You’re coming to town in a couple of weeks. Have you ever been to San Antonio?
Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, and infamous ringmaster of the old Politically Incorrect, promises to “really bring it” to Laurie Auditorium next weekend.
Never. Can you believe it? You’re coming at a good time. If you’d come 10 years ago we wouldn’t have had any place you’d recognize; No Gap. No Starbucks.
Really? Ten years ago you didn’t have a Gap? Come on. Maybe a Gap.
Well, I’ve always enjoyed coming to Texas. Politically we don’t always see eye to eye, but I’ve always enjoyed Houston, Dallas, and Austin. I was just there in April, to those cities, and I said to my agent, why don’t I ever go to San Antonio? I demanded it. Have you ever gone toe-to-toe with Tom DeLay or Karl Rove?
Oh God no. I think people like that have a restraining order against me. They won’t even get up on the giant tele-screen with you?
No, I don’t think the Administration would let any of their people near me. But you’re getting to almost superstar status now. I noticed on Friday’s show, `you had` Mary Frances Berry, Penn Jillette, and Darrell Issa, who is like a Republican from outer space …
You know what? He was a lot, I thought, more reasonable on Iraq than Professor Fouad Ajami, who I thought was going to be the one who was a little more nuanced, and he was really toeing the administration line. And I think what you heard Darrell Issa say — which surprised me — sounded reasonable. I think that’s a preview of what you’re gonna hear from a lot of Republican congresspeople who are up for reelection. They do not want this Bush Iraq policy tied around their necks. They do not. Let’s talk about the professor. He’s been interviewed, of course, a ton in the past week, and he takes what I would call an apologist’s tack …
Yeah, he’s still dragging that horse behind him. You know we could find out that he was one of the guys who was very influential in convincing the administration to do this. I think he’s very closely tied to Chalabi, and we know that Chalabi was the guy that they relied on; I guess they wanted to rely on him because he told them what they wanted to hear. But you know when people like Bush, who is obviously not well read, not well-versed — we heard that he didn’t even know that there were Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, that there was this sectarian brewing conflict beneath the surface before they went into the war — he needs people like Professor Ajami who lend gravitas and intellectual credence to what he wants to do. It doesn’t hurt to read 60 books in six months.
Yeah, I don’t quite believe that. Well, let’s talk a little about domestic politics. Did you see last week that Mark Warner was interviewed on Second Life? He had an avatar made of himself and it was seen as a campaign, or a pre-campaign, move. What do you make of that?
The Virginia guy? He did what? He went on Second Life, the game.
What’s that? I don’t know what that is. It’s an online role-playing game that’s extremely popular, but it really is just like a second life. You could become an architect, a realtor, but you know, fabulously good-looking and wealthy.
But isn’t that what the internet is anyway? It’s all a big fantasyland. Yeah, so Mark Warner had an avatar, which is your little person representative, made of himself and was interviewed by one of the game’s main journalists.
What was his alter ego about? I think the same thing his real ego is about, even though he’s not officially campaigning yet, and people think that he can’t begin to raise as much money as Hilary. Do you know him?
I’m trying to think if we — He sounds like somebody I think we had on our show. I guess he made a really big impression.
Yeah. There’s so many people over so many years, I’m sorry. I might be thinking of George Allen. We had George Allen on, you know Mr. Macaca; he’s Virginia, too. You know, I’m not a big fan of these Democratic centrist candidates. I think they’ve tried that trick now the last couple of elections, moving toward the center. I think the Democrats have to move toward keeping it real with the electorate, giving them a real choice. If you were writing the platform, what would it look like?
It would say, first of all, we’ve got to stop abetting our terrorist enemies by buying their oil. Get off the oil addiction. Bush says we’re addicted to oil, and then he never brings it up again or does anything about it. And it’s an addiction. Would you do that to a friend? Would you say, “You’re addicted to heroin. OK, I’ll see you at the game Friday”? You do something; Bush never did anything.
