Exploring The Vast Wrong-wing Wilderness
Comedian Bill Maher is doing what too few others are doing. By taking a closer look at the policies and actions of the Bu$h (mis)Administration, and actually examining them, he can comment on what is really going on.
This is supposed to be the function of the media, but ever since they became the SCLM, this function has been pared back both politically and economically until it can't function as anything more than an organ-grinder's monkey.
But Maher - along with (most notably) Jon Stewart and Al Franken - have taken up that cause to perform the functions of a free press that keeps the powerful honest.
Maher was recently (July 22, 2004) on The Larry King Show and had a lot of good things to say. But because it was in a radio interview/call-in format, a lot of the context was lost. I have taken it upon myself to edit out that which I considered detrimental to his message. So if you have any gripes about what I present here, go to the original transcript and check it out for yourself.
If I misquoted or misrepresented his comments, the fault is mine. There are a few places where I had to make some judgement calls. Any errors thus created are mine alone.
***** Why Are You Doing This, Bill? *****
I'm not making a secret I don't want this president reelected. I'm partial to the cause of removing this president from office. But I think for the Republicans, people who consider themselves more patriotic usually - for people who are Bush supporters, they really need to look in the mirror and ask themselves 'was that the patriotic thing to do?' Who do you love more? George Bush or your country? If you love your country more, wouldn't you say that the president should have wanted this report? It kind of makes you miss the days when big government reports were about oral sex, doesn't it?
***** 9/11 Commission Report *****
I watched the news all day today and there was surprisingly little mention of the fact that President Bush opposed this [9/11 Commission] report. He stonewalled it every inch of the way. This president did not want this report out there.
Why was he opposed? Because it came out with things that embarrass him. But it embarrassed Clinton, too. It embarrassed a lot of administrations. But it really didn't advance the cause of homeland security. It didn't really harpoon anyone. It just made recommendations more than blame.
You think the changes will be made? You think we'll listen? Oh, wait a second, we already have a central -- that's right.
I think they're going to build a new building which is what bureaucracies often do when there's a problem. Look we have a new homeland security building. You know, I'm not against what they're attempting to do. But you know, they're suggesting that we have some sort of central intelligence agency. They want one that the FBI answers to, the CIA answers to, police departments. A centralized form of dealing. But the problem isn't that we don't have a central intelligence agency. The problem is that it's never been held accountable.
We found out things like Iran was more involved with the 9/11 hijackers than Iraq. So we apparently attacked the wrong country. I mean, how disturbing is this to learn that nine or ten of the hijackers were allowed to pass through Iran. That, to me, sounds exactly like the kind of connection we were expecting with al Qaeda.
They don't come out and get real about terrorism, even in this report - and that is one of the things they need to get real about. It's about religion.
Iran is, after all, a theocratic government, and the problem that we are facing is religion. I've said this before. Pretending that terrorism has nothing to do with religion, as the administration does, is like pretending that AIDS in America had nothing to do with homosexuality. It makes sense to me that a theocratic regime like Iran would allow this to happen. I'm not saying that they knew what these guys were doing. I'm saying that they were al Qaeda guys who went to Iran without having their passport stamped, and the theocratic people in Iran went, 'we don't want to know. But you know, we know you're bad guys. We know you hate America. I think that's all good. Go ahead.' I mean, if Iraq had done this, what Iran actually did, I would be out there with Toby Keith singing those songs about how we should stick a boot up their ass.
***** Bush and Cheney not testifying under oath before the commission *****
It's holding this president to a lower standard. What other president would get away with saying, no, I've got to be with my vice president, you know? Because when I get one right, he gives me a biscuit.
They constantly do it. It's the same thing I was just talking about, where it took him seven minutes to get up. I can't imagine any other president, any other person who would be president, not being able to get up. Max Cleland would have gotten up, if the aide had said the country is under attack. And it's the same thing.
***** Bush v Clinton *****
I haven't read the Clinton book My Life yet. I'm a big fan of his. I never made a secret of that, and I never defended him when he didn't deserve defending. I never defended Clinton when he said he was a draft dodger.
Of course he was a draft dodger. You know, there was a war on. He found a way not to go. So did George Bush.
