Maher on Politics
By Jeff Maisey
Bill Maher needs little introduction.
Maher has pushed the boundaries with his insightful, provocative amalgamation of comedy and political and cultural commentary. Elected officials, entertainers and activists eagerly appear on his television shows.
Millions of Americans tuned-in to Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” program on Comedy Central and for the past nine years to HBO’s “Real Time.”
Maher is currently on a brief tour of Red States.
In advance of his Norfolk performance on March 2 at Chrysler Hall, I caught up with him by phone.
There has been a buzz lately concerning the leaked document outlining the rules on how the US government can kill Americans suspected of terrorism in foreign lands. What are your thoughts?
You know it’s a thorny issue because obviously it’s not constitutional. It always makes me laugh when I hear remarks from people within the Administration, whether it’s Eric Holder or Jay Carney, and they always say it is legal. Well legal, why? Because somebody with a law degree wrote it on a piece of paper somewhere? I don’t know how it’s legal, but, of course, they don’t really care that it’s legal. What they’re saying is that there are people who are out to get us and we’re going to kill them before they do. And I kinda understand that. We live in a world where there are no good choices. There is only the best possible choice among several bad ones. Compared to invading countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, I think this one is preferable.
The problem is that we all on the liberal side trust Obama more than we would if it was President Palin commanding the drones. They might be flying over my house.
So it’s a trick area to get into, but I’m not sure I know a better answer right now.
Does it strike you as odd that a Democrat in the White House would be some seemingly hands-on when it comes to drone missions?
Again I’d rather have him doing it than anybody else in the Administration. But looking down the road it’s kind of frightening the direction America is moving in. On so many issues we don’t really have a liberal voice in America. We have the strong conservative voice. We know what that voice is. On the democratic side we have sometimes a faint echo of that and sometimes a loud echo of that. Gun control is a good example. I’ve apparently disappointed a lot of my liberal fans when I’m talking about guns these days, but my point is that there is no liberal point of view on guns. The democrats don’t say we should get rid of guns. Democrats say we love guns too, just not quite as much.
There are some 2,000 types of guns in America and the democrats want to get rid of a dozen of them. The White House releases a picture of Obama shooting a gun just to prove we love guns too. So there really isn’t a liberal, democratic point of view. And there isn’t a liberal point of view on how we fight the war on terror. Of course, not sending in the army is a great step Obama has taken and reversed Bush’s policy. But certainly on wire tapping, rendition. He did stop torture; that’s good. We can’t blame him for not closing Gitmo. He did try. But certainly on some of these extra legal methods we use to fight terrorists, including violations of the Fourth Amendment against citizens here in our own country, Obama is worse. That kind of scary.
With the use of drones both overseas and now over the skies of America, does this embolden gun rights activists that claim they need guns and even tanks to protect themselves against the government?
Well, do they ever really need to be emboldened? I feel like they were born emboldened with that chip n their shoulder.
What’s ironic is that right wingers should be the ones most apoplectic about the government overreaching as far as violations of your privacy. I thought they were the “We love the Constitution” people. Aren’t they the ones with the teabag hanging in their face? And the ones that love freedom and liberty so much? Everything is about their freedom. Michele Obama can’t tell you to eat right and exercise without them getting excited that she’s coming for your freedom.
But this is really coming for your freedom. And they came for your freedom and they’ve taken a lot of it away. It just shows that these right wingers that talk so much about freedom; they don’t really care about freedom. What they care about is an authoritarian government that agrees with them.
Which country scares you most at the moment: Iran, North Korea, China?
That’s what Obama says. He was pressed on that issue by Mr. George Clooney, who asked him “What keeps you up at night?” Obama demurred and said, “Everything keeps me awake. If something reaches my desk it means no one else could have solved this problem.” Clooney pushed him on the topic and he finally said Pakistan.
