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Interview with Bill Maher

Aired July 22, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher, outspoken as always on Bush and Kerry and the race for the White House, the 9/11 commission's final report release today and more.

And of course your phone calls. Bill Maher for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: A couple of quick notes before we begin. Sharon Stone is the special guest tomorrow night.

All next week at the Democratic convention in Boston, including a special show Sunday night, live at 9:00 Eastern. And then we'll be on twice nightly Monday through Thursday at the convention, at 9:00 Eastern, and midnight Eastern.

So we'll be doing two shows nightly at the convention.

Bill Maher returns to LARRY KING LIVE. The host of "Realtime With Bill Maher" which returns to HBO on July 30, the night after the convention ends. It will be on Friday nights at 11:00 p.m. He's the author of the "New York Times" bestseller, "When You Ride Alone You Ride With bin Laden." His live one-man show "Victory Begins At Home" is available on DVD.

And it's always a great pleasure to welcome him. Whether you agree or disagree Bill Maher is on target.

BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I can not wait to see what Sharon Stone says about the 9/11 commission. Grill her. Don't let her get away with anything, Larry.

KING: Let's start with your opinion first.

MAHER: Well, it kind of makes you miss the days when big government reports were about oral sex, doesn't it?

KING: You start slow.

MAHER: I watched the news all day today and there was surprisingly little mention of the fact that President Bush opposed this report. I think that's the key.

KING: He didn't want to have the commission? MAHER: He stonewalled it every inch of the way. Graydon Carter wrote about it in "Vanity Fair" this week. He outlined every step of the way. And it's true. This president did not want this report out there. And you know, for people who are, you know, I'm not Republican or Democrat, but I'm not making a secret I don't want this president reelected. But I think for people who do, for people who are Bush supporters, they really need to look in the mirror and ask themselves, because they consider themselves more patriotic usually, the Republicans, was that the patriotic thing to do? Who do you love more? George Bush or your country? If you love your country more, wouldn't you say that the president should have wanted this report?

KING: Why was he opposed?

MAHER: Because it came out with things that embarrass him.

KING: But it embarrassed Clinton, too. It embarrassed a lot of administration -- and in fact, it didn't really harpoon anyone. It just made recommendations more than blame.

MAHER: And that's part of the problem with it is that it really didn't advance the cause of homeland security.

KING: So Bush's fears were unwarranted.

MAHER: Well, they were warranted because we found out things like Iran was more involved with the 9/11 hijackers than Iraq. So we apparently attacked the wrong country. Little things like that. You know...

KING: You think the changes will be made? You think we'll listen? They're going to go swamp...

MAHER: I think they're going to build a new building which is what bureaucracies often do when there's a problem. Look we have a new homeland security building. You know, I'm not against what they're attempting to do. But you know, they're suggesting that we have some sort of central intelligence agency.

KING: Mm-hmm.

MAHER: Oh, wait a second, we already have a central -- that's right.

KING: They want one that the FBI answers to, the CIA answers to, police departments. A centralized form of dealing.

MAHER: But the problem isn't that we don't have a central intelligence agency. We, sort of, do. The problem is that it's never been held accountable.

KING: Maybe now it is.

MAHER: Maybe. We'll see.

KING: You don't sound very confident. MAHER: I don't. Why should I be? I mean, this Iran stuff, for example. To learn, how disturbing is this to learn that nine or ten of the hijackers were allowed to pass through Iran. That, to me, sounds exactly like the kind of connection we were expecting with al Qaeda. Because Iran is, after all, a theocratic government.

And the problem that we are facing, is religion. You know, they don't come out and get real about terrorism, even in this report. And that is one of the things they need to get real about. It's about religion. I've said this before. That pretending that terrorism has nothing to do with religion, as the administration does, it's like pretending that AIDS in America had nothing to do with homosexuality. A lot of people did it. It gets you applause on "Oprah," but it doesn't help solve the problem.

And it makes sense to me that a theocratic regime like Iran would allow this to happen. I'm not saying that they knew what these guys were doing. I'm saying that they were al Qaeda guys who went to Iran without having their passport stamped and the theocratic people in Iran went, oh, we don't want to know. But you know, we know you're bad guys. We know you hate America. I think that's all good. Go ahead.

I mean, if Iraq had done this, what Iran actually did, I would be out there with Toby Keith singing those songs about how we should stick a boot up their ass.

KING: What do you -- are you excited about the Democratic convention?

MAHER: Excited? That's a very strong word to say about a convention in this era.

KING: But there's no suspense.

MAHER: Well, there is no suspense, that's true. You know, at least the Democrats keep it real in their convention. They put on the people who are their party. They're putting on Ted Kennedy. They're putting on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton. You don't get that from the Republican party.

