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Larry King Live

Bill Maher Discusses How to Be `Politically Incorrect'; John McCain Calls for a Cease-Fire in South Carolina

Aired February 9, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he is the political man of the moment, on the cover of all three major news magazines, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain joins us later from Clemson University, South Carolina.

But first, he shoots from the lip and always hits his target, the host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect," Bill Maher, is with us here in Los Angeles. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Later, John McCain.

It's always great to welcome Bill Maher to LARRY KING LIVE. He is the host of course of ABC's highly successful "Politically Incorrect." He's working on a new HBO special called "Be More Cynical." It should be out this fall, right?


KING: Oh, right around the corner then.

Are you encouraging people to be more cynical?

MAHER: I am.

KING: That makes us better, to be cynical?

MAHER: I believe it does. I believe our problem is that we're not cynical enough.

KING: How long has "Politically Incorrect" been on now, including Comedy Central? How old...

MAHER: You're so sick of it you didn't want to hear that answer. It has been on ABC three years and change, and it was on Comedy Central over four, so over seven.

KING: Did you know it would do this well?


KING: Did you have that hunch? I mean, it was your baby all the way, right?


No, I was at a point in my career where I was lucky that somebody took a chance, because I had nothing else, you know. I had knocked on a lot of doors. I mean, you know, people still come up to me and say, "You were in `Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle Of Death,'" and I have to go, yes, and you know, so what.

KING: But by choosing this you did kill your movie career, correct?

MAHER: You know, actually, Larry, I get more movie scripts now than when I really wanted movie scripts, because now I am something of a commodity, but I don't have time to do it.

KING: That's right.

MAHER: But I whore myself out once in a while, you know, one of those people just playing themselves for two minutes in a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) similitude.

KING: Yes. Let's get some Bill Maher thoughts on some things current: We're reporting that Steve Forbes will drop out of the race, announcing it tomorrow. That means when I host the debate next Tuesday it's only going to be three guys in South Carolina. What do you make of him?

MAHER: You're hosting it, huh?

KING: Yes, next Tuesday night.

MAHER: I think it's about time that Steve Forbes dropped out. I have never had any sympathy for Steve Forbes. I thought it was laughable when he would say, "The press isn't taking me seriously." I would think they are taking you more seriously than you deserve.

KING: What did he read wrong?

MAHER: That people would elect the rich kid son of a gay balloonist president of the United States. We'll start with that. But I think, you know, people get very conservative, even liberals get conservative in -- when they get in the voting booth in the same way they get conservative when they go on an airplane. You know, it's just a scary thing. You're electing a guy who could really screw everything up. So I know it sounds good to the voters.

They'll tell you that, they'll suck you into that, "We want somebody who is outside the system." But you know, you really want somebody who does have some experience. And I think it takes a lot of nerve to think that you have never been involved in politics on any level, but you're going to belly up to the political bar right at the top.

You know, forget about the job training. I am going right to the top, you know? Cybill Shepherd was toying with the idea of running for president. What happened to, I want to direct, you know? This is the guy with cruise missiles, and we know that. So I think... KING: All right. What do you make of the oncoming -- he'll be on later -- Senator McCain? What do you make of this?

MAHER: You know, Larry, it's a bad week to ask me that because the campaign kind of screwed me, but I like him a lot. We -- what -- I was an early supporter and...

KING: How did they screw you?

MAHER: Well, he was supposed to be on. I mean, we had him booked for December, and they said, well, it's just a scheduling thing. As soon as he's in California -- because I was an early supporter, certainly for the Republican nomination and still am. But you know, then I saw him on Leno Friday. You know, I can get that treatment from Warren Beatty.

KING: So you were hurt?

MAHER: Well, I mean, it was a broken pledge. I don't want to, you know, cast...

KING: But yet you do not take it against him to the point of...

MAHER: Not at all, because you know why, Larry, remember in "Casablanca" when the guy said the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans, we have got too many people who don't understand that concept. Everybody thinks they're a big hill of beans. OK. I don't want to be one of those people. I mean, he's a war hero. We're talking about presidents. I can put aside my little -- OK, so -- no, I do -- I'm -- my rule has always been the guy who has been to war, unless he's a total nut or screwup -- he gets the job. I voted for Dole for that...

KING: Why?

MAHER: Because I think war is the great divider.

KING: So you would have been a big Eisenhower guy were you old enough?

MAHER: Absolutely.

KING: Because war is what?

MAHER: War is the great divider among men. I mean, you have been to war or you haven't, and if you haven't you just do not, I think, have the same mettle, and also, you haven't given the ultimate sacrifice for your country. I do think if you are a war hero and you're running, all things being otherwise fairly equal, that guy is going to get my vote.

