Full transcript of Stephen Colbert on America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t @ Authors at Google. Eric Schmidt hosted this event and took place on December 7, 2012 at Google’s New York office.
Eric Schmidt – Executive Chairman, Google [Host]
Stephen Colbert – Comedian
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Stephen Colbert on America Again- Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t @Talks at Google
Stephen Colbert: Thank you.
Eric Schmidt: Welcome to Google.
Stephen Colbert: A pleasure to be here in the flesh. I watch you guys online all the time. Really great show. It’s slow, but you just never know where the plot’s going.
Eric Schmidt: We have asked our employees what questions they have. I’m going to give you the first question. This is an anonymous question.
Stephen Colbert: So they ask the employees? You’re not asking the employees. They are.
Eric Schmidt: No. The questions have asked the employees — the employees have asked the questions —
Stephen Colbert: So you’ve done nothing. You’ve done nothing.
Eric Schmidt: I do nothing. That’s correct.
Stephen Colbert: You’re just a titular figurehead.
Eric Schmidt: That is correct.
Stephen Colbert: All right.
Eric Schmidt: So the anonymous question from Michael Jones goes like this.
Stephen Colbert: That sounds like an anonymous name, actually.
Eric Schmidt: “I don’t understand the title ‘America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness that We Never Weren’t.'” This is, of course, your new book, which is already the number one best seller in the nation.
Stephen Colbert: Yes. Yes. Thank you.
Eric Schmidt: “‘America again’ suggests re-creation. ‘Re-becoming’ suggests re-creation. ‘The greatness,’ ‘we,’ is clear. All of this is logical and fine, although obviously Yoda-esque. But then case A, ‘never were’ was the impression that you were trying to create would be a perfect conclusion. But you added the apostrophe, n, t. Taken in total, this would be a clever play on words, meaning once again becoming the country we hypothecate, have built in myth or a fable. Is this not the title?
Case B, ‘never weren’t’ which is what you chose, which means — ” I’m not done yet, Stephen.
Stephen Colbert: I know. No, no. Go on. Go on, please.
Eric Schmidt: OK. “Which means we never were not, and thus never have been. And thus, the whole phrase is once again becoming the country we have always been. This is strictly logical, which you cannot become, which you’re not at present.” What do you say to this?
Stephen Colbert: Well, I say to this. To Michael —
Eric Schmidt: This is the hardest and toughest criticism of your title that I have ever seen.
Stephen Colbert: OK. So Michael. Michael Jones. Michael, the fool says in his heart there is no God. But by God, he means that thing then which no greater thing can be conceived. But by conceiving of that thing, he automatically defines God as whatever he can greatest imagine. Therefore, God does exist because he has imagined that thing which must be greater in reality than in his imagination.
Eric Schmidt: I completely agree.
Stephen Colbert: Those of you who are not familiar with St. Anselm’s ontological argument, I’ll boil it down for you again. “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” has to be written this way. Because clearly, our country’s in trouble. Yes? OK. OK, you can tell because I am the country, and I’m all beaten up on the cover here. We want to re-become the greatness, right? All right.
But if I said, we never were, then that would mean America was never great. Right?
Eric Schmidt: Yes.
Stephen Colbert: But if I said that we presently aren’t, that would mean I am criticizing America, which you mustn’t ever do. Therefore, it’s “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t.” Unless you’ve got something bad to say about America, Eric Schmidt. Do you have something bad to say about America? Because let me know. Because I’m sure all these people and YouTube would love to know what problem you’ve got with the US of A, mister. Because I don’t. And I’ve proven it with a title that makes no sense.
Eric Schmidt: But I thought you just convinced us that it did. Now, I want to continue.
Stephen Colbert: The title is a peon to all the — the Republican Convention, for instance. The Republican Convention said, America is great. And we mustn’t listen to these people who criticize our country and do not think it’s the greatest country in the world. And then in the next sentence, they would say, we must return to greatness. They would say it sometimes in the same breath.
Eric Schmidt: Makes perfect sense.
Stephen Colbert: Yeah. American exceptionalism means the rules don’t apply to us. But the feeling on the right is that we are losing the game of being a country. And so this is trying to capture both of those feelings. There’s a dichotomy. There’s a cognitive dissonance that constantly exists on the right, and even more strongly now, that we must return to a greatness that we presently have. Yes.