I would get out of Iraq. I’m at the point with that whole mess where I get annoyed when I hear people — and Democrats do it, too — say, “If we get out this will happen and this will happen.” First of all, nothing anybody predicted about this war came about. Second of all, you don’t know what will happen. Maybe it will be a mess; could it really be a bigger mess? “Iran’ll come in, and this’ll come in, and this’ll happen …” Shut up you arrogant fools. You don’t know what will happen. What I do know is what’s happening now. I don’t think it could get any worse for the people of Iraq, or for our poor soldiers who are caught in the middle of this civil war. So you think we should just pick up and go tomorrow, don’t try to make plans, don’t try to …
Well, of course you have to make plans; you can’t have an army leave in a day. Think of some of this nonsense that we hear over and over again from this administration. That’s their rationale now for staying there. It’s sort of like the looking glass, this nonsense about if we don’t fight them there they’ll follow us home. Follow us home? What, like a stray cat? Like Lassie? “Can I keep him dad?” “No, son, he’s a terrorist.” The people who are bombing us there, first of all, they weren’t terrorists until we invaded their country. They’re blowing us up there because we’re there. They’re trying to kill us because we’re marching down their street. Bush makes it sound like the guy who is building an IED to blow up a soldier there, if we left would take that IED, put it in a suitcase, fly to Albuquerque and blow up a supermarket there. It’s just insane. It’s insane that it’s not challenged more in the media. Do you think this new line of rhetoric is going to work, this Chamberlain comparison …
Yeah right, if you’re not for their stupid war, you’re an appeaser. Do I think it’ll work? No, but you know what? My history of predicting that Republican tactics won’t work is getting a little thin. You have to keep your optimism out of it.
I said the same thing in 2004, `that` it wouldn’t work, and it worked. So I don’t know, I would never underestimate — who said you could never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public? But I think there is a ceratin enlightenment that is coming over people. I read in The New York Times
about a week ago that 51 percent of the people now think that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terrorism. Well, there is a small victory right there, that they’re beginning to see that these two things are separate and this illogic of “they’ll follow us home” and that anyone who is against the Administration’s plan to indefinitely occupy this country is somehow a coward, unpatriotic, a defeatocrat, an al-Qaida type. You know, it’s like telling your exterminator that there are more efficient ways to kill vermin than hitting them with a frigging hammer and him accusing you of being for the rats. One concern that I have about the Middle East is that now the situation between Israel and Iran is increasingly tense, and now maybe Israel is looking at Iran with the thought that this Administration might back them on an invasion. So even if we could get out of the mess in Iraq, there’s a whole other train coming up behind it that’s getting up to full speed.
That train has been running for 50 years, and the Administration’s attempt to push those two events together into what some of their people are calling World War III — if it’s really World War III, which is what people are saying, and these people are really Nazis, wouldn’t we be doing a lot more than we’re doing on the homefront? If we really had World War III on our hands, wouldn’t we have a draft? Here’s one of the things that we have an office poll running on: Is Bush really in the John Hagee camp and he believes these are the End Times? Or …
I believe that. And that’s behind all the Christian Right support of Israel. People think their support of Israel is such an enlightened, liberal point of view. It’s not really an enlightened point of view. They want Israel in the hands of the Jews because when Jesus returns to earth, he has to return to the Jewish Israel. Yeah, I call it the Final Solution Part II.
That’s great. The Jews will magically go away.
Yes, it is the final solution because, of course, when Jesus makes his curtain call the Jews have to either convert or die. So to root for a people to regain their homeland just so they can lay down and die when Jesus comes back, it’s not the most generous of motivations. As your mother would say, “Honey are those the kind of friends you want to have?”
Yeah, right. So, if you’re not crazy about any of these centrist Democrats, do you see anybody out there who’s appealing, maybe out in the wilderness, who might pop up and …
I don’t know anybody like that. I’m more hopeful that some of the Democrats who are doing pretty good, like John Edwards or Joe Biden, who seem to have a pair of balls on them, I’m hopeful that as they get into it and they get some traction in their race that they will have the guts to come out and say, “We’ve got to get out of Iraq, we’ve got to pay attention to the environment, we have to ask for some national sacrifice, we have to get our piggy bank in order and stop writing blank checks in trillions of dollars and giving away all the money away to rich people.” I’m hopeful that they’ll have a platform like that that makes sense to people. I think people are already there at the platform; they just need someone with the guts to lead it. Let’s talk about the whole thing with Howard Dean last time around. He was really done in from the inside as much as he was externally. Not that he wouldn’t have ultimately crashed and burned, but I think that movement he built behind him was just as scary to some of the establishment Democrats as it was to anybody else.