I mean, McCain spent five years in a box and he didn't take early release. George Bush once waited two hours for Chinese. That's about -- and the Republicans who are like the tough guy party -- I can't believe they get behind Bush when they have McCain. And it's -- because it's all about money. KING: He's a rebel, though, McCain isn't he? He's regarded as rebellious and hard to read?

MAHER: Well, it's all about who -- no. I -- that nonsense about his temper you're talking about?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Well, I want a guy with a temper.

KING: You want someone with it?

MAHER: Absolutely.

KING: You want someone who says...

MAHER: This system is broken and I demand it be fixed. That's what I want a guy to do, and that's what he seems like he would be doing. Yes, we need a cranky guy in there. He remembers what it's like to go to war. Most people don't.

KING: Do you think he can beat Governor Bush?

MAHER: You know, I didn't think a few weeks ago because I do think money is the great evil now. I mean, we don't really have elections. We have pledge drives and the guy who gets the most money...

KING: Like an old UJA rally.

MAHER: Yes, it is.

And you know, it's not even about campaign contributions for ideological reasons. It's about getting your money down on the winner. That's why George...

KING: Some people give to both.

MAHER: They give to -- exactly. How cynical -- talk about cynical. They give to both because they want to cover their backs. The candidate is like a stock, you know? They think he's going...

KING: How did he do today? Buy.

MAHER: Right. I mean, George Bush, $70 million. If you had $70 million to promote a movie, that could be a pretty crappy movie and you could -- I mean, "Godzilla," that's who George Bush is, a crappy movie with a lot of money for marketing.

KING: We'll try to draw Bill Maher out a little more. When we come back, we'll discuss the Democratic candidates and other great social issues with Bill Maher on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT") MAHER: John McCain has surged ahead of Bush in South Carolina, he was 20 points behind yesterday, now he's 5 points ahead. Bush is fighting back. You know how he did it? I am not kidding. Got the endorsement of Dan Quayle today. I am not kidding.


That was how he fought back. Quayle -- listen to this -- Quayle said he is endorsing Bush for three reasons, one, he's a true conservative, two, he's the best chance of winning for the Republicans, and three, Quayle said he has the same name as the guy I used to work for, how weird is that?



KING: Before we ask Bill Maher about Gore and Bradley, he wanted to say something about the way a person runs is the way they'll govern.

MAHER: Well, I thought that clip we watched was indicative of that. That was not a punchline that the audience laughed at when I said, he brought out Quayle, because the day after the New Hampshire primary when he lost he was in South Carolina, he brings out Dan Quayle for an endorsement. Now, if the audience in my studio screams with laughter at that, it tells me the politician is very out of touch. That it's not -- he's not run a smart campaign. That's not a smart thing to do. People aren't going, hey, wait a second, I was doubtful about this guy, but Quayle's for him.

KING: But he's never run a national campaign before and anytime you run a new -- you know...

MAHER: Yes, but his theory was, I have got the best people around me, wink, wink, dad's old team. You know, it doesn't matter I'm a moron. I have got these people around me.

KING: Let us know.

MAHER: But he's the one who -- what?

KING: No, go ahead.

MAHER: Well, he's the one who, you know, he appeared with his mother and father on a tennis court in New Hampshire, that's clever. Nothing says strong leadership like having mumsy and dadzie by your side to say, my boy is going to do well for you.

KING: What do you make of the Gore-Bradley race, your -- the Maher analysis?

MAHER: Well, that I think is more -- I think Gore has got that one. Bradley I like, he's you know Adlai Stevenson with a jump shot. What can I say? He's smart and he doesn't -- he panders minimally and I like him, and for that reason alone he's not going to go anywhere, you know. I mean, he's basically -- his basic message is, look, while we have all of this money let's really try once and for all to lift up the downtrodden.

And people are going, no, that's a nice idea, but Al you had a plan, something about giving us more money to buy a jet ski. You know, so that's not going work. Al Gore, you know, I like him too, although I don't like him as much as Bradley, but he's more of a politician. He's, you know...

KING: Will Gore -- if it's Gore-Bush, will that bore you?

MAHER: I think it will bore everyone. They're both pretty boring guys who will not sort of go outside what they call "off- message," you know. Al Gore, you know, he's -- he had that thing with being an alpha male and he's not an alpha male.

You know, Bill Clinton is an alpha male. If you look at nature, an alpha male is the one who gets all the chicks, you know, because he's alpha, and I guess they want Gore to be more of that, but he's not. He's -- you know, he's like the gay male friend. He's...

KING: Best friend?

MAHER: Yes, he's not...

KING: He's Tony Randall in the movies.

MAHER: Yes, he's sort of out there yelling now, which I don't buy. He's this tax and spend Tony Robbins, you know. I just -- I don't buy his act, but it will sell.

KING: Is Trump going to run?

MAHER: Probably, because, you know, an ego can't be denied. That's, again, like Steve Forbes. I think it's insulting to real politicians that somebody -- a guy thinks he can be president because he fixed the skating rink.

