(Also, the last time I worked on this writeup I took a shot at the good folks at Blogger because of the hard time I had saving this information. Sorry about that - I should've kept that "offline.")
Bill Maher, in the comedy bit that began the show, pretended to be a weatherman providing the forecast at “Shitstorm Center Five,” showing a map over Washington D.C. during the “Accu-Prosecutor” forecast: “If you’ll look at our national map, you’ll see that Harriet Miers has completely disappeared. Look for blanket indictments early in the week with rank stupidity following soon afterwards, with returning insurgency in Iraq by week’s end.”
In the monologue, Maher noted that “President’s Bush’s visit to Argentina (for the Summit of the Americas) ended badly…he’s coming back.” Bush was supposedly quoted as saying,” It’s our duty to end poverty. We can’t just wait for hurricanes to do it for us.” Also, “thousands of people rioted, overturning cars, carrying signs saying ‘Bush Go Home,’ etc. That’s nothing compared to what would’ve happened if he’d showed up at Rosa Parks’ funeral.” Maher said that he didn’t think Bush truly understood Parks’ importance, since “he sent a floral display to the funeral that said ‘Go Greyhound’.” Moving to Tom DeLay, Maher said that if DeLay goes to prison, “HE may have to give up his seat to a black man.” Concerning the bird flu, Maher said he has a parrot that instead of saying “polly want a cracker,” it now says, “I’m bleeding out of my rectum” (hey, the season’s winding down and they’re running out of material). Finally, since Denver, CO just passed an ordinance saying that it’s now legal to have small amounts of marijuana, “The show will return in February from its new studios in Denver.”
The first guest to appear via satellite was Tom Daschle, former Democratic senator from South Dakota. Maher asked Daschle about the maneuver that Harry Reid pulled last week using Rule 21 to call a “closed door” session of Congress, and Daschle didn’t really have anything of interest to say about it except to give Reid credit. Maher then explained how the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), broke up the committee report into two parts: the first dealt with the gathering of the pre-war intelligence, and the second dealt with how the intelligence was used by Bushco. Conveniently for Bush given the campaign versus John Kerry last year, the deadline for the second part of the report didn’t come until after the election. Maher then asked, “do we always have to stomp on their (the Republicans) feet to get something done?,” and Daschle just smiled and pointed out the obvious, that “we don’t have the majority, so we won’t get their cooperation, but we’re moving in the right direction.” Maher then pointed out to Daschle that he was going to Iowa to make a speech, and “there’s only one reason politicians go to Iowa, and that’s to run for President,” and Daschle continued to smile and not say much and changed the topic to setting a timetable to get our troops out of Iraq and, in turn, send 20,000 of them to Afghanistan because “we haven’t finished the job.”
Regarding “Plamegate,” Maher wondered why the Democrats can’t make this more of an issue “since it’s obvious that Cheney was behind this,” and Daschle correctly said that “we have to take this investigation wherever it goes.” Maher then said, “Wouldn’t it be great if Hillary Clinton ran in 2008 on a platform of ‘honor and integrity,” while Daschle laughed a bit to himself, and Maher asked, based on a column in The New Yorker, how the members of the U.S. Senate could be “beating the stock market by about 12 percent.” Daschle then used that as an opportunity to comment on Bill Frist’s SEC woes and asked, “what did Bill Frist know and when did he know it?”
(It was no surprise, by the way, that Daschle used that opportunity to take a shot at Frist, since Frist, as noted in the Wikipedia article, violated a longstanding Senate tradition when he traveled to South Dakota to campaign for John Thune, Daschle’s opponent in the 2004 Senate election, a contest which Thune eventually won of course. I’ve already stated my opinion elsewhere that Thune is a lightweight being propped up by Bushco for strategic advantage, but I have to say that Daschle, during his time as Senate majority and minority leader, made fun of Bush’s problems with substance abuse which was uncalled for and not wise at all politically. Given that, the tactics of the Repugs in Daschle’s campaign cannot be condoned, but they can be understood, I think.)