The difference is they tie themselves in knots trying to tell you how George Bush did the right thing. That's the difference, I think, between the Republicans and the liberals - they defend Bush no matter what he does. They will tie themselves in knots to work backwards. It's a way to distract us, and that's what they're very good at.
They're able to make the argument look like it's on a level playing field when it's not. They did it with John Kerry, who is a legitimate war hero. Somehow it became 'John Kerry threw his medals away.' John Kerry was the guy whose Swift boat was on the Mekong Delta and he had literally charged the shore and killed the guy in the spider hole. Is John Kerry a coward because he had the nerve to come back from Vietnam alive?
George Bush is the guy who when the aide says, sir, the country is under attack, sits there for seven minutes, frozen. He choked. That's what's called choking in sports - when you can't move.
***** Stem Cells *****
Ron Reagan [spoke] at the Democratic Convention. It's funny - Ronald Reagan, his father, famously said 'I didn't leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me.' I think probably Ron Reagan Jr. would say the opposite: 'I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me. They became the party of intolerance. They became the party of big government.' They became the party of exactly against his father's wishes, the government that was in people's private lives. So I'm not surprised that he would choose to speak on this subject at the Democratic Convention.
That stem cell issue is just a perfect example about how I think the world is really dividing between the religious and the non-religious. We are in danger of being on the wrong side of that because we are such a religious country. Religion, I think, is very bad, and it's extremely dangerous at this point in time. It actually makes more problems because faith is a way to make a virtue of things that make absolutely no sense.
I read a statistic - 61 percent of the people in this country say religion solves some, most, or all of our problems. Religion solves nothing. It's like a hot bath does not solve a cold apartment. It may salve for awhile, but it doesn't solve it.
President Bush went away to make that big decision right before 9/11, he went to his ranch for a month to think about it. The red states were very impressed that he took a whole month to think about stem cell - when he should have been thinking about terrorism. That was the month when he met with the CIA director once.
He comes up with this Solomon-like decision to split the difference right down the middle, which the media hails as some sort of wisdom. As if it is wisdom to split the difference between people who really could use help from this stem cell research, and a bunch of right-wing nuts who would rather see research go undone - all because some microscopic goo on a subatomic level might one day grow up to be a Republican.
That is not wisdom. And I'm glad Ron Reagan is pointing that out.
***** gay marriage *****
Gay marriage is going to be an issue in the election. They're making it an issue. 'Marriage is a man and a woman.' That's another perfect example of religion making something that makes absolutely no sense into an issue.
I believe in God, or a higher being, I just don't believe in the people who pretend they're talking for him. To a rational person, anyone with eyes can see God. They can see that God or nature created a gay minority even in the animal world. For some reason, God wanted a gay minority among us. Maybe it's because we're too aggressive and gays are less aggressive.
That's what the rational mind says. The rational mind takes it as the given. There are gay people in the world.
The irrational mind: They acknowledge that there are gays in the world. They're not saying there aren't. They're just saying they shouldn't get married. They think that if gay people get married, it will lead to more homosexuality - as if guys are just looking for a little legal cover to get together with each other.
So they're working from this ridiculous premise. What they acknowledge is that there are gays because it's a choice. They believe it is a choice. They believe, as the Bible says, it is an abomination.
It's not a choice. It's obviously not a choice.
***** Fahrenheit 9-11 *****
It's funny the way people are - 'Michael Moore plays fast and loose with the facts.'
That's not okay in a filmmaker. In a president -- geez. Sorry.
Even the man Kerry wants to replace had nice things to say. It's a point of view movie - his point of view. But I think he does do a service to this country by showing some things that we really need to focus on, like that seven minutes President Bush took to get up after he was told the country was under attack. To me, this is an ultimate deal breaker in this election.
Larry King asked me, 'It's that important to you? Maybe he was thinking, getting his thoughts together.'
Excuse me, Larry. A guy didn't come up to him and say, sir, the British fleet is leaving England, they'll be here in three months. Remember [when] Tony Blair said Saddam Hussein has got missiles that are 45 minutes away? Jets scramble to get in the air.
