Stephen Colbert got right to the tough questions in an interview with former President Bill Clinton, conducted last week during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in St. Louis and broadcast in three parts last night on The Colbert Report.
"Can I call you Billy Jeff?" Colbert asked the 43rd president, who responded, "Once a president leaves office, you can call him anything you like."
Next, Colbert wanted to know, "Why help other other people?"
Clinton appealed to the host's love of self-interest in his answer. "I want to leave my daughter and the grandchildren I hope to have and all these young people a better world," Clinton said. "I think the reason we should do things for other people at bottom is selfish, and there's no real difference between selfish and selfless if you understand how the world works. We're all tied together."
After a commercial break, Colbert told Clinton that he's curious why the former president feels a responsiblity to help others. Because he listens to a lot of right-wing radio, Colbert said, he knows that "there's nothing that you or Mrs. Clinton do that has not got some angle, you're both always hungry for power. What's the grift here?"
Clinton responded, "It makes me happy. I do it because after the life I've been given by the American people, I'd be kind of a slug if I didn't do it. I should do it."
In the last segment, Clinton cracked up when Colbert told him he had signed the former president up for a Twitter account under the name @PrezBillyJeff, and gamely dictated his first-ever tweet to the host: "Just spent amazing time with Colbert! Is he sane? He is cool! #cgiu."