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HBO: Bill Maher's redemptive moments

Posted on July 20 2009 10:52 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Leftist talk show host Bill Maher deserves criticism for all sorts of reasons. (Most recent examples include his tolerance of anti-white racism and his tendency to frequently stage debates that range in ideology from the hard, Nation Left to the softer Center for American Progress Left.)

Maher might be so far to the left that he supported anti-capitalist activist Ralph Nader and conservatives might disagree with most of his pronouncements, but it’s important to note that he’s independent-minded enough to occasionally come to conclusions the Right should support.

There are three examples from last Friday’s episode of “Real Time.”

The first is his decision to include Montana’s centrist Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer on his panel. Throughout the show Schweitzer often appeared as the only one on the panel who really knew what he was talking about. When it came to the issue of cap and trade Schweitzer broke with his party’s position on the issue, and politely challenged Democrat hyper-partisan blogger guru Markos “Kos” Moulitsas Zuniga (someone who really didn’t know what he was talking about throughout the entire evening). Schweitzer brought a delightful perspective and upbeat presence to the debate. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the future.

The second is Maher’s reaction to the recent news of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s efforts to put together a strike team to assassinate top Al Qaeda leaders. Breaking with the Rachel Maddow Left, Maher actually came out in support of Cheney on the issue! “And he’s obviously an evil vampire,” Maher said to cover himself with his leftist audience, “But we found something we agree on… This is what I’ve always been saying what we should be doing… Do this ‘Munich’ stuff! It’s cool!” Schweitzer jumped into the discussion also to offer a hawkish, pro-military, pro-American perspective:

“The rest of the world would respect us if when you are a terrorist and when you attack Americans we say ‘We will hunt you down and we will kill you.’ Like the Somali pirates right now… You mess with the United States of America we send in the SEALS and we’re going to take you out. They’ll leave that American Flag alone. So I agree with you [to Maher] on this one — not often — but this time I agree with you.”

We really do need more Democrats like Schweitzer…

The third was Maher’s final “New Rules” bit. Maher Riffed off the media’s Michael Jackson obsession and leveled criticisms second only to David Horowitz’s NewsReal observations. Maher then drew a comparison that might make conservatives flinch at first until they listen a bit more carefully. (See the above video.) It might seem an anti-American sentiment at first:

“Why? Why did America lose its collective (expletive deleted) over Michael Jackson? And then, like Michael’s father Joe, it hit me. Michael Jackson is America! We love him so much because he reflects our nation perfectly: fragile, overindulgent, childish, in debt, on drugs, and over the hill. Now let me state clearly I don’t wish my country was all of these bad things. I just don’t want to be one of those people Michael Jackson had around him that just tell you you’re great and that your destructive behavior is totally normal and that just give you whatever you want — like doctors.”

Maher then goes down the list pointing out various cultural and political trends, several of which should receive bi-partisan condemnation. Among his best zings:

Overindulgent. I defy anyone to watch ten minutes of “My Super Sweet Sixteen” on MTV and not want to strap on a vest and blow up that little snot’s birthday party. Did you know that a third of children in America are overweight? Michael Jackson didn’t have a heart attack, his play-date rolled over on him! Childish! Well, we think Harry Potter is literature and Batman movies are profound meditations on the human condition.

(I’m the first to praise “The Dark Knight” and highlight its political and philosophical themes but Maher’s right. It’s just a movie, albeit a very good one.)

“Our morning coffee has become a milkshake with whipped cream. And 64% of the people think Noah’s Ark actually happened. And what could be more childish than what our news media chooses to cover? My God since this Michael Jackson thing happened I have no idea what’s going on with Jon and Kate! In debt! Please. Please. This week the deficit went over a trillion dollars. To get an idea of how much this is take what your house is worth and add one trillion dollars. On drugs! If you don’t think America’s got a drug problem you must be high. Children are on Prozac. Athletes are on steroids. The pharmaceutical industry sold $291 billion dollars worth of pills last year — mostly to Michael Jackson but still. And that’s not counting the potheads and the drinkers, yes, America is on drugs. And by the way, people do just as much coke as they ever did, they just don’t share it anymore.”

(Here was the moment for Maher to inject a little self-deprecating humor. He didn’t unfortunately. He’s the last person to be criticizing anyone for being a pothead.)

“And finally, is America over the hill? I don’t know. I hope not. But Monday is the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. I can’t think of any ambitious goal we’ve reached since then. It’s sad when your peak is a moonwalk that occurred decades ago. So America faces a choice. We can go the Michael route and keep living on debt and the world’s affection for our early work or we can get our (expletive deleted) together like Britney Spears, put on our circus costume, and go out and show the world that we’ve still got it!”

Surely if Maher’s going to critique Americans for being irresponsible, childish, and lazy — for not working hard and making something of their lives — then conservatives can join him in encouraging people not to be like Michael Jackson. And while Maher certainly knows that America has done great things in the past 40 years — winning the Cold War, electing a black president, liberating Iraq — his sentiment can be tolerated for the cleverness of his moonwalk joke. As discouraging as many of Maher’s ideas often are, it’s a joy to see him actually say something sensible and quasi-conservative.

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