We are living in the nuclear age. We are living in the nuclear age where ICBMs take less than an hour to travel thousands of miles.
This is not an age where a president can take seven minutes, and then another 20 to do photo-ops. This is unconscionable that this is not the ultimate issue in this election. This should be the issue.
Dick Cheney, who said about John Kerry, 'John Kerry has given us ample reason to doubt the judgment he brings to issues of national security.' The judgment he brings? And the excuse they gave: 'He didn't want to scare the children.' This is the ultimate for the children -- as if it would scare the children. But OK, even say in your fantasy world it scares the children. That stacks up against protecting the country?
So the aide comes in and tells the president, the country is under attack. And his judgment is, OK, country under attack. I don't know what that means. But I'm going to stay here so I don't scare the children.
That's how important children are in America. Apparently 20 children in a schoolroom in Florida is more important than the fate of the country.
And again, I would invite Republicans, independents, people who are thinking of voting for the president, to say to themselves, take President Bush out of this equation. Just say a president is told by an aide, the country is under attack. Should that president stick to what he's doing and not interrupt. Or consider that an immediate cause to get up and react?
I don't see how anyone can argue the reverse. You just say excuse me, president business, gotta run, bye.
It's astounding that this is not more of an issue.
***** Republicans v Democrats *****
You know, at least the Democrats keep it real in their convention. They put on the people who are their party. They're putting on Ted Kennedy. They're putting on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Edwards was selected. Great idea! That's what's going to help the Democrats. He's a terrific campaigner and he's a very attractive candidate. One thing I like about John Edwards is that he looks like a human. You ask him a question, and he kind of gets that squinty look like, you know, like I'm listening to this question, and then he answers it like a person. Like -- not like somebody who's panicky like George Bush, like, "is this the right answer? Is this the -- I hope I didn't say anything wrong." Kerry does a little of that, too. But much less than George Bush and a lot less than a lot of politicians. But John Edwards looks to me like he's actually thinking about it and answering it, like this is what I really think.
Those are the people who the Democrats are. At least the Democrats are the Democrats.
You don't get that from the Republican party. The Republican party does not put on who they are.
Who does the Republican party put on? They don't put on John Ashcroft. They don't put on Tom Delay. They don't put on the mean side of the Republican party, the Dick Cheney side, the real George Bush side. They put on a fake Potemkin Village version of the Republican party. They put on Arnold Schwarzenegger. He doesn't represent what the Republican party is. You know that's not the Republican party.
Let's [look at] Mr. Schwarzenegger recently discussing opponents of the budget and get your comments. Here's Arnold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: If they don't have the guts to come out here in front of you and say I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers, and I want them to make the millions of dollars. I don't want to represent you. If they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men. You should go back to the table and you should fix the budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I'm no big fan of Governor Schwarzenegger, but this is nothing. It's fake outrage. Anyone who really is outraged that at comment is a girlie man!
You should wear a plaid skirt if you're outraged, just the way they were outraged at Linda Ronstadt in Las Vegas. She praised Michael Moore, and people rioted at the Aladdin Hotel. And the Aladdin Hotel - to throw this woman out of the hotel without even letting her go up to the room and pack her stuff? It's astounding! 'We're not in the business of political activism.' No, you're in the business of getting people drunk and losing the rent money.
I have to say this is the difference between conservatives and liberals. I can't see liberals rioting if Lee Greenwood dedicated a song to Sean Hannity. I just think they would have went 'oh, that's nothing' and they would have moved on with their life. It wouldn't have been a cause celebre.
If anyone, I'm telling you, if they're really that offended at that, at Linda Ronstadt, at Janet Jackson's breast falling out of her thing, at the Dixie Chicks, any of this stuff, it's all on you. Because, this stuff is not really what is so important in this country right now. We have an ability to have in the room an elephant and a fly, and think somehow that they're of equal stature.
It's already been a rough, abusive kind of campaign. These guys on the right can level the playing field on any issue because the American public does not pay a great deal of attention.
That's the whole Sandy Berger thing. Was Sandy Berger wrong to take those documents? Of course he was wrong. So why was he doing it? To get more information for himself when he testified. He couldn't do all the cramming at the government building, he had to take it home at night.