KING: Well, but they're not Republicans.

MAHER: Yes, but the Republican party does not put on who they are. Those are the people who the Democrats are.

KING: Who does the Republican party put on?

MAHER: They don't put on John Ashcroft. They don't put on Tom Delay. They don't put on the mean side of the Republican party, the Dick Cheney side, the real George Bush side. They put on Arnold Schwarzenegger. He doesn't represent what the Republican party is really going towards.

KING: Giuliani. MAHER: Giuliani and Chaka Khan. You know, that's not the Republican party. They put on a fake Potemkin Village version of the Republican party. At least the Democrats are the Democrats.

KING: Back to the Democrats. Since you were last here Mr. Edwards was selected. He was a guest on this show last night. What do you make of that selection?

MAHER: Great idea. That's what's going to help the Democrats. He's a terrific campaigner and he's a very attractive candidate. And I saw him with you last night. One thing I like about John Edwards is that he looks like a human. You ask him a question, and he kind of gets that squinty look like, you know, like I'm listening to this question, and then he answers it like a person. Like -- not like somebody who's panicky like George Bush, like, "is this the right answer?" "Is this the -- I hope I didn't say anything wrong." Kerry does a little of that, too. But much less than George Bush and a lot less than a lot of politicians. But John Edwards looks to me like he's actually thinking about it and answering it, like this is what I really think.

KING: What do you make of the rumors about Mr. Cheney?

MAHER: That's a dilemma for George Bush. Because on the one hand, George Bush is the stay-the-course guy. You know. That's his big mantra. Which is not a good idea, by the way. You know, things change. New information comes along. When new information comes along it's not wrong to change your mind.

I don't think John Kerry is a tremendous flip-flopper. I think things changed so he changed. George Bush famously said he doesn't do that. He doesn't do nuance. This would be a terribly engaging quality if it didn't threaten the world. So, you know, on the one hand he wants to stay the course with Dick Cheney. On the other hand, he might lose with Dick Cheney. So he's got that dilemma. I'm the stay-the-course guy, but I'm also the guy who wants to win.

KING: So which way does the coin come?

MAHER: I don't know. You know, I think he would like a vice president like Dick Cheney, because if you put somebody in the vice presidency who's going to be popular, that messes up Jeb in 2008. Dick Cheney's not going to run in 2008. That's Jeb's year.

KING: Do you think he's thinking...

MAHER: Where Dick Cheney, you know, he's not going to be around. I saw a rally for Dick Cheney the other day. People were chanting, "four more months." I'm saying he's got a bad heart.

KING: Oh, I know. I get it. Do you think this is going to be a very rough, abusive kind of campaign?

MAHER: It's already been a rough, abusive kind of campaign.

KING: Going to get worse? MAHER: The way these guys can -- and the right can level the playing field on any issue because the American public does not pay a great deal of attention. I mean, that's the whole Sandy Berger thing. You know, I mean was Sandy Berger wrong to take those documents? Of course he was wrong. But the key question is, is he a spy?

KING: Is he a spy?

MAHER: So why was he doing it?

KING: To get more information for himself when he testified.

MAHER: Right. Because he couldn't do all the cramming at the government building, he had to take it home at night. So the question becomes not, gee, was Iran the right country to attack? I mean, Iraq or Iran? Or the question becomes what does Sandy Berger have in his pants?

You know, it's -- it's a way to distract us. And that's what they're very good at. I mean, they did it with John Kerry. John Kerry who, you know, is a legitimate war hero. Somehow it became, you know, John Kerry threw his medals away. Is John Kerry a coward because he had the nerve to come back from Vietnam alive? They're able to make the argument look like it's on a level playing field when it's not. John Kerry was the guy whose Swift boat was on the Mekong Delta and he had literally charged the shore and killed the guy in the spider hole. George Bush is the guy who when the aide says, sir, the country is under attack, sits there for seven minutes, frozen. He choked. That's what's called choking in sports. When you can't move.

KING: We'll get a break and come back. We'll try to draw some more out. It's always difficult every time we have him on. We get him to have an opinion. We'll include your calls in a while, too. Don't go away.


MAHER: Ladies and gentlemen, on September 11, 2001, America was attacked by a squad of Saudi Arabians working out of Germany, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And by that I mean we were attacked by Iraq.



MAHER: a squad of Saudi Arabians working out of Germany, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And by that I mean we were attacked by Iraq.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: John Kerry is getting a big boost from what they call the Edwards bounce, because he selected John Edwards to be his running mate, you know? The Edwards bounce. Don't confuse that now with the Clinton bounce, because that will get you impeached.


