Jon Stewart: ‘Nobody asked Donald Trump what makes America great’

While plenty of questions were raised about Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, Jon Stewart says there was at least one question that was never posed to the Republican nominee.

“Nobody asked Donald Trump what makes America great,” Stewart told Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday. “What are the metrics? Because it seems like from listening to him, the metrics are that it’s a competition. And I think what many would say is what makes us great is — America is an anomaly in the world.”

The former “Daily Show” host, who left the Comedy Central show last year, said Trump’s candidacy “has animated that thought: that a multiethnic democracy, a multicultural democracy is impossible. And that is what America by its founding, and constitutionally, is.”

Stewart, who made a few surprise appearances on stage and on television but was largely absent during 2016 election, said he “thought Donald Trump disqualified himself at numerous points” during the race. But the comedian also cautioned against painting Trump’s supporters with a broad brush.

“There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric,” Stewart said. “Like, there are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities who are not afraid of Mexicans, and not afraid of Muslims, and not afraid of blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums. In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are individuals, and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”

Trump, Stewart argued, isn’t even a Republican: He’s a “repudiation of Republicans.”

“Donald Trump is a reaction not just to Democrats, to Republicans,” he said. “They’re not draining the swamp. [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, those guys are the swamp. And what they decided to do was, ‘I’m going to make sure government doesn’t work and then I’m going to use its lack of working as evidence of it.”

“The ultimate irony of this election is the cynical strategy of the Republicans, which is: ‘Our position is government doesn’t work. We’re going to make sure… that it doesn’t work,’” Stewart continued. “But they will reap the benefit of his victory, in all of their cynicism. I will guarantee you Republicans are going to come to Jesus now about the power of government.”

Stewart also said the outrage over Trump’s appointment of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon — who has championed white nationalism — as his chief White House strategist is overwrought.

“You know, somebody was saying there might be an anti-Semite that’s working the White House,” he said. ‘And I was like, ‘Have you listened to the Nixon tapes?’ Like, forget about advising the president, the president.’”

At a standup benefit the week before the election, Stewart recalled his 2013 Twitter feud with Trump, who had called him a “phony” and suggested that Stewart — nee Jonathan Leibowitz — was ashamed of his Jewish heritage.

“Vote wisely in November,” Stewart joked.

On the eve of the election, Stewart joined former colleague Stephen Colbert to blast Trump on CBS’ “The Late Show.

“Are you kidding me?!” he said. “Are you serious? That angry tax-and-draft-dodging little orange groundhog is running for president?”

On Thursday, though, Stewart offered a glimmer of hope to those distraught over Trump’s election.

“I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago,” he said. “The same country with all its grace and flaws, and volatility and insecurity, and strength and resilience exists today as existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama. I feel badly for the people for whom this election will mean more uncertainly and insecurity. But I also feel like this fight has never been easy.”