So the question becomes not, gee, was Iran the right country to attack? I mean, Iraq or Iran? Or the question becomes what does Sandy Berger have in his pants? Is he a spy?
What about Tom Delay? As if Tom DeLay would ever do my show!
Those conservatives, most of them, don't come on because they're afraid of me. Not because I'm unfair, and not even because I don't hold some conservative points of view, because I hold their feet to the fire and they know it.
What I've learned in my adulthood is that people from other parts of the world, that's their normal state of affairs. In Europe, the Middle East, these are always the biggest fans of my show. They always got my old show. They get the new show. That's their idea of the way it should be at home.
People sit outside in cafes or they sit at home at the dinner table and they discuss issues. They discuss something. Americans don't read the paper, they don't talk to their family about issues. They watch TV during dinner. They all have a separate TV in their homes, in their bedrooms. So, you know, I'd be a lot more popular if I was working in Europe.
***** Colin Powell *****
Colin Powell will stay and keep the administration intact if Bush wins the election. I said I thought he was a hero because he does stay. A lot of people say, 'oh, he lied for the administration and he went along with them' That's just not my opinion. My opinion is this guy could quit. It would be the easy way out. I think what he says to himself is, 'if I leave, there will be nobody sane here. I really need to stay because I'm the one voice of reason.'
He is a terrific soldier and I think he's a terrific patriot. I think he's being a good soldier that's what he was trained to do. He is the only person when they get into a room who can at least move them a little bit towards sanity. Obviously not very far, but further than they would have been without him.
***** Dick Cheney *****
What of the rumors about Mr. Cheney? Dick Cheney's not going to be around. I think Cheney would fake the big heart attack so that he can bow out gracefully. Absolutely, yes. First of all, Dick Cheney is a robot built by the Soviets, so there actually is no heart - there is a paddle involved. He can take that off any time. They would say it was for medical reasons, or he wants to spend more time with his family, because one of them is gay and maybe they'll learn something about that issue.
I saw a rally for Dick Cheney the other day. People were chanting, "four more months." If they wanted to drop him from the ticket, they wouldn't just say we're going to lose the Cheney, we want Giuliani. That's a dilemma for George Bush. I think he would like a vice president like Dick Cheney, because if you put somebody in the vice presidency who's going to be popular, that messes up Jeb in 2008. Dick Cheney's not going to run in 2008. That's Jeb's year.
On the one hand he wants to stay the course with Dick Cheney. On the other hand, he might lose with Dick Cheney. So he's got that dilemma - I'm the stay-the-course guy, but I'm also the guy who wants to win.
***** Staying The Course *****
George Bush is the stay-the-course guy. That's his big mantra, which is not a good idea, by the way. You know things change. New information comes along. When new information comes along it's not wrong to change your mind. I don't think John Kerry is a tremendous flip-flopper. I think things changed so he changed.
George Bush famously said he doesn't do that. He doesn't do nuance. This would be a terribly engaging quality if it didn't threaten the world.
***** Republican Help For Nader *****
I'm not surprised about the Republicans helping Nader get on the ballot. As Don Corleone once said, it's the smart move. It's a smart, cynical move. That's politics. I don't blame them for that.
But, I said this before, I think it will [not] have that much of an effect on the election. Everybody who was going to vote for Kerry might vote for Kerry. Other people who weren't going to vote at all might vote for Nader.
It's the same way in television. Sometimes they throw up a show against another big show. The big show - like CSI: Miami - gets 20 million viewers a week. It still gets 20 million viewers a week, but the new show just brought in a new audience. An extra 10 million people watched TV.
So the Nader voter is not someone who's thinking Kerry/Nader, Kerry/Nader. No, I think it's someone who would have stayed home.
***** Israel *****
The world holds Israel to a standard that it would never hold any other country to.
I think so many people don't like Israel because I think the media loves a victim. The Palestinians look like a victim, being poor without any weapons, they can only throw rocks and blow themselves up.