KING: Are you insulted, then, that Hillary is running?

MAHER: Well, no, because she has been in public service all of her life, and private service. Don't even get my started. No.

KING: What do you make of that race?

MAHER: That is sillier than the presidential race. The other day Giuliani criticized her -- I am sure you heard this -- for the Billy Joel song that was playing. OK. She's going on stage to make an announcement. They put in a tape of Billy Joel, probably his greatest hits. The song "Captain Jack," you know this song?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: I love that song. OK. And it does -- it mentions drugs and masturbation and liquor. OK. So he's saying because that song was playing when she got on stage that she's saying yes to drugs and masturbation. And of, course that's ridiculous. She said I do to drugs and masturbation, but no -- but this is what I mean about we have to be more cynical.

If people are buying that argument, if Mayor Giuliani, who is savvy, can make that argument, which surely he doesn't believe -- surely Mayor Giuliani isn't really upset that "Captain Jack" was playing when she took the stage. This has to end! This is corrupting our children? What is the point there? But apparently it works on people. As long as dumb advertising works on people, we don't have a chance, then money will always win out. We have to get by the money by being more cynical.

KING: But didn't making it say no when everyone broke, underestimating the intelligence of the American public?

MAHER: Yes. I'm not expecting it to happen, Larry. I am saying this is what I think we need to do.

KING: Humor on television, we see it nightly with Leno and Letterman, we see it nightly with Bill Maher, and we see it on"Saturday Night Live," and of course on some of the cable channels. Here's an example of what's going on. We'll be right back with Bill. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What the hell is he doing?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's the only way he's comfortable -- only way he's comfortable eating.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He likes to eat like that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. Where you headed next, W?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, they got me running all over the place, got to get some money in California, then we fly back over the ocean to Delaware, then...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... got to jet down to Texas, because we're frying two dudes. I like to be there for that.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Whoa! Don't make any sudden moves, or this one will have a heart attack and that one will try to kill you.



KING: Here is an example of the way Bill Maher works, a week ago Sunday on the Super Bowl, a very controversial commercial ran. It featured a man walking -- it was for the Nuvene (ph) company and it featured a man who could walk, and the crowd was of course stunned and looked up with appreciation. The applause began, and Christopher Reeve, paralyzed, of course, was seen walking. Wide controversy over this. Here's what Bill Maher did on his show to react to this. Just watch Bill Maher at work.


MAHER: Tonight we celebrate a breakthrough in spinal cord injuries made possible by countless researchers and contributors, and to present this award, we have a very special guest.



MAHER: Congratulations, Mr. Flynt. You're an inspiration to us all.

LARRY FLYNT, PUBLISHER: Shut up, funny boy, I am not wasting this miracle on you.


ANNOUNCER: Nubile Investing, our bus -- take it. Take it all, because you know you love it!


KING: That's funny.

MAHER: Thank you.

KING: Great satire. I gather you are critical of the Reeve commercial?

MAHER: Well, I didn't understand why a investment house was doing this commercial. What is the message there? Is the message -- well, you know, we can make Christopher Reeve walk. Just think what we can do for your money?

KING: I guess it was -- yes.

MAHER: Is that what they're saying? Because that's a pretty tawdry message. Also, I mean, Larry Flynt, when I brought this up to him, he was like, you know -- he is not on the same page as Christopher Reeve on this. He thinks -- he says, I have researched this a lot, and of course he has, and he says, it's not going to happen in my lifetime. I mean, it's two different ways to look at life. One is do you want to encourage hope that may very well be false, or do you want to say you know what? I am not going to believe anything negative, and I'm just going to...

KING: Well, you can make a case for both sides.

MAHER: You can. You can. But I wanted to present...

KING: Your case.

MAHER: Of course, the...

KING: All right. Another great issue widely discussed by all Americans -- everyone has an opinion on Elian Gonzalez.


KING: What's yours?

MAHER: You know, I have switched it twice now.

KING: Really?

MAHER: Yes, because I keep reading new information. That's one reason I am glad I'm not a politician. I can change my mind when new information comes...


MAHER: If you do that and you're in politics, they say you're flip-flopping and waffling. Maybe you're just learning and evolving. First, I thought I had a very patriotic -- oh no, he's got to stay here. Then I thought, oh no, this is not good, because the bureaucrats got a hold of him. They subpoenaed him in front of Congress, the 6-year-old. I'm sure he'd do well with them. He's spent two days with sharks. But now I think -- now I have read that he's really sort of bonded with this cousin, whoever this is, about the age of his mother. And I kept trying to point out on the show the similarities between him leaving a communist country and us being a communist country in some ways, and i really think that's true.

KING: How do you mean?