Please, Elaine. He spoke in a tone that was several octaves above what people normally speak in. The man was clearly certifiable; he had to go. That’s not allowed in America. Well, the excitement. I guess you’re not supposed to get excited.
You’re not supposed to get excited and you’re especially not supposed to get angry. You know, whenever they want to attack anybody they say “too angry.” You know, Hilary, she’s an angry woman. McCain, angry. And it always makes me laugh because I think what we lack in our politicians is anger. Where is the anger? Shouldn’t somebody be angry about this huge fucking shithole of a mess we’re in? That leads to something else I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My life has become incredibly more comfortable in the past five years. I used to be a poor single mom living in Austin. I was very much involved in activist politics. And now I’m involved from a different end, but I’m very much aware of the way a lot of people on the left on the one hand live a very comfortable lifestyle, but then there’s all these issues that come down to the fact that a lot of people’s lives are the opposite of comfortable. So I think there’s a disconnect there and it leads to a certain amount of cynicism, where maybe subconsciously we don’t want somebody who’s that passionate and angry.
Well, I think the problem is that things that threaten us, that would make your life extremely uncomfortable, are not happening right now. But it’s like the Titanic sailing toward the iceberg: We’re gonna hit it. We’re gonna hit it as far as ecnomics goes. You just can’t go this much into debt. You can’t have your country completely in hock to the Chinese and the Japanese and the Saudi Arabians and come out of it. At a certain point they’re gonna call in their markers. We’re sailing toward the iceberg as far as the environment goes. You know it was 119 degrees this summer in Sacramento. 119! How hot does it have to get before people go, “We’re either having a global-warming problem or the Earth is floating toward the sun.” So, is your life comfortable now? Yes, but we’re reaching these tipping points. My life is comfortable, too, but since we have no real homeland security, as far as ports, nuclear plants, chemical plants go, if somebody gets a dirty bomb into Long Beach, which is 20 miles from where I live, my life is gonna get really uncomfortable really quick. If the stock market crashes, my life is gonna get uncomfortable really quick. And if it turns out we really have screwed the pooch on global warming and we can’t turn back the melting of Greenland and all these ice floes that they say are melting every year and the ocean rises by 20 feet, my life is gonna get really uncomfortable from that. So it’s one thing to say my life is comfortable now, but you’ve got to look a little on the horizon to see what’s coming up. Right. I guess my question was, how do you get people to make decisions now that make their lives a little less comfortable …
Especially Americans have always been bad at that. Americans never ever do at dawn what they can do at the end of the day, somebody once said. With a cocktail in hand, thank you very much.
And at a certain point that philosophy, though, is really gonna bite us in the ass. And I have a feeling that’s what’s coming up. I’ve never been as pessimistic about our future; I always thought we had problems — but now I really am, I’m very worried, partly because we really have another almost three years of Administration policies that obviously aren’t going to change because their big virtue is resoluteness. Yeah, right now three years seems like a really long time.
A very long time. One last question: Right now, are you doing everything you’d like to be doing in terms of the media …
Yeah, I love this show on HBO. This is our fourth year. I don’t know where the time went, but it seems like the right thing at the right time in my life. You know you’re a different person every decade, I think. You’re different in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s. And this was the right show to come along at the right time. Ten, 15 years ago, when I was on Politically Incorrect
, that was more, I think, appropriate for me. But you know you get older, and I wanted a more adult show, and I think this is it. And stand-up comedy, which is what I’m doing in San Antonio, has never been more fun for me, or for the audience, because I think even people who watch the show and enjoy it, if they’ve never seen me live, I think they come away going “Wow, that guy really brings it.” So, yeah, everything’s good — and now we’re gonna hit this iceberg.