Minority wit

Political satirist and comedian Bill Maher returns to San Antonio this week on one of his last visits to the provinces before his live Friday-night talk show, Real Time With Bill Maher — the antidote to the wishy-washy faux-liberal compromise that’s killing America — kicks off its eighth season February 19 on HBO. The Current spoke with Maher by phone two weeks before his appearance at Trinity.

The last time we spoke `“The world will end in ice(bergs),” September 12, 2006`, one of the last things you said to me was that we were the Titanic and we were doomed.

Economically speaking, I was talking.


Well, look what happened.

You’re a prophet.

Yeah. I’m not a smart prophet, though, because this is the second time I made an economic prediction and then didn’t really follow through because I was talked out of it by the people who actually handle my money. I did that also with the dot-com thing.

I remember having a discussion with my broker a year before `this` crash, or maybe six months, and I said, let’s get out of the stock market. No. And then I lost all my money — my money was with Lehman Brothers, the one place that went down completely.

Is that why you’re working so much? I think you’re coming through town and then you’re rolling straight into the new season `of Real Time With Bill Maher`.

Exactly. I’m driving a cab at night now.

Let’s talk a little bit about moveyourmoney.info.

Well, that’s really Arianna’s brainchild, but you know she’s always got a bunch of good ideas and I’m happy to get on the bandwagon.

It’s one thing I think to be doing the show, to be doing your standup act, but this really kind of crosses over into a different kind of advocacy, maybe.

Well, like I say, it’s really her deal. She asked me to help out, and I thought it was a great idea. I’m on this page with her, I don’t think we can rely on government anymore — I don’t think they take the lead in a lot of things, and you know it’s an easy, great way for people to take back the power. And I think there’s so much anger out there now. I don’t know if you saw the bankers testifying before congress the other day, you know, reporters trailing them to their cars: “Do you think you get it?” They don’t get it, you know? I just don’t think they get it. Of course the stock market really responded to Obama’s plan to give the stock market all the money — but the recession isn’t over for people.

How much trouble would you say the Democrats are in for the sense that they haven’t addressed the Fat Cat issue?

A lot, because they’re supposed to be the party that does that. I remember when I was a kid my parents were loyal Democrats. My father was very Irish-American, the Kennedy-loving, typical bleeding-heart liberal Democrat down the line, and I remember I said to him, why are we Democrats instead of Republicans? And he said, well, the Republicans are the party of business. And I was like, OK, I guess we’re not in business ...

If the Democrats are OK — as they are — with banks charging 30-percent interest on a credit card, who exactly is this party that’s supposed to be sticking up for the little guy? And that’s the problem with this country; that’s the problem that happened beginning about 30 years ago with the advent of Ronald Reagan, and then Clinton, who was a centrist, corporatist Democrat — we don’t have a party of the left anymore; we don’t have a party of the little guy anymore. The Democrats are a perfectly wonderful party if you want a party that sticks with the bankers, and the hedge-fund managers, and the credit-card companies, and big agriculture. And Obama has raised the defense-spending budget; this used to be what the Republicans did.

And how on earth are we losing the health-care debate? It seemed at the beginning of this that very much the public was behind the notion that we have to have a public option —

Right, they were. Well, again, because the President really didn’t get behind it. You see, the Democrats always cede too much ground before the debate even begins. When Obama was running, he said that if we were starting from scratch, a single-payer system would be the best. Well, then, why not start from scratch? I thought this was a revolution; I thought this was change we could believe in, not the same old crap. If the Democrats had staked out their position for a single-payer system — like pretty much every western democracy already has — then the fallback position would be the public option.

Also, by the way — “single-payer” — the Democrats never learned how to name anything. The Republicans are geniuses at naming things: you know, pro-life and death tax, things like that, death panels. They know how to really move people. The Democrats — “single-payer” — people don’t even know what that means. They hear single-payer, they think, oh, me, I’m the single payer.

So, what’s a sexy name for that?

Patriot Care.

I want to ask you real quick about marijuana.

Why? You need some?

Yeah, if you could just bring some with you that would be great. I totally have glaucoma or something, early onset. You often make remarks on your show that suggest you think it’s ridiculous that it’s illegal.

Yeah, I think most people do at this point. I mean, there’s another no-brainer.

Is there a fundamental shift under way with that?

Well, sure. It was in the paper yesterday, New Jersey became, or is about to become, the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana. It’s an issue I’ve been working on my whole life `chuckles`, and it’s a shame there hasn’t been more progress. I think it’s a tremendous disconnect between the voters and the politicians. I mean the politicians are always scared for coming out for the legalization of marijuana because they’re afraid of an attack ad in the next election cycle, where somebody says my opponent is keeping your kids on drugs. Like so many issues, it’s a fear thing, because when people are rational about it they know that this is not really the worst problem we have. They know that liquor — I hope they know — that liquor and prescription drugs are much more harmful to you. But we never seem to able to advance this cause because marijuana, I’ve always said, needs a good lobbyist — you need a real take-no-prisoners son-of-a-bitch who gets up and takes that breakfast meeting. But they don’t get up at 8 in the morning to take that breakfast meeting. •