Now a full week into Joe Biden’s presidency, late-night hosts dug into the troubled premise of Biden’s inaugural call for unity. “I can see why unity would be very appealing for people right now,” said Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. “But for unity to work, you have to agree on what unity is. And in Washington right now, they’re not even united on that.”
Noah turned to a litany of arguments from Republicans including Senators Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn, as well as the Fox News host Sean Hannity, that the president wasn’t committed to “unity”, because of the looming impeachment trial against Donald Trump for inciting an attack on the Capitol, or for repealing the former president’s ban on transgender service members in the military. “This is ridiculous – apparently Republicans think that unity means the Democrats have to act like Republicans? That’s not what unity means,” Noah said.
“Unity does not mean agreement. It does not mean doing whatever the other side wants. Unity means the state of being united,” he added, flipping through a massive dictionary. “And united means … unified. Unified means … to be, uh, the same thing. And same thing means …
“I’ll tell you this much,” he said. “Unity doesn’t mean you just do what the losers want. It definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t hold Trump accountable for what he did.”
On the Late Show, Stephen Colbert recapped Biden’s first phone call with Vladimir Putin, in which he pressed the Russian president on the Kremlin’s interference in American elections and reports that Russia offered bounties in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.
“Biden talking to Putin is huge news in many ways, the biggest of which is: we know about it,” Colbert explained. Trump, by contrast, hid all details of his phone calls with Putin and destroyed his translator’s notes. “Nothing suspicious about that,” Colbert deadpanned. “It’s just like a husband saying, ‘Honey, my corporate retreat was great and nothing happened with my assistant Jennifer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to deactivate my Instagram, burn my clothes, change my name, and get a shot of penicillin.’”
In other presidential transition news, Mike Pence is reportedly “homeless” after leaving the vice-presidential residence earlier this month. “That’s how all in Mike Pence was with his delusional boss,” Colbert said. “He was so devoted to the lie that they had beaten Biden that he made no plans whatsoever on where to live. That’s like the Titanic getting rid of its lifeboats to have more hall space to paint the word ‘unsinkable’.”
On Full Frontal, Samantha Bee took a clear-eyed survey of the immediate Covid future: a Biden presidency does not equal a rapid recovery. “It took a year of disgraceful mismanagement to get us into this mess,” she said, “so of course it will take more than a great speech, some beautiful poetry and a Bible the size of a mini-fridge.”
Bee recapped the failures of the Trump administration to even attempt a plan for vaccine distribution. “Despite having the coolest, fastest-sounding name a 12-year-old boy could think of, Trump’s Operation Warp Speed has been frustratingly slow with vaccine distribution,” with much of the burden falling to already-strained local health systems.
Only 2.8 million people received their first dose by the end of 2020, far short of the goal of 20 million; supply shortages have caused some states to cancel vaccination appointments, while unpredictable shipments from the federal government have led to thousands of spoiled doses sent to the garbage. “But on the plus side, our nation’s raccoons are now totally resistant to Covid,” Bee quipped.
“Look, it sucks that the Trump administration never cared enough to handle this crisis,” she concluded. “While some countries were working hard to bring new cases down to nearly zero, Trump was golfing, refusing to wear a mask and, let’s be honest, probably J-ing O.”
But “at least we have an administration that finally cares and has the ability to do something about this pandemic”, she added. “And that, my friends, is something worth J-ing O for.”
And on Late Night, Seth Meyers continued to blast Republicans for their resistance to Trump’s impeachment for inciting insurrection. The former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, for example, told Fox News there was “no basis” for impeachment. “They beat him up before he got into office, they’re beating him up after he leaves office – I mean, at some point, I mean, give the man a break,” she said.
“Yes, for once in his life, give this poor man a break,” Meyers replied sarcastically. “This poor man, who despite having bone spurs pulled himself up by his bootstraps. This man worked his way up – worked his way up! – from hardscrabble roots using just his hands. Cashed a million-dollar check from his father. Toiled long days in a dark casino and long nights inhaling wind song and glitter at Studio 54. He made it in business the hard way! By bravely cheating on his taxes and refusing to pay his contractors.
“Seriously, all Trump, his entire life, all he’s had are breaks,” Meyers added. “He’s famously the dumbest man alive. He has no discernible talents or skills. If Trump weren’t born rich, he’d be the old guy working at the bowling alley who gets busted for huffing shoe spray.
“It’s hard at this point to reach any conclusion other than that the Republican party is fine with what Trump did,” he concluded. After all, 45 Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday to dismiss the impeachment trial. “We just have to accept that the reason they don’t want to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection to overthrow democracy,” he added, “is they don’t care he incited an insurrection to overthrow democracy.”