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Bill, it's not Americans that are stupid. It's the human race that's stupid

Posted on August 10 2009 1:41 pm
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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Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher had a heckuva time recently with his remarks calling America a “stupid country.” (My NewsReal colleague Joseph Klein had a great retort here in which he ripped Maher for the clown’s Anti-Americanism.)

On last Friday’s new episode of HBO’s “Real Time,” Maher expanded on and defended his initial remarks. As usual, the transcript of the evening’s final “New Rule” was reprinted as a blog post at the Huffington Post, the leftist mega-blog founded by conservative-turned-progressive Arianna Huffington. (Huffington was even on the show as part of Maher’s panel.)

New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn’t make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn’t put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing – in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!!

Admittedly, Maher was on pretty firm ground in questioning the intelligence of those who send angry email messages or internet comments with their caps lock on.

For the remainder of Maher’s monologue, legitimate points of many Americans’ lack of political and general knowledge are interspersed with shots at Republicans:

I’m the bad guy for saying it’s a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don’t know what’s in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don’t know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

There’s the joke about Republican sex scandals:

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don’t know that states have two senators and more than half can’t name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife’s name right on the first try.

And there’s the obligatory Sarah Palin shot, followed by the birther shot, and concluding with the George Bush shot:

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they’re not stupid. They’re interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words “Bush” and “knowledge.”

I have to give Maher props when his jokes are clever, though. This joke about Home Land Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is good:

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It’s actually less than 1%. And don’t even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream.

(Now that I think about it, maybe my fondness for that joke derives mainly from my love of ice cream.)


Then, of course, the obligatory religion shot. I wonder if Maher just has a checklist for his monologue of all the conservative symbols he wants to smack:

And I haven’t even brought up America’s religious beliefs. But here’s one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That’s right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

Oh, and Maher couldn’t restrain himself. Joe the Plumber might be a ghost in the mainstream media but he still haunts Maher:

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they’re talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that “pure democracy” doesn’t work because “there is nothing to check… an obnoxious individual.” Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Though Maher can frequently be off base, he often stumbles onto a good idea here and there. Regarding this question of whether Americans are stupid or not, he’s actually correct. The American people are idiots.

Maher has mistaken the source of the body politic’s stupidity, though. For Maher it’s because we’re American. (Maher comes out of a staunch tradition of Leftist Anti-Americanism.) I say we’re stupid not because we’re American, but because we’re people.

Human beings are really, really dumb. And not just Americans — people all across the world. It’s not that France, Germany, and Japan are any smarter than us. (If they were, then they would be the force that dominates the planet.)

Every single person on the face of this planet is a moron in some way or another. Myself included. (I’m sure my wife can testify to this with all the dumb things I say and do every day.)

Even and especially our Presidents demonstrate the validity of this observation. President Obama proved himself a fool with his premature comments on the Henry Louis Gates, Jr controversy. Former President Bill Clinton might have been the Baby Boom Generation’s Political Michael Jordan but he was an idiot when it came to sex. And — to be fair and bi-partisan — actual books were written collecting George W. Bush’s foolish verbal slips.

This realization of human inadequacy brings us to two conclusions. First is a skepticism at the ability of “Great Men” to change the world. We shouldn’t trust charismatic politicians to save us, because they’re just as flawed, weak, and stupid as we are. Second is an embrace of a philosophy of limited government.  We should maintain and defend a system of government that prevents Idiots in Chief from screwing up the freedom that so many millions of Americans have died to protect.

Granted, this isn’t quite the conclusion that Maher might have reached from his “Americans are stupid” rhetoric, but perhaps it might be more useful.

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