Geez! Weren’t there two (three?) diary bitch sessions re: Bill Maher’s "Realtime with Bill Maher" 2/22 show?
I download the show here in Taiwan, and was curious what the hubbub was about. I just got back from a "Visa run" to Hong Kong, and finally finished procuring this most recent installment. I watched it with some trepidation. So, was it true? Did Bill whimp out? Betray progressive ideals?
More after the fold.
I'm watching the show again, right now, as I type. Here's the blow-by-blow:
(Clock; incl. HBO "snow" splash (to 0:04) + Bill's splash (to 0:30):)
01:00 - Monologue. Of course, Bill has it in for the Repub establishment.
06:02 - Tom Brokaw interview. NYT coverage of McCain nascent scandal. Some intelligent circumspection on NYT's perceived reluctance to chase down shit on the Repubs. A bit of Osama boosterism, incl. some claims of support from registered Repubs. Since the topic is, after all, Brokaw's new book, Bill ruminates on his sense that progressives seem to lose steam, or worse, instinctively regress after a few modest gains. Brokaw ponders whether our politically perilous times could impinge on this pattern, this time 'round.
14:00 - Meeting the panel. Bill is complementary to Kingston; questions Franken's reluctance to appear. Fair 'nuff.
15:11 - Obama family "hate crime against apple pie": Hill/Obama "talk to our 'enemies'" debate clip, plus Michelle "first time proud" clip. Of course Frum jumps on this. Walter softens it. Bill catches Frum w/ shit in his mouth re Kennedy and Cuba. Audience appreciative.
19:10 - Kingston segues into Kennedy legacy; dumps on Kennedy. Bit of repartee re LBJ via JFK enforcement of equal access to education, injected into the conversation by Bill, certainly germane to Georgia; great move!
20:05 - Kingston veers things back to the Michelle statement. Bill gives a Jack a bit of sugar over this, but points out that lots of folks say stupid things; cites Ari Fleischer censorship statement.
21:42 - On to the Obama Pledge/Lapel-pin "issue". Bill steers the conversation intelligently to the core question: What's with the kneejerk call to acknowledge U.S.'s putative general supremacy? Walter raises good core questions regarding global perception of the U.S.
24:00 - Obama "non-"accomplishments. Bill lays heavily into Bush on Bush's stunning inexperience. Kingston says Obama "wants" to bomb Pakistan; a blatant mis-characterization, and Bill calls him on that.
25:30 - Kingston slyly intimates Obama's legislative non-record: ADMITTEDLY, Bill doesn't have facts re Obama's accomplishments on tap to refute. It passes quickly.
25:41 - Bill turns it back to the "bombing Pakistan" allegation. Bill puts a good slant on it by pointing out the cognitive clusterfuck that is the Repub flak machine: The repubs always call for two-fisted military action. Well, where is the action? In Iraq? Obama says he'll go where the intelligence points and bomb if necessary. Can no one please the Repubs? Kingston has to scramble to recover by stumping for a new, improved, undoubtedly unconstitutional FISA.
26:24 - Bill asks whether Bush really "keeps...us safer." Kingston necessarily answers lamely. Frum cites declining sophistication of terrorist operations, for which he thanks a tightening surveillance noose. Bill HAS NO ANSWER FOR THIS.
28:26 - Bill returns to the Dem debate. Makes jibes about their debate "stage business."
30:00 - Bill has bit where he voiceovers the thought processes of Dem debaters. A bit of fun, somewhat disrespectful, but no skin off the Dems, at least among the humor-endowed, which I fancy to think is most Dems.
30:54 - Intros Matt Taibbi production. Interesting that Matt is "no holds barred." He points out certain gross hypocrisies of the Hillary campaign. No love lost among Obamistas-but think about it.
34:07 - Back to the show. Matt pretty much expands on the theme of his production at this point. Point well made, and bog bless the lad. It's a point that needs to be made: Until the electorate wises up, they'll be taken advantage of by politicos of any stripe. Sobering and important.