KING: Bill Maher is our guest. He returns to "Real Time with Bill Maher" one week from tomorrow night at 11:00 Eastern on HBO. The show also, congratulations, nominated for an Emmy.

What do you make of the Clinton book "My Life"?

MAHER: I haven't read it yet. You know, I'm a big fan of his. I never made a secret of that. And I never defended him when he didn't deserve defending. That's the difference, I think, between the Republicans and the liberals. Is that they defend bush No matter what he does. They will tie themselves in knots to work backwards. I never defended Clinton when he said he was a draft dodger. Of course he was a draft dodger. You know, there was a war on. He found a way not to go. So did George Bush. The difference is they tie themselves in knots trying to tell you how George Bush did the right thing. The book, you know, I haven't read. But I heard that it starts out with his boyhood in Arkansas and goes right to my wife doesn't understand me.

Kidding, Bill, please!

You know I love him.

KING: OK, Stem cell research. Ron Reagan will speak at the Democratic Convention.

MAHER: Yes. Well, you know, it's funny Ronald Reagan, his father, famously said I didn't leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me.

KING: Right.

MAHER: I think probably Ron Reagan Jr. would say the opposite. You know, I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me. They became the party of intolerance. They became the party of big government. They became the party of exactly against his father's wishes, the government that was in people's private lives. So I'm not surprised that he would choose to speak on this subject at the Democratic Convention. And that, I mean, that stem cell issue is just...

KING: What do you make of it?

MAHER: It's a perfect example about how the world is really dividing I think between the religious and the non-religious. And we are in danger of being on the wrong side of that because we are such a religious country.

KING: Religion is bad?

MAHER: Religion, you know, I think is very bad. And it's extremely dangerous at this point in time. I read a statistic, I think 61 percent of the people in this country say religion solves some or all -- most or all of our problems. OK, religion solves nothing. OK, religion doesn't solve it. You know, it's like a hot bath does not solve a cold apartment. It may salve for awhile, but it doesn't solve it. It actually makes more problems because faith is a way to make a virtue of things that make absolutely no sense. Like stem cell research. I mean, the idea that President Bush -- remember when he went away to make that big decision right before 9/11, he went to his ranch for a month to think about it. Oh the red states were very impressed, Larry, that he took a whole month to think about stem cell.

When by the way, he should have been thinking about terrorism. That was the month when he met with the CIA director once. OK, so he's down there thinking about stem cell. He comes up with this Solomon-like decision to split the difference right down the middle, which the media hails as some sort of wisdom. As if it is wisdom to split the difference between people who really could use help from this stem cell research, and a bunch of right-wing nuts who would rather see research go undone, all because some microscopic goo on a subatomic level might, what one day grow up to be a Republican? That is not wisdom. And I'm glad Ron Reagan is pointing that out. Again, you want me to be more opinionated?

KING: Do you think it's an issue? you think gay marriage is going to be an issue in the election?

MAHER: They're making it an issue. That's another perfect example of religion making something that makes absolutely no sense into an issue. To a rational person, anyone with eyes can see God, and I believe in God, or a higher being, I just don't believe in the people who pretend they're talking for him. They can see that God or nature created, nature, even in the animal world, a gay minority. It's just a fact. For some reason, God wanted a gay minority among us. Maybe it's because we're too aggressive and gays are less aggressive. Although not at the Ramrod on Saturday night. Not that I would know that.

But I don't know. That's what the rational mind says. The rational mind takes it as the given. There are gay people in the world. The irrational mind...

KING: They're not saying there aren't. They're just saying they shouldn't get married. Marriage is a man and a woman. They acknowledge that there are gays in the world.

MAHER: What they acknowledge is that there are gays because it's a choice. They believe it is a choice. They believe, as the Bible says, it is an abomination. And it's not a choice. It's obviously not a choice. So they're working From this ridiculous premise. They think that if people get married, if gay people get married, it will lead to more homosexuality. As if guys like you and me, Larry, are just looking for a little legal cover to get together with each other. KING: We get a break, that's funny. We'll get a break and come right back with more Bill Maher. At the bottom of the hour we'll go to your phone calls. Don't go away.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JOHN STEWART": Even the man Kerry wants to replace had nice things to say.

BUSH: Listen, I welcome Senator Edwards on the ticket. The vice president called him early this morning to say, after the announcement was made, to say that, he welcomes him to the race and as do I. And I look forward to a spirited contest.

STEWART: That's so sweet how Bush welcomes Edwards to the race. If you go to Bush's Web site he welcomes Edwards by referring to him as quote the ultimate flip-flop. While his party greeted him as disingenuous unaccomplished and inexperienced. So welcome.




MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER (voice-over): With everything going wrong, he did what any of us would do, he went on vacation.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must stop the terror. We call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers.

Now watch this drive.


KING: That's, of course, from Fahrenheit 9/11. Michael Moore will be one of the guests when Bill Maher returns next Friday night at 11:00 on host -- he's the host of "Realtime with Bill Maher."

What do you make of that movie?

MAHER: Well, obviously, I'm partial to the cause of removing this president from office.

KING: Is it a fair movie, though?

MAHER: Well, it's a point of view movie. Of course, that's his point of view. Even the man Kerry wants to replace had nice things to say. It's funny the way people are like, you know, Michael Moore plays fast and loose with the facts. That's not okay in a filmmaker. In a president -- geez. Sorry. But, you know, he does do a service, I think, to this country by showing some things that we really need to focus on. Like that seven minutes President Bush took to get up after he was told the country was under attack. To me, this is an ultimate deal breaker in this election. And again, I would invite...

KING: It's that important to you?

MAHER: Don't you think...

KING: Maybe he was thinking, getting his thoughts together.

MAHER: Excuse me, Larry. We are living in the nuclear age. A guy didn't come up to him and say, sir, the British fleet is leaving England, they'll be here in three months. We are living in the nuclear age where ICBMs take less than an hour to travel thousands of miles.

Remember, Tony Blair said Saddam Hussein has got missiles that are 45 minutes away? Jets scramble to get in the air. This is not an age where a president can take seven minutes, and then another 20 to do photo-ops. This is unconscionable that this is not the ultimate issue in this election. This should be the issue.

And again, I would invite Republicans, independents, people who are thinking of voting for the president, to say to themselves, take President Bush out of this equation. Take him out. Just say a president is told by an aide, the country is under attack. Should that president, A, stick to what he's doing and not interrupt. Or consider that an immediate cause to get up and react?

I don't see how anyone can argue the reverse. And the excuse they gave. He didn't want to scare the children. This is the ultimate for the children, Larry. I mean, apparently 20 children in a schoolroom in Florida is more important than the fate of the country. That's how important children are in America.

Dick Cheney, who said about John Kerry, John Kerry has given us ample reason to doubt the judgment he brings to issues of national security. OK, the judgment he brings? So the aide comes in and tells the president, the country is under attack. And his judgment is, OK, country under attack. I don't know what that means. But I'm going to stay here so I don't scare the children.

Scaring 20 -- as if it would scare the children. You just say excuse me, president business, gotta run, bye. But OK, even say in your fantasy world it scares the children. That stacks up against protecting the country? It's astounding, Larry, that this is not more of an issue.

KING: Let me move to another area. Let's watch Mr. Schwarzenegger recently discussing opponents of the budget and get your comments. Here's Arnold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: If they don't have the guts to come out here in front of you and say I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers, and I want them to make the millions of dollars. I don't want to represent you. If they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men. You should go back to the table and you should fix the budget.


KING: What do you make of the girlie men comment? A comment he had made previously on Saturday Night Live?

MAHER: We talked about this issue before, called fake outrage. I mean I'm no big fan of Governor Schwarzenegger, but this is nothing. It's fake outrage. Anyone who really is outraged that at comment is a girlie man! you should wear a plaid skirt if you're outraged.

Just the way they were outraged at Linda Ronstadt the other night in Las Vegas.

KING: She praised Michael Moore.

MAHER: And people rioted at the Aladdin Hotel. And the Aladdin Hotel was like, you know what, we're not in the business of political activism. No, you're in the business of getting people drunk and losing the rent money.

And see, again, I have to say this is the difference between conservatives and liberals. I can't see liberals rioting if Lee Greenwood dedicated a song to Sean Hannity. I just think they would have went oh, that's nothing and they would have moved on with their life. It wouldn't have been a cause celebre.

To throw this woman out of the hotel without even letting her go up to the room and pack her stuff? It's astounding.

KING: And so Arnold was perfectly all right to make that...

MAHER: Of course.

KING: Didn't offend anyone?

MAHER: Fake outrage.

KING: Fake outrage.

MAHER: It's -- if anyone, I'm telling you, if they're really that offended at that, at Linda Ronstadt, at Janet Jackson's breast falling out of her thing, at the Dixie Chicks, any of this stuff, it's all on you. Because, this stuff is not really what is so important in this country right now. We have an ability to have in the room an elephant and a fly, and think somehow that they're of equal stature.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back your phone calls for Bill Maher. Sharon Stone tomorrow night. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Well, of course he is, George W. Bush, George W. Bush public speaker. Well, of course he is. George W. Bush public speaker. Take a look.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's -- here's -- here's -- here's how...

LETTERMAN: Here's -- here's -- here's -- here's ...


