Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Colbert v. Colbert Debate Transcript

On tonight's Colbert Réport, Stephen Colbert inaugurated a new feature called Formidable Opponent, debating an acknowledged expert — none other than Stephen Colbért [or did I switch the e and the é?] himself. I offer unto the huddled masses, yearning to be given the Truth, this humble transcript of that debate, with only a little help from the closed captions.

Welcome back. Last month, the Senate passed a bill to ban the use of torture by a vote of 90–9. The White House is threatening a veto. President Bush and Vice President Cheney say America has to have a wide variety of Tools to fight the War on Terror. Others wonder if using those tools makes us no better than our enemies. Here to debate this difficult subject is a man who never shies away from controversy,

Me, Stephen Colbért. This is Formidable Opponent.

First of all, welcome, Stephen.

Good to be back.

So let's get down to brass tacks:

Or broken glass, if you prefer.

This is America. We don't torture. Respect for human life is what separates us from those we're fighting. If we stoop to their level, in a way, we've already lost.

But if we don't stoop to their level, we might lose in a worse way, by actually losing.

Touché, but doesn't the Constitution forbid cruel and unusual punishment?

Sure it does, but torture is only unusual if we don't do it very often. From what I've been hearing, it's recently become Cruel and Fairly Usual, so from a Constitutional point of view, torture is a go.

Wow, very well argued.

Coming from you, that means a lot.

All right, but what about our standing with the rest of the world?

Okay, you're not talking about morality now, you're talking about popularity — peer pressure.


If it's peer pressure you're talking about, then, sure, let's ban torture — and while we're at it, let's get a fake ID, try pot, and try sex before we're ready. That's what you're going to teach your children by not torturing prisoners.


Hypothetically, terrorists plan to detonate a nuclear device right in the middle of the Rose Parade.

Oh, I love the Rose Parade! This year, the theme is Celebrate Family!

It's a great theme. And it's a 20-megaton bomb that will also take out the football game.

There's a game, too??

Now, we've caught one of the terrorists,


but we still don't know where the bomb is.

Well, ask the terrorist where the bomb is!

He won't tell us.

I'm sorry, ask the terrorist where the bomb is, please.

Still doesn't work.

Well then, try sleep deprivation or loud music or good cop/bad cop.

There's no time. Parade starts in an hour. (Pow!)

No! The floats! The pageantry! 50,000 rose petals in the shape of Cinderella's carriage! Torture him!

There you go. You have a tray of dental tools and a nail gun.

Wait, I've read that torture doesn't work, that we don't get reliable information that way.

I'm sorry, the parade starts in 59 minutes.

Give me the nail gun!

So, torture, torture, torture, and it works. You save the Rose Parade.

Thank goodness, but now I feel dirty.

Of course you do, because you respect America's values, and that's why people must never know what you've done.

Okay, so what you're saying is that we should tell everyone we're not torturing, but do it anyway?

Torturing! Who said anything about torturing?

But you — oh, I get it!

Well, that's because you're a smart guy.

And you, Stephen, are a

[in unison] Formidable Opponent. We'll be right back.

The left column is the Stephen against a blue background; the right is the Stephen on the red background.

Wow. Quite trustigious, indeed.

By the way, I believe Stephen said ¿Devólvolos o dejarlos muertos?, which probably should be something more like ¿Devolverles o dejarles muertos? But no, I would not say that too many Americans know what we're talking about.