Bill Maher made his first appearance on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
He invited himself. Apparently, Maher called up and offered to come on the show, not to plug anything, but just to welcome O'Brien to California.
I didn't know Maher was serving as the Welcome Wagon.
I disagree with the notion that he had nothing to plug. Egomaniac Maher asked to be on the show to plug himself. It's also possible that Obama's people wanted Maher on the air to talk up Obama while he frolics on Martha's Vineyard.
There was some chitchat about California v. New York. The supposedly thoughtful Maher claimed to be concerned about how O'Brien was adjusting to his move out to California. It was an awkward exchange.
Eventually, of course, Maher talked politics.
O'Brien brought up Maher's recent "little bit of a controversy," the interview Maher did on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.
(Video and transcript of that interview here.)
CONAN O'BRIEN: Some people got upset because you said that America is stupid.
BILL MAHER: Yes.
O'BRIEN: And they got upset.
MAHER: You know who did? The stupid people.
(Cheers and applause)
MAHER: Not us. Nobody in this room.... Well, I mean, I was answering a specific question. Wolf Blitzer asked me if I thought Sarah Palin could win a presidential election. And I said, 'I think anything's possible in this stupid country.' And yes, some people's heads exploded, and Bill O'Reilly called me a pinhead.
O'BRIEN: He called you a pinhead?
MAHER: Yes, which is A) not true, and B) really funny coming from a doody-face like him.
O'BRIEN: You're right. It is a stupid country.
MAHER: Well, it is. So, I had to... The next week I just had to defend myself because, you know, I like to back up what I say. So, you know, you can look this stuff up. There are polls that they do, and they find out what people in this country are thinking or, in this case, not thinking. And it's really frightening. Like over half the people cannot name one branch of government or tell..., or tell you what the Bill of Rights is.
Um, they're constantly bitching and moaning about how much taxes they are taxed, and spend. They have no idea what the government spends money on. Like they think 24 percent of our budget goes to foreign aid when it's less than 1 percent. Eighteen percent of people think that the sun revolves around the earth. I'm not making this up.
O'BRIEN: Andy just fainted at that one.
MAHER: Here's a great one: More than half the people do not get it that Judaism preceded Christianity. That's half the people look at books called the New Testament and the Old Testament and cannot figure out which came first.
I hate to be the bad guy, but it is, you know... A third of Republicans think Obama was not born in this country.
O'BRIEN: That's... They have a name.
MAHER: The birthers.
O'BRIEN: The birthers. Yeah.
MAHER: Yes. I mean that's a good example of.... Any birthers here? I don't want to get shot.
(Very little applause)
MAHER: But, yeah, these are, you know, will not accept that he was born in Hawaii, but I read this week 10 percent of people don't know Hawaii is a state.
MAHER: Yeah, but uh, there's nothing you can do. I mean, they have shown his birth certificate. I mean, but they cannot be convinced. You could go up to these birther people with the original birth certificate, personally deliver it with the placenta...
O'BRIEN: Don't do that.
MAHER: You could have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background. Jack Lord could be filming...
O'BRIEN: Sure, I hope so.
MAHER: ...Hawaii 5-0 behind the birth and they would not believe it. So, you know, I make a bargain with these people: I will show you Obama's birth certificate if you show me Sarah Palin's high school diploma. How 'bout that?
O'BRIEN: That's fair.
I think it's funny that Maher depicts conservatives as stupid people.
Remember the poll that John Zogby did for John Ziegler. Obama voters were found to be less than intelligent, informed people. Read more here.
Stupid people elected Obama.
Stupidity is nonpartisan, but that wouldn't fit Maher's template.
Why focus on the birthers?
Maher could have mentioned the stupidity of the 9/11 truthers, as he's done in the past.
O'BRIEN: You have said, and you may have a point here, that you think that President Obama, uh, in how many day has he been in office now? They were counting for a while. It's his ninth day. It's his 100th day. And I don't know what it is now -- it's 140 days, 120 days in office -- that he's overexposed. Do you think our president is overexposed?
MAHER: Well, he is. I mean, at some point, 'Change we can believe in' became, you know, 'Tyler Perry meets the Obamas,' which is fine. I like him. I mean, let's put this in perspective. I'm glad he is the president. You know, I mean, it's a big difference from what we had, just grammatically, you know.
MAHER: When the president speaks, English teachers don't cry now. But, yeah, there is a fine line between transparency, which we did not have with the previous administration, and being overexposed.
I mean, I get it. He likes to be on TV. I like my bong. I take it out of my mouth every once in a while.
Obama has had more than his share of verbal gaffes. The man is lost without his teleprompter.
Have we ever had a president speak more slowly and say "uh" more often than Obama?
Do English teachers cry when they hear the president say, "all wee-weed up"?
MAHER: And, uh, you know, I mean, the point I was trying to make when a president cares that much about his popularity, I don't think it's a good thing. I don't want my president to be primarily a TV star who's worried about his ratings.