MAHER: Well, in a communist country, pernicious bureaucrats can screw with your life. That was going on here. I read from the textbook on the air that he is using in Miami. He goes to a Christian school. It's indoctrination. In the textbook -- and this is for kids -- it says things like "Nixon got a bad break." "All good citizens believe there should be prayer in schools." Now This is what you're supposed to be getting away from when you leave a communist country, indoctrination like that.

So you know, I think at the end of the day, people are just like, hey, we found a puppy and we're going to keep him. If he wasn't cute, you know, that's a big issue here. If he was a carbuncular 17-year- old.

KING: You have not mentioned the significant word here: "father."

MAHER: Yes, except I think kids are much more resilient than you give them credit for, and it's not good to grow up without a father, but if he is really reattached to this mother figure after losing his mother, I think that's more important, because I think for a boy especially, the mother is more important. And I don't know, fathers have a worst track record for not being such a good parent.

KING: Last time you were on not only about -- you don't want to be a father, right? You don't want a kid.

MAHER: Larry, I don't even want to see a picture of your kid again. You bring that kid out every time.

KING: That hurt me. That hurt me, Maher. You're anti-kid.

MAHER: I am not anti-kid.

KING: What are you then?

MAHER: I am pro-adult. There's a big difference.

KING: You think there's a -- oh, there is?

MAHER: Larry, there's a lot of hiding behind kids in this country. And adults are getting sick of it, you know.

KING: You said a lot of people agreed with you last time. You heard from people...

MAHER: I heard from so many people who said, thank you for sticking up and talking about us, because in this country, where there is this great conformity, it's just not politically correct to stick your neck out and say, you know what, it is my preference not to have children in my life. I mean, I understand they're good and they're nice and you need them to continue the population, but I don't think we should be applauding people just because they spawn. And we don't really need more people or more population, and we're spoiling the kids that we have. And as I say, we hide behind kids for issues.

You know, there are people rotting in jail. I have a friend who is in jail on a marijuana charge. And the reason why he's in jail is because people in this country think it is so important to keep drugs away from kids that everything else can be sacrificed, including a lot of the Constitution of the United States, which is going down the drain in the drug war.

And I don't think, you know -- drug test your kids. They want to do that? I say fine. Fight the battle with the kids. Don't fight it with athletes, and grown adults and everywhere else. Fight it there, and stop using kids as a shield for issues.

KING: Do you know why you don't want children? I mean, do you know why -- do you feel it would -- because it's a kind of nice?

MAHER: Basically, you know, it's the old saying: If you have a baby, you can't be the baby.

KING: Ah, you want to be mothered?

MAHER: No, no, that's also the wrong part of the equation. Not mothered, not children. I like being an adult. I like freedom, you know. A kid would slow me down too much. Larry, a girlfriend would slow me down too much. I've got to get out of here right now, as a matter of fact.

KING: We'll be back with more of Bill Maher, and we'll take your calls.

Don't forget, his special is coming this spring, "Be More Cynical." I think you can tell what it's about.

Don't go away.


KING: Senator John McCain is still to come. Bill Maher is our first guest.

Before we take our first call, you're anti-tradition too, aren't you? You don't like tradition?

MAHER: I -- well, you know, when I say we need to be more cynical, I mean we need to question traditions. I see so many things going on, so many of the stories that we cover on this show, and I am sure you do, are about people doing things the way they've always done it, for no other good reason.

KING: Just because we've always done it.

MAHER: Yes, I mean, when we were covering the Iowa caucus a couple of weeks ago, I kept hearing this stuff from the candidates about how the farmers were -- you know, I think Alan Keyes said. if we lose the family farm, we lose the moral cradle of America, something like that. Why? Why am I morally inferior to someone with a big garden? You know, what I mean? Why is -- how did that tradition -- and I'm not knocking the farmers. People say, why are you anti- farmer? I am not. I am just saying 1 percent of the people work a farm now, 1 percent. I mean, more people have plowed Courtney Love. I don't know why that's a bad thing. We have to save these farm -- why? It's just -- that's -- first there were serfs. Now there's Archer-Daniels Midland, you know. I mean, why do we need to do that? There still seems to be bread in the store.

KING: Let's take a call for Mr. Maher.

Do you have your air piece in?


KING: Yes.

Midland, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

Hi, Bill.


CALLER: My question: Your comment in reference to Steve Forbes being the a rich kid son of a gay balloonist sounds a little like John Rocker.

KING: You mean in poor taste, sir?

I see.

What do you make of John Rocker, by the way? Are you a John Rocker fan?

MAHER: Well, see, there's another one. This is a problem I have, that people, again, be more cynical. They just divide things into black and white. They say, why are you attacking farmers? Why are you defending John Rocker? Well, I am not attacking farmers, and I wasn't defending John Rocker, but I was defending his right to speak unpopular thought without losing his job. I don't think you really have free speech in America if you're fined and if you lose your job for merely being insensitive. That's also kind of Soviet, you know. I mean, he's not a cannibal. He's not a traitor. He's not a killer. He's not a child molester. He's just somebody at the end of the day with different politics than you. I don't agree with them either.