The panel discussion then began with trashy filmmaker John Waters (“Pink Flamingos,” which I watched once in my other life while experiencing an altered state of consciousness, was truly the most revolting cinematic experience of my life), right wing loudmouth Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, and Mary Robinson, former president of the Irish Republic from 1990-1997. Maher noted that a lot of people are gloating over Bush’s bad polling numbers, though the Republicans (who say they represent “the real man”…please) anticipate some kind of a comeback from Bush on that, and Scarborough said that “The common man across the board was offended by Bush’s handling of Katrina, and when you combine it with the Harriet Miers nomination and the leak investigation, that plays into it also.” Maher then asked, “Doesn’t that just make Bush a bad president?,” and Scarborough pointed out that presidents often have low second-term approval ratings (as I watched this, I thought Scarborough was the most skilled right wing propagandist between he, Tony Snow and Tucker Carlson before him…Scarborough said some things later that were ridiculous, but he also said something about the Valerie Plame matter which was right on the money, I thought). John Waters chimed in and pointed out that “you can’t tell Republicans and Democrats apart usually. My assistant is a Republican, and she did a nude scene in one of my movies” (trust me…it got better with him).
Mary Robinson then chimed in with her wonderful brogue and said “let’s look at Ireland.” She pointed out her election in 1990, serving until 1997 when Mary McAlese won in a fierce election of her own, and Robinson recounted an anecdote of a small boy in Ireland wondering if he could grow up and be president too (from other women that might have come off as a condescending remark, but I thought Robinson made her point beautifully). She said we have to look at “the other context,” which I took to mean the leadership qualities of a president whether they’re a man or a woman (I totally agree). She then used that comment to lead into her concerns about Bushco’s desire to use torture and referenced Abu Ghraib and said she wanted America to have a good human rights record again.
John Waters noted that Bush was booed at Rosa Parks’ funeral, saying “that’s the worst review you can get,” and Maher said that Bush’s excuse was that he “had lunch and dinner with Charles and Camilla." Scarborough then said that Bush should’ve gone to the funeral, but then quickly went back to the issue of Bush’s approval ratings with a really absurd comparison between Bush and Reagan.
Scarborough pointed out that Reagan’s numbers were down also in his second term, but that, after “Star Wars” somehow helped transform eastern Europe and led to the fall of communism (oh brother…see below), Reagan’s numbers went back up by the end of his presidency. Turning to Iraq, Scarborough said “does anyone think we can transform this region of the world in two years?” (with Scarborough given to fits of excitement bordering on apoplexy by now).
OK, my response – first of all, “Star Wars” had NOTHING to do with the fall of communism. How could it? The system hasn’t been deployed, I’m not sure it can be, and it’s very possible that that will never happen anyway. PR pressure from Reagan and this country was a factor, but a small one. The rise of Solidarity with Lech Walesa, the spiritual leadership of Pope John Paul II, the push for democratic reforms inside Russia by Andrei Sakharov, and the recognition by Mikhail Gorbachev that Communism was doomed…acknowledged even by Richard Nixon, an infinitely smarter individual on foreign policy than Reagan ever was…were the REAL reasons for its historic fall. Also, with Gorbachev, Reagan had a foe who understood that the Cold War had to end, though Gorbachev never renounced Communism. Still, though, Ronnie Baby and Gorby were able to make nice on the world stage to the point where it made Reagan look stronger than he really was. However, that’s the way it is in politics generally. Dubya, on the other hand, is not going to benefit from Osama bin Laden turning himself over and declaring a truce and reparation for his cowardly, barbaric acts. That is the ONLY way that Dubya’s numbers could come close to Reagan territory when “The Gipper” left office, so basically, Dubya is hosed and, aside from more domestic screwups, can only “run out the clock” and hope his approval numbers tick upwards. And as far as “transforming that area of the world,” I think Dubya has done that pretty well. However, he hasn’t done it in the way he intended. Scarborough also mentioned something along the lines of it being as ridiculous to blame Bush for terrorism in Iraq as it was to blame Reagan for the human rights abuses in Central America during his administration. To refute this moronic statement, I would suggest that you read about the School of the Americas and the history of Nicaragua including the life of early revolutionary Augusto Sandino, for whom the “Sandanistas” were named, to get an idea of our own horrific intervention in that area of the world. Yes, the Sandanistas were oppressors in their way, but so were the Contras who we illegally funded by our government. Finally, the person who deserves the most credit for Democratic reform in Nicaragua isn’t Reagan. It’s Jimmy Carter, who helped mentor Daniel Ortega, the country’s first president. If you don’t want to believe me, fine. Believe historian Douglas Brinkley, because he documents this in his book about Carter called “The Unfinished Presidency.”Maher, in response to Scarborough’s comments before I digressed, said that “to go in with this idea of telling everyone ‘don’t you want to be more like us?,’ but to then torture people – how stupid do you have to be to think they’ll buy that?” (good question). In response, Scarborough went into this rap about how great the Iraqi election was (I don’t remember exactly what he said because I was too disgusted by what he’d said before, and also because he was shouting again). Mary Robinson pointed out that “it’s hurting America that the torture is going on,” and Maher (probably in response to something from Scarborough) said, “People on the right say to people like me, 'Oh, you hate America.' And I always say, 'No, I love America. I want it back. 'I don't want you representing it. I don't want torture representing it.' If I hated it, I'd be okay with being represented by the torturers,” and the crowd gave him a well-deserved ovation.
