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  Is Bill Maher Calling for Political Wives to Get Back in the Kitchen?

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Posted on February 12 2011 6:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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This popular post was originally published February 7, 2011.

Somehow I doubt Bill Maher will soon invite The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund back onto HBO’s Real Time. That’s because the unpretentious columnist publicly eviscerated both Maher and Democratic Congressman Anthony Wiener without breaking an intellectual sweat.

In a segment embedded at Fox Nation, the fireworks began as Maher and Weiner attempted to pass off juvenile insults as legitimate analysis.

Weiner: [Glenn Beck] has less than 300,000 viewers. So that’s about 150 shoes in his audience…

If you don’t get the joke, you’re not alone. After a few seconds of confused silence, Weiner explains that he was trying to be funny.

Weiner: I could have gone with teeth, or shoes.

Maher: Oh, I see(…)

Fund: Glenn Beck’s audience is 2.5 million households a night, not 300,000. It has gone down. I think the best explanation is [that] the election in November convinced a lot of people, “Oh, Obama’s gonna move to the center.” He signed this deal extending all of the tax cuts. He brought in Bill Daley, Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary. There’s less angst. There’s less fear of Obama. Therefore the fever goes down.

Maher: Yeah. That’s partly true.

Party true? Stating that, without providing any contradictory evidence, is the best Maher can do. Sensing he’s been outclassed, Maher switches the subject to the political activities of Clarance Thomas’s wife.

What follows is an exchange so bizarre that it raises an awkward question. Just what are Maher and Weiner suggesting the wives of public servants do?

Maher: Let me ask about Clarance Thomas, because this to me is outrageous. Clarance Thomas, next week, his wife – she’s some piece of work… Turns out that she has worked for the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, for many years, getting almost $700,000 in compensation(…)

Weiner: … [Thomas] should definitely recuse himself from any decision about the healthcare plan —

Maher: His wife wrote an editorial – I mean, she’s extremely political – calling Obamacare unconstitutional, and her husband is one of nine people who —

Fund: Bill. Since the 1960’s and the feminist revolution, we judge people’s careers independently… The leading senior judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals here in California, Stephen Reinhardt – his wife was the head of the ACLU in Southern California for 30 years. He heard lots of cases about the ACLU in those 30 years.

Weiner: … [Thomas’s wife] is a walking conflict of interest. He should recuse himself from these cases, plain and simple(…)

Fund: So, should the judge whose wife works for the ACLU, who has cases before the court all the time, also recuse himself…

Maher: Yes, [the ACLU judge should recuse himself.] So, you’re good for this too [Thomas should recuse himself from Obamacare cases?]

Fund: No, because I believe careers should be judged independently unless there is a clear conflict of interest in a specific case.

Maher: But, wait a second. She’s now heading a firm, Liberty Consulting. It brags on its website that it’s using her “experience and connections” to help clients with governmental affairs efforts. She says she met with nearly half of the 99 Republican freshmen in Congress. She calls herself an ambassador to the Tea Party movement. So, okay, she’s sleeping with one-ninth of one branch of government…

Fund: I don’t remember these complaints when Hilary Clinton was in the White House as First Lady… Hilary Clinton had a problem, because sometimes she would march into court and say, “I’m not a federal employee. Therefore I don’t have to give you records, and I dont’ have to be transparent.” Other times she would say, “I should be treated like a federal employee so I can hold my meetings in secret.” The point is, I agreed with Hilary Clinton then. She had her own independent life. She had her own independent policy decisions. She was running the healthcare task force. That was fine. Just as it was fine for Hilary Clinton, it’s fine for Jenny Thomas to have her Tea Party activites.

Maher and Weiner should be embarrassed to have been so thoroughly gamed, one against two, on their own turf. However, more embarrassing is the argument their line of reasoning seems to imply. Should the spouses of anyone serving in public office not be political, not have opinions, or have opinions and not express them? Are the wives of judges and presidents just supposed to smile and look pretty? Should they fetch some refreshments while their husbands conduct the business of government?

In all fairness, it seems unlikely that Maher and Weiner intended that argument, since Maher went on to spend his New Rule segment defending the activism of Michelle Obama! Instead, we can take away from the exchange that it’s not the wife of any public servant who ought not engage in political activity, only the wives of public servants whom Maher and Weiner do not agree with.

Their poorly articulated and thoughtless comments serve to make only one point. Maher and Weiner are clownishly partisan ideologues who appeal to an audience of uncritical clapping seals.

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