But you know, the same people who defended the Nazis' right to march in Skokie, they should be defending John Rocker, you know. It's the guy who has unpopular speech who you have to defend.

KING: Well, the March in Skokie was governmental, but a company can take away your right to free speech.

MAHER: They can. But then you really don't have it, do you? Because if it's your job on the line, they're going to shut you up about that.

KING: Would an airline company allow its pilots to come on and say, "Vote for Forbes?"

MAHER: Well, he's out of the race, I guess you didn't hear.

KING: I guess they didn't -- that's why I used his name as an example. But an airline would say, no political statements from the cockpit, right?

MAHER: Yes, but these weren't political statements. These were his opinions about riding a subway train in New York, you know. And yes, he's crude. He's a redneck. It should not be illegal to be a dumb redneck.


KING: He's so happy watching you defend him tonight.

MAHER: That's the best he's going to get. But it's very dangerous to think people should lose their jobs for thinking differently than you. KING: We'll go to a break, come back for some more calls, and then John McCain.

Here's some more example of the political humor on American television.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in Washington right now. How did the election results change the mood of Washington?

BOB DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, There are a lot of people -- in fact, I've got a band-aid on my thumb where I was trying to get my Bush button on and put a McCain button on.


DOLE: So it's changed the mood quite a bit. You couldn't find a McCain button on anybody yesterday, but today, they're all over the place.



KING: We're back. Our remaining moments with Bill Maher, and then Senator John McCain. Bill Maher's HBO special, "Be More Cynical," will air live on June 10.

And you will be there.

MAHER: I will.

KING: So you said spring, but I guess that's still spring.

MAHER: June is still spring.

KING: June is sill spring, June 10.

You wanted to say something about the man we just saw, former Senator Dole?

MAHER: Yes, I know Senator Dole, and what I was saying about voting for the guy who had been to war -- I voted for him for the same reason.

KING: He'd been to war.

MAHER: He'd been to war. And I don't think he would have been, looking back, a great president, as great as president Clinton has been. But I did. I have a big problem with his commercial for Viagra, for the opposite reason. He's been to war. He really knows what sacrifice is. I thought it was completely tawdry for him to trade on that. Because in the ad, you know, he says, "Some things just take courage," you know, as if taking Viagra takes courage, compared to hitting the beach at Anzio? Why is that courage? We've lost our sense of...

KING: I think it's courage to talk about it.

MAHER: Even that is not courage, Larry, OK.

KING: I think that's what he's referring to, not courage take it.

MAHER: OK. But I think we're really lowering the bar on courage, OK, if it's about that. And then, you know, you see him on somebody dancing with a woman. It's like, you know, take this before the gardener gets to her. It's a tawdry ad.

KING: Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, hello?

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Hi, Bill.


CALLER: I would like to say, first of all, I am originally from New York, and I have never believed Hillary Clinton on anything. Why do you think we should believe her, when she says she wants to help New Yorkers, when she's not from New York and Rudy is, and might I add, he's done a great job? Let her run in Illinois or Arkansas for Senate.

KING: Well, you have the choice of voting against her, of course.


KING: But how do you respond to that?

MAHER: Well, first of all, New York has always been a sort of a celebrity state. You can run there. That's sort of their little part of the Union.

KING: Come on in.

MAHER: Robert Kennedy did it. Right. As long as you're a celebrity, go ahead. Of course she's not concerned as much about New York as she is about her own career. I could never name one politician who is. A politician is concerned about his job, about...

KING: You think no politician is more concerned about his country than himself, or his city than himself?

MAHER: Very few.

KING: You're really cynical.

MAHER: Well, do you really think that these guys care more about what they're talking about than getting the job? I mean, look at how they attack each other. John McCain, from the Bush camp -- first they tried, you're crazy: He's crazy. He's been to Nam. God knows what he'll do. That didn't stick. Then he lost New Hampshire. OK, now he's an insider, yes that's it, he's an insider. He's the insider, and I am an outsider, because I am in Austin, Texas. And we'll see if that floats. If not that, what is it? Oh, he plays with puppets. He goes to the movies with Peewee Herman. What are they going to say next? Do they really believe it, or do they really want the job? You judge by the ads.

KING: So therefore, you're cynical about everything, right? I mean, you're pretty much...

MAHER: I'm saying, it doesn't do any good to have false hope and false ideas and to be -- not be able to see through their tricks. Until we can see through their tricks, they will not be nullified. The guy with the most money will win, because he can buy the most ads that fool us.

KING: What do you like about -- what do you like the most about politics? What do...

MAHER: Oh, I like a lot of politicians. I love the president. I don't always agree with him about everything. I think he gives away our money too easily, but I am a big fan of his. I have gone to about five or six events. Anytime they invite me, I love to go and shake his hand and talk to him for a couple of minutes.