KING: We're back with Bill Maher. "Realtime With Bill Maher" returns to HBO on July 30. That's a week from tomorrow night at 11:00 p.m. live Eastern. He's the author of "The New York Times" best- seller, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden." His live one- man show "Victory Begins at Home" is available on DVD.

And the caller is from Toronto. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. Do you think the West Bank fence in Israel is illegal? Thank you.


MAHER: Well, you know, the world holds Israel to a standard that it would never hold any other country to. I'll tell you what the West Bank fence is. It's effective, apparently. And I understand why Israel is doing what they're doing. I understand why they are handling this situation unilaterally. Because they've never really had a partner for peace. They put an offer that was reasonable by anyone's standards on the table under the Clinton administration, with Arafat, and he spurned it.

KING: Why do you think so many people don't like Israel?

MAHER: Because I think the media loves a victim. And the Palestinians, being poor without any weapons, and only can throw rocks and blow themselves up, look like a victim.

KING: But for a long time the media loved Israel.

MAHER: I don't think the media really did ever love Israel.

KING: The '60s and '70s, you don't think?

MAHER: Yes, more so. Yes. Well, Israel...

KING: Six-Day War? Israel was a hero.

MAHER: Yes, right. But Israel got stronger. Excuse me, because they had to. And by the way, on this day when the 9/11 Commission report came out, what the 9/11 Commission report should have said was, Israel, let's just do what Israel does. They've been fighting this terrorism problem longer than we have. They take it seriously. They don't politicize it. It's not all about what's politically correct, is more important than what's for our real security.

And by the way, since Israel does it best, wouldn't you rather have the method that works the best? If you were buying an appliance for the home, don't you want the best? But this is the most...

KING: But they're the size of Connecticut. You've got a whole country.

MAHER: But this is our most important thing. Wouldn't we want the best system available? If you're getting a stereo system, you want the best. You want the flat screen TV.

KING: You're calling the Mossad...

MAHER: Israel has got the state-of-the-art system for doing this.

KING: Topeka, Kansas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Thanks for having Bill on. We adore him.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Bill, what do you think about Bush and Cheney not testifying under oath before the commission, even though there's not a precedent for that? Wouldn't it have given them much-needed credibility?

KING: Should they have gone under oath?

MAHER: I think again, what about having to testify together?

KING: What do you make of that?

MAHER: Again, it's -- it's holding this president to a lower standard. They constantly do it. It's the same thing I was just talking about, where it took him seven minutes to get up. I can't imagine any other president, any other person who would be president, not being able to get up. Max Cleland would have gotten up, if they...


MAHER: ... if the aide had said, the country is under attack. And it's the same thing. What other president would get away with saying, no, I've got to be with my vice president. You know? Because when I get one right, he gives me a biscuit.

KING: Grand Falls, Newfoundland. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, Bill, should the United States now take sanctions against Iraq?

MAHER: Sanctions against Iraq?

KING: They don't have sanctions against Iraq, sir.

MAHER: I don't know if you heard -- I don't know if you heard the news.

KING: In case you didn't hear, we invaded Iraq and freed them, and they have their own government. I don't know if there are sanctions against Iraq.

MAHER: Is this guy watching a rerun?

KING: American soldiers are not being fed. Santee, California...


MAHER: I'd like to say something about Iraq.

KING: Go ahead.

MAHER: I mean, our whole theory, George Bush's whole theory about Iraq is that the Arab world only understands strength. That's why we had to go into Iraq. I would agree with that premise. The Arab world only does understand strength. The problem is that we have no capability anymore to show the kind of strength that they really appreciate.

Their idea of strength is like when Saddam Hussein said during the first Gulf War, America could never stand to see 25,000 dead in one battle. And of course, he could. Because he doesn't care about people. And he doesn't. But that's their idea of strength. We are not showing that kind of strength. Our methodology apparently now in Iraq is, if there's a trouble spot like Fallujah, just give it back to whoever wants it. You know what? Whether it's the Mehdi army or the old Baathists -- Saddam was right, these people are nuts. Just give it back to them. That's not showing strength.

KING: Santee, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I'd like to know, Bill, do you think the American people get the point of your book?

MAHER: No. And part of the reason why, the point of my book was that we should bring civilians into this war on terror. That in any other war, my book, as you know, was taken from the idea of the old World War II posters, where they were asking the people to help out. George Bush has made a cause of not asking people to sacrifice. He says he's a war-time president. But if he really was a war-time president, he would do what war-time presidents do, and that is ask the people to sacrifice.

KING: What sacrifice how? What do you want us to do? Give me an example.

MAHER: Well, first of all, we could conserve energy so that we're not so beholden to the people who sell us oil, who are the same people ...

