Politically incorrigible

Bill Maher says Obama is done, the tea party is nuttier than ever and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s looking pretty good

Bill Maher, host of <i>Real Time With Bill Maher</i> on HBO going on 10 years, says by signing the debt-ceiling deal, President Barack Obama “signed his own death warrant.”

Bill Maher, host of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO going on 10 years, says by signing the debt-ceiling deal, President Barack Obama “signed his own death warrant.”

Bill Maher performs on Friday, August 19, 8 p.m.; at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street. The show is sold out, but visit www.rbpconcerts.com for info.
Find out more at www.billmaher.com.

Sacramento Community Center Theater

1301 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 808-5291

Bill Maher is bummed out.

SN&R chatted with the host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher just days after President Barack Obama’s debt-ceiling compromise and minutes after the Dow Jones crashed nearly 600 points in a day. For a comedian, Maher was shockingly dejected, if deadpan.

And then he came back to life, bagging on crazy tea baggers and scummy right-wing businessmen and debating the prospects of legalized pot in California. And he even invented a new political party, the “Scumbaggers”—who’ll surely provide boundless comedic fodder for years to come.

You see, Bill, life for a liberal comedian really isn’t that bad after all.

You’re probably sick of talking about Super Congresses and debt ceilings already?

Yes, I am. It’s funny you say that, because we we’re having our daily writers’ meeting and talking about what we we’re going to talk about on the show Friday. And, you know, we batted around the “Super Congress” or whatever that nonsense is. And I still haven’t decided whether we’re going to talk about it, because obviously it’s in the news and it’s important, but on the other hand it seems like everyone is just tired of this dumb-ass debate. And I’m one of them.

Is there any silver lining for progressives?

It’s not a great week to ask that.


No, I mean that. I feel like a person feels when you’ve been in a relationship and you get in one of those nasty, drawn-out fights that get so vicious, and so many things are said, that even though you patch it up, and you have make-up sex, at some level you know the relationship is over. I feel like that’s how liberals feel about Obama this week. You know, we still respect each other. But, let’s face it: The only reason we’re still together is we don’t want to be alone, and who else are we going to date? Mitt Romney?

You joked on a recent show, “If the Democrats don’t stand for what they believe in, how can Obama sell them out?” But seriously, who’s to blame in your mind?

Well, it’s both, you know. He’s the leader of the party. And he’s got to be the leader. And to have the leader of the other party brag that he got 98 percent of what he wanted, shouldn’t that tell you something? …

But I never thought that Obama would be a hold-your-nose candidate. We love the guy as a person. We like him. He’s just likable, he’s hip.

He can actually speak and think.

Yes, but there’s just something missing in his fightability. He should join Fight Club. I mean, at first we just thought this was rope-a-dope. But at a certain point, it’s not rope-a-dope: You’re knocked out. You’re down.

By signing on to this deal, I feel like he signed his own death warrant for his re-election, because it ensures that the economy is going to be in even worse shape, and that’s what the Republicans want. And he should have months ago been fighting this battle on a whole other level. He should have, like Clinton said, just never entertained allowing the debt-ceiling fight to be roped into the deficit fight. I mean, everyone talks about 1937 and the lessons we learned. Yeah, well, the lesson the Republicans learned from 1937 is “Yes, you can fuck up an economy that’s coming out of a recession.” You can very easily do it by choking off the spending. They’re purposefully strangling this baby in the crib, and he let them.

So are you wearing a tinfoil hat? Did he do this deliberately to go after Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security at the behest of Wall Street?

I don’t think that. But I do think he is perhaps more conservative than we all thought. You know, nobody could be that bad a negotiator. So perhaps his views are more in line with conservatives and the way they think to begin with, and we just projected on him this idea, because he was young and new and black and a Democrat and anti-Bush. And maybe we just projected onto him the idea that he was more liberal than we thought. But when right-wingers call him a socialist, it’s like, “Socialist? He’s not even a liberal!”

So, he’s not watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and thinking, “That’s me!”

Well, I don’t know what he’s watching, but he’s certainly not Mr. Smith.