KING: Why do you like him so much?

MAHER: Well first of all, he's brilliant at the job. You know, it's a tough kind of job where you need a guy -- they always complain, he's slick. Well, good. He's got a deal with the Russians, and the Israelis, and Congress and Hillary, and you know, he better be slick.

KING: What's the opposite of slick?

MAHER: Well, the opposite of slick could be dumb, you know, like the opposite of cynical is dumb. You've got to give to get a little bit. I am willing to give up that slick for a guy who's so smart and knows how to negotiate and everything. I mean, this economy we've had for the last eight years, what the Republicans call "prosperitygate" -- it's a joke.

KING: I get it.

MAHER: But I mean, you've got give the guy credit, but they don't, they won't. They're going back to Reagan. They're saying, you know what, it was really Reagan's policies way back in the early '80s that are causing this prosperity now. I mean, that's a level of hate. I don't know why they hate him so much, but they do.

KING: Bill it's always great seeing you. You're my man.

MAHER: Thank you. KING: Bill Maher. Don't forget, June 10, he'll be on an HBO special called "Be More Cynical." It'll be live, and he's on nightly on ABC hosting "Politically Incorrect." The terrific Bill Maher.

Senator John McCain is next.

Don't go away.


KING: Monday morning, across America, the news magazines came out, and this man made the cover of all three of the biggies. He's Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. He's with us from the campus of Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. The primary is a week from Saturday. Next Tuesday night is the last and only debate left in Carolina. We'll be the moderator of that debate. We look forward to seeing Senator McCain and Governor Bush and Alan Keyes.

What did you make of Mr. Forbes leaving, John?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think he conducted a very high-level campaign. I think he had a message, and particularly in the area of taxes. I don't think his message got the traction that it did in 1996 when he came out with a flat-tax proposal that I think intrigued a lot of Americans. But I would like to say that I think Steve conducted a very good campaign, and I'll miss him in the debate, because he added a lot to the campaign and to the debates.

KING: Do you think it will hurt you in that more -- his supporters would be more inclined to go for Governor Bush?

MCCAIN: Well, actually here in South Carolina, a lot of his people have called and are coming over to our team, so I think it's a very mixed kind of a thing. So far, we've been very encouraged by what we've seen. So it -- these things are a little hard to tell.


KING: ... people who were working for him in South Carolina have contacted you already.


KING: Were you a little surprised, since he's claiming to be the more conservative candidate and he was claiming to be the more conservative candidate than Governor Bush?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, Larry, the reason why we did so well in New Hampshire was we cut across the board, including a huge advantage in independents. But we won even conservative Republicans, and I think it's because of the message that people are attracted to of reform. And that cuts across liberal versus conservative. And we want to reform the government. We want to have campaign finance reform. We want to give the government back to the people. So it's -- I think the appeal that I have is not so much appeal to a segment of the party, but across the board.

KING: What did you make when you saw the three magazines Monday? First of all, how did you feel?

MCCAIN: Well, I thought that I never thought I would live that long.


Obviously, I think it's good. It also gives one a sense of nervousness, because as we continue to gain traction in this campaign, there will be more intensity. There will be more scrutiny. There will be more opportunities for me to put my foot in my mouth.

I -- you know that I am very capable of doing that, given my record. But also, it's very exhilarating and -- and sounds a little corny, but one of the things I thought of is I think this might impress my children.

KING: Really?

MCCAIN: Yes, because my kids, you know -- an old geezer like me, you know, it's hard to get their appreciation.

KING: The Army is kind of moving in. And a lot of your compatriots in the Senate and in the House where you formally served are all coming in this weekend, a lot moving in against you.


KING: Why?

MCCAIN: Well, because I'm threatening the establishment. I'm threatening the iron triangle of lobbyists, money and legislation.

They know the status quo will never be what it is today. It's a very cozy kind of situation we have in Washington that protects incumbents: huge amounts of money dispensed by lobbyists and special interests which then helps incumbents stay in office and affects legislation.

And I'm committed to reforming that.

Look, if anybody wants the status quo, they sure don't want to vote for John McCain, for me, and they feel very badly threatened. They never anticipated this clearly. I'm sure that you've heard that from many sources.

We're overjoyed. I say: Come on down; we're having a lot of fun, and it's a great ride. And I hope they'll enjoy it too.

KING: And you don't take it personally that people you serve with are supporting an opponent?

MCCAIN: Oh, you can't take these things personally. Of course, you get disappointed in a couple of them. But the key to it is don't be diverted, don't be concerned, press on with your message.

And listen, I feel like Luke Skywalker going -- getting out of the Death Star. Boy, they're coming in from all sides, and we're having a great ride. And we -- the young people are coming to our campaign in the way that this whole campaign was intended to.

The whole campaign is really about inspiring young Americans to commit themselves to causes greater than their self-interests, to be involved in the political process. And frankly, I'm excited by the way that they are flocking to us: people of all ages and stripes.