For a long time - in the '60s and '70s - the media loved Israel. Six-Day War? Israel was a hero. But [later] Israel got stronger, because they had to. They've been fighting this terrorism problem longer than we have. They take it seriously. They don't politicize it. It's not all about what's politically correct, is more important than what's for our real security.
I'll tell you what the West Bank fence is. It's effective, apparently. I understand why Israel is doing what they're doing. I understand why they are handling this situation unilaterally - because they've never really had a partner for peace. They put an offer that was reasonable by anyone's standards on the table under the Clinton administration and Arafat spurned it.
And by the way, on this day when the 9/11 Commission report came out, what the 9/11 Commission report should have said was 'let's just do what Israel does.' Since Israel does it best, wouldn't you rather have the method that works the best?
This is our most important thing. Israel has got the state-of-the-art system for doing this. If you were buying an appliance for the home, don't you want the best? Wouldn't we want the best system available? If you're getting a stereo system, you want the best. You want the flat screen TV.
***** Stumping The Jewish Vote *****
This has everything to do with the fact that George Bush is a born-again Christian.
George Bush is not just a Christian. He's a born-again - they believe Jesus is coming back any day now, and they want everything to be perfect for him.
Why is that bad? Well, Thomas Jefferson said the book of revelations was the ravings of a lunatic. George Bush organizes his foreign policy around it. That's why it's bad. Because his decisions about Israel are affected by his religious beliefs:Christ is coming back to Israel. Jesus is coming back, and he's not coming back to Toledo - he's coming back to his home, which is Jerusalem, which has to be in Jewish hands because the Jews have a very important role to play when Jesus comes back, which is, of course, to be dead. There can't be any Jews around.
This is why religion is so dangerous in our society. It's completely irrational.
This is scary stuff. It's like half this country wants to guide our ship of state by a compass. A compass, something that works by science and rationality, and imperial wisdom. And half this country wants to kill a chicken and read the entrails like they used to do in the old Roman Empire.
I'm with the compass people.
***** The Motivation For War In Iraq *****
George Bush's whole theory about Iraq is that the Arab world only understands strength. I would agree with that premise.
The Arab world only does understand strength. Their idea of strength is like when Saddam Hussein said during the first Gulf War, America could never stand to see 25,000 dead in one battle. Of course, he could, because he doesn't care about people. That's why we had to go into Iraq.
But that's their idea of strength. We are not showing that kind of strength. We have no capability anymore to show the kind of strength that they really appreciate. Our methodology apparently now in Iraq is, if there's a trouble spot like Fallujah, just give it back to whoever wants it. That's not showing strength.
You know what? Whether it's the Mehdi army or the old Baathists -- Saddam was right, these people are nuts. Just give it back to them.
***** Removing Saddam *****
'Bill, do you think the American people get the point of your book?'
No. My book [When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden] was taken from the idea of the old World War II posters. The point of my book was that we should bring civilians into this war on terror.
George Bush says he's a war-time president. But if he really was a war-time president, he would do what war-time presidents do, and that is ask the people to sacrifice. He has made a cause of not asking people to sacrifice.
In any other war, they were asking the people to help out.
First of all, we could conserve energy so that we're not so beholden to the people who sell us oil. Dick Cheney famously said it was a personal prerogative, to conserve energy. You've got to be kidding if you think this administration wants people to conserve energy. They are an oil lobby government.
We could also just become more savvy about the whole situation. The Israelis are savvy about the enemy we're fighting. We're not savvy about the enemy we're fighting, because we don't get that lead from the person who is leading us, which is George Bush.
I heard him again today say they hate us for our freedom. Oh, my God! You know what? That's nice if you are a toddler to believe in two-dimensional ideas like that. But this is a very, very nuanced world. It's about a lot more than just hating us for our freedom.
Maybe if he understood the situation a little more, maybe if he had taken an interest earlier in his life in foreign affairs, he would have understood that far from Saddam Hussein being our enemy with the terrorists, he would have actually been a bulwark against the terrorists. He was like the kind of dictators we propped up in the communist era. You know, people who were very bad people. We propped up people because they would not allow the kind of people we hated even more. I'm not saying it was morally right, but we did that. We did that throughout the Cold War.