Update 11/14: Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald (reprinted in the Inquirer) offers some very well-reasoned analysis on this also (registration required).
Scarborough, however, leapt back into it and asked “Who supports torture?,” and at the very moment I thought it, Maher said, “Please. It comes from Cheney and Rumsfeld.” Scarborough argued again, but Mary Robinson said, “That’s how it seems in Europe (and all over the world? That’s what she meant anyway). The U.S. used to be a champion of human rights, and it has dipped its standard.” While the applause for Robinson’s remark continued, Scarborough ranted “if things are better three years from now, will you give Bush credit?” and I don’t remember how that was answered (I’ve already answered that question for myself…no: no more than I give Lyndon Johnson or Nixon credit for today’s capitalist economy in Vietnam). Maher said, “Maybe we should have supported Hussein and concentrated on other dictators,” which I’m sure he meant to get Scarborough steamed more than anything else, but I thought was a good point (I said all along that Hussein was a buffer against Muslim extremism, which is our true enemy).
Continuing with torture, Scarborough said, “maybe we should define what torture is (good idea – surprised HE said it), asking if “water boarding” Sheik Khalid Mohammed, who was the U.S.-based architect (if that’s the word – murderer would be better I guess) behind 9/11, constitutes torture, and Maher immediately said yes (not sure where John Waters was in all of this). Maher then asked an excellent question, I thought, wondering why all of the “chickenhawks” support torture when the people in our government who have served, notably John McCain, Chuck Hagel and John Warner, oppose it. Scarborough’s response was that “the yahoos were responsible” for the standards breaking down (talking about Abu Ghraib of course), and at that point, I just kept saying “only a few minutes to New Rules, only a few minutes to New Rules.” Mary Robinson then asked another good question, wondering why the U.S. doesn’t work with the U.N. regarding torture, and Scarborough immediately went off again, saying “we shouldn’t have to put up with self-righteous criticism from them, since they included Libya as a member nation on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.” Robinson agreed that that was ridiculous, but said that that was another issue. Robinson also pointed out, echoing her earlier statement about how this country is viewed by the rest of the world on this, that other countries are astonished that we’re blocking an investigation into torture of detainees held at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Scarborough, changing the subject yet again in an attempt to blame the rest of the world instead, pointed out that the vote on the referendum in Iraq was put on page 24 of a U.K. newspaper (Scarborough was just in that country, see, and he felt obliged to point that out in an attempt to show bias against the U.S.).
I said earlier that I thought Scarborough was a more effective propagandist than Tony Snow or Tucker Carlson, and I definitely didn’t mean that as a compliment. I considered him to be a truly obnoxious individual, making baiting remarks towards the audience in the typical snarly Repug mold and even interrupting Mary Robinson repeatedly at one point when she was talking, with Robinson showing the grace to not tell Scarborough what he truly should do to himself. Why anybody would choose to endure this character on his MSNBC TV show is another of life’s great mysteries as far as I’m concerned.