KING: He hasn't asked people to conserve energy?

MAHER: Has he? Are you kidding?

KING: No, I don't think he really hasn't.

MAHER: He hasn't. Of course he hasn't. Dick Cheney famously said it was a personal prerogative, to conserve energy. You've got to be kidding if you think this administration wants people to conserve energy. They are an oil lobby government.

We could also just become more savvy about the whole situation. You know, like I said, the Israelis, they're savvy about the enemy we're fighting. We're not savvy about the enemy we're fighting, because we don't get that lead from the person who is leading us, which is George Bush. I heard him again today say they hate us for our freedom. Oh, my God. You know what? That's nice if you are a toddler to believe in two-dimensional ideas like that.

But this is a very, very nuanced world. It's about a lot more than just hating us for our freedom. Maybe if he understood the situation a little more, maybe if he had taken an interest earlier in his life in foreign affairs, he would have understood that far from Saddam Hussein being our enemy with the terrorists, he would have actually been a bulwark against the terrorists. Because he was like the kind of dictators we propped up in the communist era. You know, people who were very bad people. I'm not saying it was morally right, but we did that. We propped up people because they would not allow the kind of people we hated even more into...

KING: Lyndon Johnson, you're a friend of mine, you're a friend of mine.

MAHER: Exactly. We did that throughout the Cold War. OK, Saddam Hussein would never have allowed a terrorist base in his country, because they were a power rival to him. Dictators never allow a power rival in their country. There was no terrorism in Iraq before this war. Now there is. That's the difference.

KING: Buffalo, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. What are your thoughts about the announcement that Bush has authorized that the U.S. can sell arms to Iraq again? Thank you. MAHER: The U.S. can sell arms -- well, I mean, they're our ally now. We've, you know, we've let them take the reins of government, which is sort of one of our lies about what's going on there.

KING: Nampa, Idaho, hello.

MAHER: Kind of like when you give your wife the car because it's better for her insurance.

KING: Nampa, Idaho.

CALLER: Hello. Yeah, Larry, hi.


CALLER: Bill, I love you, too.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: What do you think about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal?

MAHER: I think it's bad. I think the Abu Ghraib prison scandal really exposes some of the key lies that we've been telling ourselves about terrorism. And again, this is something that should have probably come out in this report today. It's a little far afield for them. But I think somebody has to get out the fact that we have never been straight with ourselves about the key things that are going on with terrorism.

One, we tell ourselves that terrorism is unique. It's not only not unique, it's something the United States itself has practiced. During World War II in 1945, we bombed not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki, before we even bombed them, we destroyed 67 Japanese cities. We killed between 50 and 90 percent of the population of 60...

KING: That was a time of war, wasn't it?

MAHER: It was a time of war...

KING: You call that terrorism?

MAHER: When you're attacking civilians, that's what we have said is terrorism. That's what we have said is beyond the pale. We have done it ourselves. Sherman's march to the sea was all about killing civilians. The Ku Klux Klan is a home-grown terror organization that the federal government countenanced for 100 years as a sort of paramilitary to the police departments in Southern states.

So, for us to pretend that we have never engaged in that kind of activity is ridiculous. That's one lie.

The other lie is that the terrorists were in Iraq, and because terrorists are not like any other people we've ever fought, they don't deserve the Geneva Convention.

So there you have people gathering prisoners in Iraq. OK, so they told us terrorism is in Iraq. Iraq is a war on terrorism, and terrorists don't deserve the Geneva Convention because it's a completely unique way of fighting.

Well, that's ridiculous. That's how we wound up with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

KING: Fort Smith, Arkansas. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. Love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Do you believe that Colin Powell will stay and keep the administration intact if Bush wins the election?

MAHER: You asked me about Colin Powell last time, and I said I thought he was a hero because he does stay. A lot of people say, you know, oh, he lied for the administration and he went along with them. And that's just not my opinion. My opinion is this guy could quit. It would be the easy way out. And I think what he says to himself is, you know what, if I leave, there will be nobody sane here. I really need to stay because I'm the one voice of reason.

KING: You think he's being a good soldier?

MAHER: He's doing that, too. I mean, that's what he was trained to do. And he is a terrific soldier and I think he's a terrific patriot.

KING: So, even though you disagree with most of the things this administration stands for, you applaud him for staying with them?

MAHER: Yes, because as I said I think he is the only person when they get into a room who can at least move them a little bit towards sanity. Obviously not very far. But further than they would have been without him.

KING: Back with more Bill Maher and more of your phone calls. Don't go away.


