making the negative case for Biden anymore,” Stewart said. “It’s not just, ‘Well, we gotta get rid of that fucking guy.’ I actually believe something in his life experience can benefit this country at a moment where it desperately needs it.” 

I think that’s it. Trump is a sociopath. He has no moral compass because, fundamentally, the only person he truly cares about is himself. Biden has twice suffered unspeakable tragedy—a car crash that took his first wife and daughter as a young man and, more recently, the loss of the son who was following in his footsteps to cancer—and emerged as a more decent human being.

The full video is below:

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The utter lack of empathy from Trump is truly remarkable.

    Whether it is on the Covid-19 pandemic or the racial unrest issue. He is utterly worthless in his role as head of state in those areas (not to mentions a failure as head of government).

  2. JohnMcC says:

    How interesting to see a recommendation for ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’ for national leadership.

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I don’t know enough about Biden to weigh in on Stewart’s characterization of him. But I do trust John Stewart in this way.

    I appreciated his remarks too, about bringing the whole country together in a deeper way. I don’t know a lot about how to go about it, but it seems very important to me, and other friends I’ve spoken to lately. We are so damaged by the rift in our country, and every day Trump is making it worse.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Years ago, I worked for clinical psychologist whose Ph.D dissertation was on the MMPI, a personality index. Looking through some information on the index in the office, I noticed that successful business people were often more than a standard deviation above the general populace on the sociopathic scale. So asked him about that and his quick explanation was that business people were w/in the normal range for empathy and honesty, while those who we identify as sociopaths, have deficits on those scales exceeding a standard deviation.

    So what we should be asking ourselves about Trump, is why he isn’t a full blown mobster rather than a grifter?

  5. flat earth luddite says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Trump’s a grifter because it’s ultimately easier than being a mob boss, and he’s inherently lazy and has an immeasurably short attention span. As a mobster, he would have been buried in a landfill in the second week.

  6. CSK says:

    @flat earth luddite:
    It’d impossible for me to visualize Trump making his bones.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: trump would send his lawyer to make his bones for him.

  8. Jax says:

    “I am a man…of constant sorrow….”

    The link is waaaay more fitting than I thought, now that I look at it.

  9. Kylopod says:

    I have long felt one of the more underrated moments from the 2008 vp debate was when Biden began tearing up when talking about the death of his wife and daughter and having to raise a child as a single parent. It was a very human moment that contrasted sharply with the robotic-sounding Sarah Palin. I also felt it was a missed opportunity for Palin, who could have offered sympathy or condolences, but she was just too wrapped up in her own world to notice.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    @Jax: Sawyer Fredericks sang that as his blind audition piece on The Voice. Four instant chair turns, and he eventually won (and deserved to win). I grew up listening to the Peter, Paul, and Mary version — which was pretty good in a very different way.