But then there’s Michele and Marcus Bachmann and Rick Perry—who’s more frightening to you? And, as for Perry, he recalls Bush in a way that could be an advantage for Obama in 2012.

Well, Bush looks like a professor next to Rick Perry. And as far as handicapping goes, my view is that the race is going to be Rick Perry and Romney, and everything else is an undercard. I think Rick Perry gets in it, I think he quickly sucks up all the crazy vote that is currently divided between Michele Bachmann and [Rick] Santorum and everyone else who is out there being tea-party nutty. And I think it will be kind of the old school, plutocrat Republican side, represented by Mitt Romney, and then the tea baggers, represented by Rick Perry. Sort of the worst of both worlds. The scummyness of the business end of it and then the crazy of the tea-bagger party.

It’s a new party. It’s the Scumbaggers.

I like that. Do you think here in California that Jerry Brown is working with “Scumbaggers”?

Bill Maher on the set of his 2008 film <i>Religulous</i>.

Well, he’s got an even harder set of circumstances to deal with, of course, because of the built-in dysfunction of California government. Because of the way it’s set up, with needing two-thirds to raise taxes. California is ungovernable by anybody. Considering what he had to deal with, he’s done OK. He was lucky also that there was an increase in revenue, which helped. But this state will never function properly unless we change the way the law dictates it must be governed. You can’t have a system where people get to vote for the things they like and the things they don’t, because of course they’re going to vote for ice cream and then vote against paying for it.

Will the tea party disappear if a Republican wins in 2012?

I don’t think so, but, well, it depends.

Republicans are going to want to spend money if they get in.

But the tea party very often, even though they’re in the Republican Party, they don’t trust the Republican Party. We [had] Stephen K. Bannon on the show this week, he’s the one that made the Sarah Palin movie that’s out in theaters now—or barely out in theaters now. And he says the Republican Party is going to be taken over by the tea party. …

The Republican Party, the old-school Republicans, they are the ones kissing the tea ass, not the other way around. There’s no doubt who’s the tail and who’s the dog in this. And that I don’t see changing any time soon. Depends on the election, but the tea-party people themselves in Congress, they’re all worried not about the Democrats: They’re all worried about someone even crazier than them, because one of the biggest threats against them from other tea-party people is “Watch out for the primaries. We don’t forget it primary time.” In other words, if you don’t act crazy enough, they’ll find someone even nuttier to run against you in the primary.

I feel that we Californians are kind of out of touch with the magnitude of our country’s crazy quotient.

It’s funny and ironic, because the country has always said that California was crazy.

Like in Annie Hall.

We were always the sprout-eating, edge-of-the-left-coast nut cases. But you’re right. To me, we look sane. Look at state government here. We’ve led in a number of different areas, like emissions control with cars, which the federal government was too gridlocked to do anything about.

And all it took was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He was not the greatest governor in the world, but compared to some of these Republican social conservatives, he was relatively moderate. He was not against stem-cell research and stuff like that. He was rather reasonable. He’s a Californian. A Calley-fo-nee-in.

Speaking of green friendly, what do you think of all these pot clubs in California? Is their ubiquity doing more harm than good at this point?

Not to me personally.

Do you have a prescription.

(Laughs.) No. What do you mean doing harm?

Well, in Sacramento, the county supervisors sat on their hands while the number of clubs grew exponentially, and now they want to ban them all.

It’s much more conservative up there?

Well, we have Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock.

I mean, legalizing marijuana, which as you know of course was on the ballot in 2010, looked like it was going to pass until about a week before the election.

I bet all the stoners look back now and say, “Man, we should have done something.”

But it was also the fact that, in 2010, all those younger people who voted for Obama, they stayed home, because he wasn’t on the ballot and it wasn’t a sexy election. So something like only 11 percent of people under 30 voted.

Will they come out for Obama in 2012?

No. Not nearly like they did. The magic is gone. It’s depressing.

You sound sincerely depressed about it.

I find these days to be pretty depressing. I mean, the fact that this country is debating whether to pay our bills, that’s where we’re at? That we can’t do anything, plus the state of the economy, that and basically our knight in shining armor’s ineffectualness. That, to me, is depressing.