STEWART: Let's begin the night with a political ritual as old as the hills, the first joint appearance, the players, Senators John Kerry and John Edwards. The time, this morning. The place, the Heinz Estate outside Pittsburgh in almost pristine wilderness. Wait, I think I see something. Yes, I -- the hills are alive with the sound of -- and what. I always cry at those kinds of photo-ops.




CRAIG KILBORN, "LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN": White House officials tried to talk to Cheney about softening his image but have been told never to interrupt him when he's yelling at puppies.


KING: We're back with Bill Maher.

New Orleans, hello.

CALLER: Bill, what do you think about the Republicans helping Nader get on the ballot?

And what impact will he have on this year's election?

MAHER: Well, I'm not surprised. As Don Corleone once said, it's the smart move. But, I said this before, I think it will have that much of an effect on the election. I really think...

KING: But any effect it has has an effect.

MAHER: No, not true.

KING: In close states it has to have an effect.

MAHER: No, that's not true. Because everybody who was going to vote for Kerry might vote for Kerry. And other people who weren't going to vote at all might vote for Nader. It's the same way that in television sometimes they throw up a show against another big show. And the original big show like "CSI: Miami" gets 20 million viewers a week. It still gets 20 million viewers a week, but the new show just brought in a new audience. An extra 10 million people watched TV.

KING: I see.

MAHER: So in the same way...

KING: So the Nader voter is not someone who's thinking Kerry/Nader, Kerry/Nader?

MAHER: No, I think it's someone who would have stayed home. Unlike the 2000 election where Nader did get votes from people like myself and Michael Moore who would have normally voted for Al Gore, we voted for...

KING: What do you think of the Republicans contributing, though, helping get him on the ballot?

That's a smart move, right?

MAHER: It's a smart, cynical move. That's politics. I don't blame them for that.

KING: Miami, hello.

CALLER: Yes, do you think President Bush is sincere in supporting Ariel Sharon's position, the government with denying the Palestinians right of return or do you think this is just a ploy to get the Jewish vote? MAHER: I think this is all -- this has everything to do with the fact that George Bush is a born-again Christian. OK, and this is why religion is so dangerous in our society. Because George Bush is not just a Christian. He's a born-again, they believe Jesus is coming back any day now. And they want everything to be perfect for him. They call it the rapture, right?

KING: Why is that bad?

MAHER: Well, Thomas Jefferson said the book of revelations was the ravings of a lunatic. George Bush organizes his foreign policy around it. That's why it's bad. Because his decisions about Israel are affected by his religious beliefs.

KING: You mean that Christ is coming back Israel.

MAHER: Jesus is coming back, and he's not coming back to Toledo, Larry, he's coming back to his home, which is Jerusalem, which has to be in Jewish hands because the Jews have a very important role to play when Jesus comes back, which is, of course, to be dead. Because there can't be any Jews around.

KING: That's right, yes.

MAHER: I mean, this is scary stuff. Because it's completely irrational. It's like half this country wants to guide our ship of state by a compass. A compass, something that works by science and rationality, and imperial wisdom. And half this country wants to kill a chicken and read the entrails like they used to do in the old Roman Empire. And I'm with the compass people.

KING: Danville, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. I want to say, bill, I think you're very intelligent and very knowledgeable. I'd like to know if you get that genetically or is it self-learned?

You seem very normal, very human.

KING: Was your father brilliant and your mother and your grandfather, was he a genius?

Are you self-learned?

MAHER: It's like being gay, Larry. It's a choice.

KING: In other words you chose to be brilliant?

MAHER: No. I don't know if I'm brilliant. But I do follow the news because my father was a news man, yes.

KING: Your father was in the media. Your father worked for the Mutual Broadcasting System.

MAHER: Thank you very much, and they could use I plug. Yes, my father was a radio news guy. So that was something that was always in our household. And what I...

KING: The news came home.

MAHER: The news. And of course what I've learned in my adulthood is that people from other parts of the world, that's their normal state of affairs, in Europe, the Middle East, these are always the biggest fans of my show. They always got my old show. They get the new show. That's their idea of the way it should be at home. Because they love in a cafe society. People sit outside in cafes or they sit at home at the dinner table and they discuss issues. They discuss something. Americans don't read the paper, they don't talk to their family about issues. They watch TV during dinner. They all have a separate TV in their homes, in their bedrooms. So, you know, I'd be a lot more popular if I was working in Europe.

KING: Spokane, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Bill, I think you're great. What do you -- do you think that the president will attack Iran or the country of Cuba if he is re-elected, and hopefully not re-elected but...

KING: You think those are next?

MAHER: I don't think anybody's left, we don't have an army left. We don't have anybody -- to attack.

Did you see the other day that they drafted a 68-year-old guy?


