Thursday night, just three days into his Late Show career, Stephen Colbert landed the biggest fish of his short tenure: Vice President Joe Biden, who easily beat out Jeb Bush for best Colbert guest with the initials "JB." The interview got understandably serious at points — his son Beau passed away from brain cancer at the age of 46 in May, and Biden's reportedly been weighing his own emotional strength into his potential 2016 plans. And one moment really stood out: Here's Joe Biden's most moving moment with Stephen Colbert.
It happened early on in the interview, after Colbert warmed up with a question about how Biden's stayed in touch with his true self throughout his career. Immediately afterwards, Colbert observed that he thought people were inspired by Biden's perseverance through tragedy, and offered his condolences for Beau's death. Biden was visibly emotional, his breath drawing short just before he replied, and he related a lesson his father imparted when he was a child.
My dad had an expression, he used to say you know your success as a parent when you look at your child, and you know they're better than you. ... My son was better than me, he was better than me in every way.
Biden went on to describe, in heartrending detail, the impact that a childhood car accident had on young Beau. It was the same accident that claimed the lives of Biden's daughter Naomi, and his first wife, Neilia. Remembering how he used to have to carry the injured young Beau by a hook on his back because of all his casts, Biden recalled young Beau telling him and Biden's younger son, Hunter, "I love you, I love you," just as he did decades later, comforting his father as he was dying. The ultimate takeaway, which was evident in Biden's voice and visage as he spoke: He really, truly does feel that Beau was his better in every respect.
The feelings also spiked when, in reflecting on grief and the way people persevere, Biden referenced Colbert's own tragedy-laced young life. Two of Colbert's brothers and his father died in a plane crash when he was only 10 years old, a fact which Biden raised in part to marvel at how many people experience the same sorts of tragedies he has and keep moving forward, "one foot in front of the other."
It was, in simple terms, one of the more touching and unabashedly honest political interviews you'll ever see, and Colbert clearly felt the same way — he concluded by saying that "your service to the country is something we should all salute, so thank you so much."