Saddam Hussein would never have allowed a terrorist base in his country, because they were a power rival to him. Dictators never allow a power rival in their country.
There was no terrorism in Iraq before this war. Now there is. That's the difference.
***** '... the key lies that we've been telling ourselves ...' *****
I think the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is bad. I think the Abu Ghraib prison scandal really exposes some of the key lies that we've been telling ourselves about terrorism.
This is something that should have probably come out in this [9/11 Commission] report today. It's a little far afield for them. But I think somebody has to get out the fact that we have never been straight with ourselves about the key things that are going on with terrorism.
One, we tell ourselves that terrorism is unique. It's not only not unique, it's something the United States itself has practiced.
During World War II in 1945, before we even bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we destroyed 67 Japanese cities. We killed between 50 and 90 percent of the population of 60 [cities]. It was a time of war. You call that terrorism when you're attacking civilians, that's what we have said is terrorism.
That's what we have said is beyond the pale. We have done it ourselves.
Sherman's march to the sea was all about killing civilians.
The Ku Klux Klan is a home-grown terror organization that the federal government countenanced for 100 years as a sort of paramilitary to the police departments in Southern states.
So, for us to pretend that we have never engaged in that kind of activity is ridiculous.
That's one lie.
The other lie is that the terrorists were in Iraq, and because terrorists are not like any other people we've ever fought, they don't deserve the Geneva Convention.
So there you have people gathering prisoners in Iraq. 'OK, so they told us terrorism is in Iraq. Iraq is a war on terrorism, and terrorists don't deserve the Geneva Convention because it's a completely unique way of fighting.'
Well, that's ridiculous. That's how we wound up with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
***** Spreading The 'War On Terra' *****
'Do you think that the president will attack Iran or the country of Cuba if he is re-elected?
I don't think anybody's left, we don't have an army left. We don't have anybody -- to attack. Did you see the other day that they drafted a 68-year-old guy? I'm not kidding. They brought up a 68-year-old reservist.
How would you like to be in a fox hole with a guy who actually remembers the Maine?
Governors from all around the country are saying if we have to fight fires, if we have a local emergency, we're out of luck, because all our National Guardsmen are overseas. I mean, we can't even defend this country.
How about the draft? I don't think they'll do it because, again, it would alienate voters. It would not pander to people, which is what they're good at in Washington. But, if we want to attack another country or even hang onto the one we've already attacked, we're going to need more people.
***** Postponing The Election *****
'Bill, what do you think about the administration's Homeland Security Department's little plan B to study to stop the election under threat of terrorist attack? Does that remind you of our 2000 Florida deal?'
This is an administration that has always said, 'You can't criticize the administration during a time of war. We're always at war.'
The war is ongoing, so I don't trust them. Let me put it that way. I don't trust them, or they haven't earned my trust.
***** The Alert Color of the Day *****
KING: What do you think about the color alerts? Are you affected when orange becomes yellow?
MAHER: Very much so, Larry. When it's yellow, I act one way. I look behind me maybe every four or five steps. But when it's orange, I'm virtually 360. I'm looking around at all -- I'm a panther. So that's the difference for me.
***** 'Will the South ever vote Democratic?' *****
You know, that's a sore point with me, the south, the way that they have the stranglehold over the electorate.
I love playing to red states, because when I play the red states [with] my stand-up act I get all the people who don't usually have someone like me come to their state. So there's a great bonding. And I feel for them, because there's a lot of smart people in the south.
But in general, it is the dumbest part of the country. Excuse me. It is. They lead the region in dumbness, yes, they do, because there's just too many people who think that every problem can be solved by either more guns or more Jesus.
They're the super patriots - he one part of the country that ever actually seceded; the one part of the country that ever actually committed treason. They seem to lead in how we are supposed to think because they're more religious, they're more patriotic and I think it's just a disservice to our [nation]. They're the people who are reading the entrails of the chicken.
I'm with the people who are following the compass, not the people who are reading the entrails of the chicken.
Remember - this is at times my interpretation, so if there are errors, they are mine. But these ideas I present here should be the topics of discussion among the American voters. Thus, even if I got it wrong, as long as discussion is inspired by my edit job, then I have done what I set out to do.
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