MAHER: I'm not kidding. They brought up a 68-year-old reservist. I mean, how would you like to be in a fox hole with a guy who actually remembers the Maine?

Governors from all around the country are saying if we have to fight fires, if we have a local emergency, we're out of luck, because all our National Guardsmen are overseas. I mean, we can't even defend this country.

KING: How about the draft?

Bring back the draft.

MAHER: I don't think they'll do it because, again, it would alienate voters. It would not pander to people which is what they're good at in Washington. But, if we want to attack another country or even hang onto the one we've already attacked, we're going to need more people.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Bill Maher and some more phone calls right after this.


MAHER: See, I love him, Rumsfeld because he's so politically incorrect. How could I not love him? What I love about him, also, is that he makes no effort to ever be reassuring. You notice that? He says things I don't think they could get a nuclear bomb in there, but, yes, maybe.



KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Gattlessburg, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Bill, I've got a big question for you. How long do you think it will be before Cheney fakes the big heart attack so that he can bow out gracefully?

KING; Fakes the heart attack?

MAHER: First of all, Dick Cheney is a robot built by the Soviets. So there actually is no heart. There is a paddle involved. He can take that off any time.

KING: I don't think he would do that, do you?

MAHER: Absolutely, yes. If they wanted to drop him from the ticket, they wouldn't just say we're going to lose the Cheney, we want Giuliani. They would say it was for medical reasons, or he wants to spend more time with his family, because one of them is gay and maybe they'll learn something about that issue.

KING: Toquerville, Utah, hello.

CALLER: Gentlemen, the honor is mine. Thank you for the call. Bill, what do you think about the administration's Homeland Security Department's little plan B to study to stop the election under threat of terrorist attack? Does that remind you of our 2000 Florida deal?

MAHER: You mean you're talking about on election day?

KING: Yes, in case there's some big occurrence.

MAHER: Well, they've been pulling that card for how many...

KING: Wait a minute, you had some sort of disaster you don't want to hold an election if you've got bombs dropping?

MAHER: That's true. And I agree with that. If there's really a problem on election day. But, again, this is an administration that has always said, OK, we're operating under this premise. You can't criticize the administration during a time of war. Oh, and by the way, we're always at war. The war is ongoing.

So I mean, I don't trust them. Let me put it that way. I don't trust them, or they haven't earned my trust.

KING: What do you think about the color alerts? Are you affected when orange becomes yellow? MAHER: Very much so, Larry. When it's yellow, I act one way. I look behind me maybe every four or five steps. But when it's orange, I'm virtually 360. I'm looking around at all -- I'm a panther. So that's the difference for me.

KING: Carbondale, Illinois.

CALLER: How do we get southern voters voting Democrat again? Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Larry.

KING: Will the South ever vote Democratic?

MAHER: You know, that's a sore point with me, the south. The way that they have the stranglehold over the electorate. Because, excuse me, and I love playing to red states, because when I play the red states my stand-up act I get all the people 40 don't usually have someone like me come to their state. So there's a great bonding.

And I feel for them, because there's a lot of smart people in the south. But in general, it is the dumbest part of the country. Excuse me. It is. And also, they're the super patriots. The one part of the country that ever actually seceded. The one part of the country that ever actually committed treason. And they seem to lead in how we are supposed to think. Because they're more religious, they're more patriotic and I think it's just a disservice to our...

KING: You think in modern-day America you could still claim a whole region is dumber than another region?

MAHER: They lead the region in dumbness, yes, they do. Because there's just too many people who think that every problem can be solved by either more guns or more Jesus. And like I said, I'm with the people who are following the compass. Not the people who are reading the entrails of the chicken. They're the people who are reading the entrails of the chicken.

KING: Who's on your opening night next week from tomorrow?

MAHER: A chicken. And I'm going to read his -- no, Michael Moore I think is who we have booked.

KING: On a panel?

MAHER: Yes, he's going to be on the panel.

KING: Who do you plan to have, you have someone opposed to him?

MAHER: Of course. We're not going to let him get away with just spewing his liberal dogma, Larry.

KING: What about Tom Delay?

MAHER: As if Tom DeLay would ever do my show. Those conservatives most of them don't come on because they're afraid of me. Not because I'm unfair, and not even because I don't hold some conservative points of view, because I hold their feet to the fire and they know it and they don't want to go up against.

KING: See you soon, William.

MAHER: OK. Thank you.

KING: Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" which returns Friday night July 30, 11:00 Eastern.

I'll be back in a couple minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night, Sharon Stone. Saturday night we'll repeat the interview with Martha Stewart. And Sunday, line in Boston on the eve of the Democratic National Convention with one show and then two shows nightly throughout the week at the Democratic National Convention.


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