Maher then introduced Dr. Sanjay Gupta via satellite, and Gupta immediately joked that he could offer Scarborough some valium if he wanted it. Maher asked Gupta about the bird flu: “I’ve got 35 people on my staff. How many will be here when we get back?” Gupta pointed out that this could turn into a lethal virus if it’s transmittable. Maher then wondered aloud if this wasn’t another case of “the boy who cried ‘plague.’” Gupta pointed out that we’ve had three major pandemics in the last century, referring to the worst one in 1918, and said this could potentially kill many more people than an Anthrax attack. Gupta noted that, though we live in a “culture of fear,” this could affect many more people than, say, what is transpiring in Iraq. Maher then said, “I don’t trust the pharma companies. By the time we get a vaccine for it, it could be a different flu,” and Gupta said, “You’re right,” and Maher said, “I was hoping you’d argue.” Gupta said that a vaccine could help “a little bit.” Maher then wondered “if we were healthier, boosted our immune system and cleaned up our lifestyle – would it make a difference?” and Gupta acknowledged that there are some kind of immune system-boosting drugs out there (didn’t know that) but he seemed to be noncommittal about them, preferring more study instead. Gupta concluded with, “I’d like to agree with you, but 50 million people have died in these pandemics, and they all weren’t eating shit,” quoting back from Maher’s original question.
Maher then led into a “phony products” segment, since he’d referred to the pharma companies earlier, and he started with “Oil Of DeLay,” which helps Republicans save face, “Balls” Mentholyptus drops “to help Democrats find their testicles,” and the new bottled water called “FIMA” – “Loot” for it by name (hmmm…).
Discussing the Valerie Plame matter, Maher seethed when he talked about how the Repugs are attacking her even though they profess to be the party “on the side of national defense,” especially since Plame was an undercover spy and – right-wing lies notwithstanding – nobody knew who she was. This is how Scarborough responded:
"The fact that you've got Republicans now in charge of national security, and they are outing a covert agent at a time of war, it's just inexcusable. And those Republicans that support that, they're the Republicans that, quite frankly, are just interested in power and not interested in the things that they said they were going to do when they came to power."I was astonished to hear such an eloquent remark from him, especially since he had tried so hard to cover for Cheney and Rumsfeld on the torture issue.
Going back to the bird flu, Mary Robinson noted that “there could be a ‘silent tsunami’ of children in Africa dying over this,” and John Waters immediately said, “think of the possibilities for an exploitation film,” which made me cringe a bit, though I know he was being tongue in cheek. Maher said that, by not funding contraception, Bush hurts Africa on this, and of course Scarborough returned to Repug form, stating that Bush has been “more aggressive in Africa,” while I think to myself, “shall I point out again how badly Bush has underfunded the Millennium Account (see Question #3) to fight disease in Africa?” Robinson then pointed out the policy of abstinence (assuming you can even call that a policy, of course) doesn’t work with Muslim men in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that “girls are six times more likely than boys to get HIV, and I know a friend who knew a young girl there who said that 25 percent of her friends were HIV positive. Aside from an ‘ABC’ policy of promoting abstinence over contraception, why don’t we have a ‘DEF’ policy, which could stand for, ‘Don’t Eliminate The Future’?” As applause briefly broke out and subsided, Waters said, “Maybe the ‘DEF’ could stand for ‘Don’t Ever Fuck’,” and everyone roared, including Robinson (sorry – call me a pig if you want, but that was the best line of the night).
Turning to the nomination of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court (and by the way, I’m truly wondering at this point how much of a fight that’s going to be, since Frank Lautenberg is sending out very clear signals that he supports him, probably because Lautenberg supported him earlier for the U.S. Court of Appeals and probably doesn’t want to deal with some kind of right wing jihad over it at this point…can’t totally say that I blame him), Maher said, primarily to Scarborough, “you just want to get him in there so he can strike down Roe v. Wade” and Waters pointed out that Alito supported gay rights in 1972, “but a lot has changed since then.” After Scarborough pointed out the obvious, namely that conservative judges “want to dramatically change the balance of power,” Mary Robinson pointed out that conservative judges actually change more existing law than liberal judges (damn, why can’t she serve in THIS country?). This led into “New Rules,” with some edgy stuff about encouraging Alito to bomb an abortion clinic “to prove himself.”
This note…when “Real Time” returns in February, I think I’m going to confine myself to the highlights of the show and not try to capture everything. I’m not exactly sure how all of this reads to you, but it’s a “bear” to put all of this together, and I don’t know if I’ll have the time for it in the future. I’ll do my best, though.