And last night, we went to a high school. There was supposed to be 400 people there; 1,200 people showed up.

It's been -- it's been a marvelous ride so far.

KING: Yesterday, senator, Governor Bush said that you talk on one side about campaign finances and reform and everything, yet your big support comes from lobbyists and big companies, and you're the insider in the race. You have been the one inside Washington for 17 years. You're the one on the dole, so to speak. He's coming to reform.

How do you respond?

MCCAIN: Well, if I'm the insider, how come all the insiders are coming after me like gangbusters?


The real story of this campaign lately that has even astonished me, Larry, is that since last Tuesday night, we've gotten 2.2 -- excuse me -- $2.5 million over the Internet, that people have just gone on the Internet on and contributed to our campaign.

Let me put that in perspective for you. Up until last Tuesday night, we had led all of the candidates with $1.5 million in contributions. Here we have now since just last Tuesday 2 1/2 million. And by the way, most of that is matchable because of the matching funds. It's been incredible.

We've now got to 70,000 people who have gotten on the Internet and volunteered for the campaign. That's really what this is all about.

And I don't think that those people would think I'm some kind of insider if they -- they wouldn't be turning out in these incredible numbers.

KING: But the charge, is that for -- bad advertising when he says you have accepted a lot of money and are involved a lot with lobbyists?

MCCAIN: I just -- look, I mean, I -- there's no point in getting into it, but not -- I think last year Governor Bush had a fund-raiser in Washington with the lobbyists that raised a million dollars. We're having a fund-raiser on Thursday that we're going satellite from here to Washington, D.C., and 29 other locations around the country, including places like Bullhead City, Arizona.

Look, we know where our money has come from, and we also know that Governor Bush has raised more money than any candidate in the history of presidential politics. What I would really like to do is stop all of this back-biting and fighting and say, George, come on, let's quit, both of us, let's quit.

If I'm guilty of saying unkind things or running a bad ad, I'll drag mine down. We'll get back on the plane that we were on in the state of New Hampshire where people applauded the way we conducted that campaign.

So George, come on. Let's stop this. Let's stop our surrogates from attacking and impugning each other. Let's get back to a campaign that the American people, and frankly, we can be proud of.

And I'm not too proud of the way it's going right now.

KING: We'll pick right up on that when we come back. Our guest, Senator John McCain. He's coming to us from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Senator McCain just mentioned negativism. We're going to take a minute and show you two 30-second spots, one for his campaign, one for Governor Bush's, and then we'll ask him about them. Watch.


NARRATOR: John McCain's ad about Governor Bush's tax plan isn't true and McCain knows it. McCain's economic adviser says he'd support Bush's plan: 2 trillion to protect Social Security, pay down debt and a real tax cut.

McCain's plan: a tax cut smaller than Clinton's and not a penny in tax cuts for 30 million Americans.

On taxes, McCain echoes Washington Democrats when we need a conservative leader to challenge them.

Governor Bush, proven, tested, ready to lead America.



NARRATOR: This is George Bush's ad promising America he'd run a positive campaign.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... run a campaign that is hopeful and optimistic and very positive. NARRATOR: This is George Bush shaking hands with John McCain, promising not to run a negative campaign.

This is George Bush's new negative ad, attacking John McCain and disporting his position.


NARRATOR: Support Bush's plan...


NARRATOR: Do we really want another politician in the White House America can't trust?


KING: OK, I guess that's a clear example, Senator McCain, of what's been going on in South Carolina.

MCCAIN: Yes, sure is.

KING: Do you think that Governor Bush broke his promise? Or would he say I'm just pointing out the facts?

MCCAIN: Well, I -- I'm not interested in wasting too much time parsing his ad. But first of all, Vin Weber is not my top economic adviser and he didn't say that, and he has repudiated that ad.

But look, here's the point: For five days, ever since the New Hampshire primary, there were surrogates of Governor Bush attacking me and they're still attacking me. Governor Bush stood next to a veteran, stood next to him -- a fringe veteran, a fringe veteran -- who accused me of abandoning the veterans after I came home from prison: abandoning the veterans. That's a blow right at my honor and my record.

And he's -- five senators, five senators, all of them Vietnam veterans, who served honorably, and some with great loss, have demanded that Governor Bush render an apology. So this party is getting rough.

We had to respond, and we will respond, but what I want to do again -- I say again, George, let's take down the negative ads. Let's stop our surrogates from attacking each other. Let's get the campaign back where we were before, and that way I think we can be proud of this campaign. But, Larry, in all due respect, we saw what happened when Bill Bradley did not respond to Al Gore's attacks. Negative attacks have to be responded to.

KING: In other words you can't -- if you see something, you -- it's the old Clinton of '92, right? See something, respond that day.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes, you have to.

