"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert confronted GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz over the legacy of Ronald Reagan on Monday night, pointing out that the former president was less conservative than Cruz and others often suggest.
“Reagan raised taxes. Reagan actually had an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. Neither of those things would allow Reagan to be nominated today," Colbert said, drawing cheers from his audience. "So to what level can you truly emulate Ronald Reagan?"
When Cruz deflected, Colbert pressed him on the specifics.
"Raising taxes and amnesty for illegal immigrants," Colbert said. "Could you agree with Reagan on those two things?"
"No, of course not," the senator from Texas admitted, but added that Reagan signed the largest tax cut in history.
Colbert didn't let up.
"But when conditions changed in the country, he reversed his world’s largest tax cut and raised taxes when revenues did not match the expectations, so it’s a matter of compromising," Colbert said. "Will you be willing to compromise with the other side?"
Cruz never directly answered the question; instead he talked about running to “live within our means, stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids and follow the Constitution."
"And no gay marriage," Colbert said.
Marriage should be left to the states to decide, Cruz replied.
At another point in the interview, Cruz said a voter in South Carolina had told him that she voted for Barack Obama in 2008, stayed home in 2012 and wanted to vote for Cruz in 2016.
"Does she have a name? Does this person have a name?" Colbert joked, turning over his notes and getting his pen ready as if he were going to write it down. "I just want to fact-check that one maybe a little bit later."
Despite the disagreements, the tone of the discussion was civil and even friendly, and Colbert stood up for Cruz when some in the audience began to boo during the discussion of gay marriage.
"Guys, however you feel, he's my guest, so please don't boo him," Colbert said.
Colbert will interview GOP frontrunner Donald Trump on Tuesday night. Stay tuned.
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