Pakistan is a nuclear power. Not like North Korea. North Korean I don’t think has a missile delivery system yet. Pakistan is a little further along and they have probably 100 warheads and a very unstable government. Obviously they’re a country with a very strong Islamic fundamentalist presence. We’ve learned that these Islamic fundamentalists don’t care if they live or die because they think they’re going to paradise. Well this is a very dangerous combination, not to mention Pakistan is in an existential death match with India. And India is a nuclear power. If India and Pakistan were ever to square-off and fire their missiles at each other – those would probably be enough missiles to end the world. I think it was Carl Sagan who said if you fire 100 nuclear missiles at one time you will create a nuclear winter over the entire globe. So that’s bad.
How ironic was it that when the French military went into Mali they were greeted as liberators. Sounds familiar, but with a much different outcome, right?
Yeah, the president of France even went there on a victory tour. He didn’t quite declare mission accomplished, but it sort of did look the same.
Mali, obviously the new boogeyman. If that is where al-Qaeda is trying to reform then we need to take that seriously. I’m glad the French are doing it and we don’t have to do everything ourselves. By the way the French did ask us if they could use drones because they don’t have them. And we said, “Please, did you have to ask?” So they’re actually using our drones over there.
Again, no good answers but I’m not on the fuzzyheaded liberal page that we could just sing “Kumbaya” and pretend that everyone has our best interests at heart. They don’t. There are people who are out to get us in the world and it is important to pre-empt them.
Switching topics to climate change. We’ve seen superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey. Scientists say this may be a sign of the near future. How much pain do we have to experience before action is taken on climate change? Wouldn’t we have already reached the tipping point by that time?
I have a very strong suspicion we already have reached the tipping point. I remember James Hansen, the NASA scientist, saying about ten years ago, in 2002, that if we don’t do something in the next ten years we would pass the tipping point. I think we’re past that ten years. So hopefully I’m wrong.
If we were going to switch it around we would have to have done something yesterday. There is no indication that anyone is going to do something soon. It’s the policy problem from hell for Obama because you have to convince people to change their behavior. That’s certainly not easy anywhere, but especially not in America. And you have one side that denies the problem even exists. I saw Marko Rubio in the paper today. He’s supposed to be the new shining light of the Republican Party and he’s the guy concurring with Bobby Jindal that they can’t be the party of stupid. But his comments on global warming were basically, “I’ve seen a lot that there’s a reasonable debate that it’s not happening.”
Well, no, there’s no reasonable debate among scientists. There’s reasonable debate among morons this guy hangs out with perhaps. Or his constituency he’s pandering to. But there’s no reasonable debate at all as to whether it’s happening.
And he also said something that is an utter lie – that the United States is a country not the whole planet, and why should we do something if other countries aren’t?
Well that is a very outdated statement to make. Other countries are doing things. India has a program of taxing coal; China understands that they need to do something. Europe is way ahead of us on this. Brazil is way ahead. We’re the ones bringing up the rear in this parade.
For Democrats there were some hopeful results in the elections of 2012, including the legalization of gay and lesbian marriage is some states as well as the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. How long before the entire nation full embraces these more liberal laws?
Don’t hold your breath. We also elected 20 women to the Senate. We’re Canada with nukes.
Obviously the country is changing and that’s the good news. The bad news is that this is what drives the rear guard insane. Even though it doesn’t really affect them; gay marriage doesn’t really affect them; pot, whether somebody’s smoking pot in their basement really doesn’t affect them. But it’s just this notion in their heads that the country is changing. This is what drives them crazy. This is what makes them say we want our country back. This by the way is the one thing they actually like about Mitt Romney. Romney represented in a very visceral way to them the country that was. The country of the 1950s, and that he did look just like a TV dad from the 1950s. And science may never know exactly what Mitt Romney believed, but what he seemed to represent was that notion that binds all republicans together – that life was perfect in 1958 before they let negroes into the FBI, and trial lawyers and recycling. And Mitt was that guy. He really ate meatloaf and told knock-knock jokes, and he said darn and dern; he bought his shirts at Cosco. That is the republican dilemma. They want that country back. And, of course, there are no time machines. You cannot get that country back. You need to embrace that there is a country now that is more diverse, women are just as important and equal as men; gay people can get married and people can smoke pot. You almost have to feel sorry for the republicans because they have the same problem as the Beach Boys: Their fans are dying.