KING: I mean, that was their mode and when they ran that campaign.

MCCAIN: You have to...

KING: So that's your...

MCCAIN: You have to respond in the news cycle, you have to respond in the news cycle to a negative ad. Look, they have got the National Right to Life people attacking me. They have got the American -- they have got the tobacco companies, the so-called Smokers' Alliance that are attacking me. You know, the people that addicted our children and lied to Congress, they're running ads attacking me.

KING: Well, you can't be surprised, can you? I mean...


KING: ... you have upset the apple cart, you can't -- the heat -- you know, the Truman adage -- you're not shocked, are you?

MCCAIN: Sure. Listen, we're having a great time. As I told you, we're not diverting. We're getting out of the Death Star. We're having a great time. And so -- but the fact is that I am going to respond to those attacks if necessary. But we don't have to do that. We don't have to do that. We don't have to be like Gore and Bradley or other campaigns.

We can -- George Bush is a good man, and he would make a good president of the United States. I would just make a better one, and I hope that we can stop this and stop this immediately and get on to the debates about health care, education, restoring the military, all of the issues that are important to the future of America. I don't think that the people of South Carolina are getting a lot out of this right now.

KING: That debate next Tuesday, we'll concentrate a lot on all the issues that have been mentioned and we'll try to keep that on a firm plain as...

MCCAIN: I am sure you will.

KING: ... the combatants gather before the vote on Saturday the 19th.

We'll be back with our remaining moments with Senator John McCain of Arizona right after this.


KING: Senator McCain, in our remaining moments, how do you see South Carolina? What do your latest polls show? Everyone has polls every other minute. How are you doing at this minute?

MCCAIN: Well, we haven't taken a poll, but there are public polls -- one of them shows me 4 points ahead. One of them shows us even. I think this is going to be a very close campaign. I think it could be a very close election. It's getting pretty rough. In New Hampshire, there was a lot of movement in the last couple of days. It wouldn't surprise me if that is the case here in South Carolina as well.

Our message is getting across. People are coming to our town hall meetings and our rallies. It's -- they're very enthusiastic, and I am very enthusiastic about our message of reform, reform of education, the government, the military, and the tax code and the commitment I have to get the special interests and their big money out of Washington and give these people back their government. That's resonating.

You know, when we began this campaign, the pundits said there is no room for campaign finance reform in this campaign. Well, we made room, Larry. Last Tuesday night, a campaign in New Hampshire ended, a great crusade all over this country began.

KING: What about -- South Carolina is not New Hampshire, though, right? It's a very different kind of state, isn't it?

MCCAIN: Well, I think in some respects it's a little different. But in New Hampshire, they're very fiscally conservative -- in New Hampshire, there's very promilitary, very large number of veterans, more per capita than any other state.

KING: You mean in South Carolina?

MCCAIN: Yes, in South Carolina, I'm sorry. More veterans per capita than any other state. A lot of patriotism here, a lot of conservatism. So I think it is a little bit different, but there's also been a lot of growth here. There's high-tech. There's businesses and industries, cities like Greenville that have really grown. There's been a lot of growth and business activity here in this state as well, so it's -- demographically it has changed somewhat.

KING: Do you want to respond to Senator Bradley's attack yesterday on both you and the governor for this continued support of the people's right to keep that Dixie flag?

MCCAIN: Well, what my position has been is that I support their right to decide themselves without outside assistance as I did in the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, when we were struggling for his recognition in the state of Arizona. But I respect Bill Bradley's views and I thank him for the advice, and I'll try and give him some several times in the future like on the issue of ethanol subsidies.

KING: Are you continuing to enjoy yourself even though you're saying it's got so negative? Every time we see you, you say you're enjoying yourself. You can't enjoy it -- when it's negative you can't enjoy it.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes you can, Larry, you can't let it divert you. This is the most exhilarating and exuberant experience of my life except for the day that I left prison. Look, here is a guy that was fifth in the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy, and here I am! It's marvelous. We have wonderful people around us. We have got people coming and saying hello and being supportive. Look, I can't tell you how wonderful this ride has been. And, sure, I'll be glad when we reach the end of the trail, but it will be the most memorable experience of my life.

KING: Thanks so much, Senator. We'll see you next Tuesday night.

MCCAIN: Look forward to seeing you, Larry.

KING: In Carolina, that debate will be on CNN next Tuesday night, it will feature the three candidates, there are now three candidates, Senator McCain, Alan Keyes, and Governor Bush, and I'll be the moderator. That's next Tuesday night, live at 9:00 eastern.

Tomorrow night, Walter Mathau joins us. He has been ill of late, but he will be here tomorrow night along with Diane Keaton. And Bruce Willis, who hasn't been around in a while, has a terrific new movie out and he'll be with us on Friday.

Thanks very much for joining us. Stay tuned for "CNN NEWSSTAND" with Carol Burnett. Good night.



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