35:22 - On to Taibbi's take on McCain. Bill and Taibbi both call out the NYT; as they arguably should. Walters points up the fuzziness of the issue: Is it about sex, or about influence. Good question. Sure, it gives the Repubs a break, but at what real expense? Dems should not give up clarity and hard research; the temptation to chase a hot story for short-term political gain is good enough for Repubs, and Dems need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Kingston shits in his own mess kit when he suggests that the NYT did the Repubs a favor by ringing that little Pavlovian bell that rallies so much of the no-nothing, think-nothing Repub base: "Tarnation! If the NYT is agin' McCain, I'm fur 'im!" He said it folks, not us!
37:27 - Bill instigates a discussion of McCain's transition from "maverick" to Repub good-old-boy. It winds up being quite a litany. Frum suggests that McCain may forego gov't funding.
39:05 - Bill asks why the panel conservatives didn't originally support McCain. Ouch.
39:32 - Kingston throws down a gauntlet: Isn't McCain the real "agent of change" here? Taibbi really jumps in on this; he won't let Kingston get away with anything. The false reasoning in Kingston's argument is not a bad study: Sure McCain is-or, rather, has from time to time-seemed to advocate piecemeal changes from the stark neocon agenda; but that has nothing to do with the kinds of changes Obama-or, for that matter, Hillary-are talking about. Do the lib/libertarians in the room address this?
40:41 - Bill has an interesting approach. He asks Matt to address the McCain military history, which jumpstarts a fascinating exposition on the fact the McCain remains in one key aspect a dyed-in-the-wool neocon: He's neither more nor less than someone whose DNA, scrutinized with the latest technology, consists of strands of genetic material spelling out the word "BOOM". A short digression on McCain's age, but he and Matt jump right back to the war question with a vengeance. In particular, Matt has done his homework, and he hits this very hard. Viva, Matt! Kingston tries to deflect with the McCain stance toward torture; quickly shot down in light on his recent rhetorical realignment. Frum tries to nuance this for McCain; he stands up for Hillary's realpolitik position relative to Obama; will Obama really protect us from our enemies? Matt cites McCain's Spanish Inquisition comment, and the ire it drew from the far right. I can live with that deflection; away from McCain, and to that far-right base McCain is so temped to appease, even to the point of derailing the ol' "straight talk" express.
46:52 - Kingston points out McCain's holding up passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2007 over the treatment of prisoners. He says that Hillary and Obama were virtually non-existent on that issue. Matt points out-yet again-that it really only serves to highlight another instance of McCain back-pedaling as he approaches the Vestibule of Power.
47:29 - Cuba. Bush's speech re the Castro handoff. Maher tries to ream the panel conservatives on Bush's "free fair" rhetoric, in light of the 2000 election. Kingston calls Cuba a "terrorist" state; no one buys this. Maher cites the anti-Castro terrorist who blew up an actual airliner, and whom the U.S. subsequently protected. Neither Bill not anyone else in the panel recalls his name (it's "Luis Posada Carriles"). Bill points out U.S. hypocrisy on this. Kingston "response" simply blows off this issue: That's all he can do. There's a charming-as-hell bit of repartee, kicked off by Matt, who makes his perfectly astute observation about the U.S. willingness to push "change" abroad by "starv[ing] their children or deny them penicillin or drop bombs on them. What's so wrong with talking with another country?" Kingston thinks he's being one hell of a wag by citing Michael Moore's claim that Cuba's got the best medical system in the world, and Bill zings back faster than light with the remark that, no, Michael only said Cuba's system was better than ours. OUCH! and howls from the audience.
50:47 - Bill talks about the beef recall; his obligatory plug for his pet cause. But then he (refreshingly) quickly uses it as a springboard to talk about the mother of all Repub cognitive dissonances; the shower-of-sparks collision between their "government doesn't work" mantra and their election year "vote for me" spiel. No real response from the panel conservatives. But...
53:05 - Walters feels this is a great moment to address U.S. priorities: Why can we shoot little bits of metal out of the sky, but we can't have clean food, good schools, etc., etc.?
53:48 - Well, I guess it was really only Bill's intent to make sure his pet cause got some face time, because he has to cut her off for...
53:50 - "New Rules"
In short, yeah, he had a couple of friendly-faced jerks on the panel, and yes, he allowed them room to breathe. I'll take that back; he allowed them room to merely not asphyxiate, which is the very least a host should do from the standpoint of the most basic good faith agreement between any host and his or her guests.
In shorter, I think Bill did a bang-up job. The week before...well, that's another story. Don't ask.