I think right now, for example, this health care debate looks like it's... we could lose it because I don't think he has been tough enough. This, you know, he used to say in the campaign, 'It's your time.' This is his time. He should get mad. Stop dicking around. Can you say that here?
O'BRIEN: None of this will air. They're gonna show a Leave it to Beaver.
MAHER: Right. Well, that's dirtier than my...
O'BRIEN: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!
O'BRIEN: We can do better.
MAHER: That's my 'Welcome to California beaver' joke.
O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. We didn't get enough of those in New York. I appreciate it.
I thought Maher was a libertarian.
Has he converted?
Certainly, a true libertarian wouldn't want a massive government bureaucracy controlling health care.
MAHER: Right, right. Uh, but, yeah, I mean, you know, they're talking about 60 votes they need. Forget this stuff, 60.... You can't get Americans to agree on anything 60 percent. Sixty percent of people don't believe in evolution in this country.
He just needs to drag them to it. Like I just said, they're stupid. Just drag them to this. Get health care done, you know, with or without them. Make the Gang of Six an offer they can't refuse. This Max Baucus guy? He needs to wake up tomorrow with an intern's head in his bed.
O'BRIEN: Good Lord.
What a horrific thing to say!
Talk about inciting violence!
I get The Godfather reference, but what does that suggest?
That the White House should use mafia tactics?
Rahm Emanuel is the Enforcer. He does send people dead fish.
MAHER: I'm serious. You know, this is where, I said this months ago and people criticized me, this is where the president needs to be a little more like Bush. Bush had horrible ideas -- torture, deregulation, massive tax cuts for the rich, preemptive war -- horrible ideas.
But you know what? He had that swagger that said, 'I'm just gonna get it through. Suck on it, America, if you don't like it.'
O'BRIEN: So, you think Obama needs to get to that level of toughness.
MAHER: He needs to marry his good ideas with that kind of attitude.
They asked Dick Cheney once, 'Most of Americans are against the Iraq war.' Do you remember what he said? 'So?'
In other words, 'We got elected. You have your opinions. Fine. That's what Twitter is for. But, I'm gonna do what I have to do.'
And that's what Obama should do. He should wake up tomorrow and say, 'Jesus told me to fix health care.' I'm certain about it. Seriously.
(Applause and laughter)
Funny that Maher mocks President Bush's faith.
Just last week, Obama said, "We are God's partners in matters of life and death."
I think that translates to "Jesus told me to fix health care."
O'BRIEN: Well, he does. It's one thing to say that he needs to get tough, but we have a two party system. He needs those votes. He has to convince....
MAHER: He doesn't need those votes. That's the point. He does not need those votes. They have 60 votes. They only need 51.
That's right. The Republicans aren't blocking anything. This is the Dems' baby. Reconciliation.
O'BRIEN: But there is something to be said probably for making in a two party system...
MAHER: He has tried. We do not have a two party system.
MAHER: We have two parties, but we don't have the right two parties. We have one party that is a good party if you're defending banks, credit card companies, big agriculture, pharmaceutical lobby. That would be the Democrats. And then on the other side, we have a fringe party of religious lunatics, flat-earthers, and Civil War reenactors who call themselves...
MAHER: They call themselves the Republicans, and they take their orders from Rush Limbaugh. And they think Obama is a socialist. Socialist? He's not even a liberal. What we need is a progressive party in this country. We don't have it.
Could Maher be more offensive? "Fringe party of religious lunatics, flat-earthers, and Civil War reenactors."
Maher is operating under an entirely different set of definitions if he thinks that Obama isn't a liberal.
Obama thinks of himself as a liberal.
O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think a lot of the great social change though in this country, just me personally, has come through some element of compromise, and it's too bad that we... I don't think we can do that. That's all.
MAHER: But that's what he's been trying, compromise. And they don't want to compromise. See, they only win when health care loses. That's how this...
O'BRIEN: Is your prediction then that health care will not pass. Is that what you're saying?
MAHER: I don't know. I just hope that he doesn't sign anything that says 'health care reform,' you know, if it's not actual health care reform.
Again, I thought Maher was a libertarian. Apparently, he's abandoned that.
Maher's segment ended with him complaining about the government subsidizing "bad things."
MAHER: Please, you're in California now. Let me show you how to eat.
O'BRIEN: What is that?
MAHER: Well, I'm just saying I wouldn't eat a hot dog if you put a condom on it.
O'BRIEN: Neither would I!
That was the only time I laughed during Maher's appearance, and it was at something O'Brien said.
O'Brien seemed rather uncomfortable during much of the interview.
It was like he didn't want to agree with Maher even when he did.
Maher's extremism seemed to make him nervous. O'Brien didn't say much. He kept sipping from his mug. It was as if O'Brien was searching for a joke to interject and lighten things up, but instead he just ended up listening as Maher did his "America is stupid" shtick.
It wasn't entertaining.