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Interview With Bill Maher

Aired November 6, 2002 - 00:50   ET


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Thank you, Judy. This is our windup report for the night. The cast will be taking you through the rest of the evening.
And we couldn't wind it up in better fashion. Our guests were Trent Lott and former Senators Alan Simpson and George McGovern. Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," former Governor Ann Richards, Senator John McCain, Terry McAuliffe and Governor Mark Racicot and Rudy Giuliani.

We now welcome, to close it out, Bill Maher. Former host of "Politically Incorrect," author of a new hit book, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden." In fact, Bill's coming to us from the Avalon Hotel in Los Angeles, where they had a book party tonight.

Well, let's get caught up on some things, Bill. First, the...

BILL MAHER, FMR. HOST, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT": It was quite a party, Larry.

KING: How did it go, Bill?

MAHER: I haven't seen this kind of partying since the Wellstone memorial.

KING: The exit polls were canceled tonight by the voters' news service. Did that shock you?

MAHER: I don't know what that means, Larry.

KING: Well, the voters' news service...


KING: They didn't do any exit polling today because they decided it was a snafu and they couldn't report to us.

MAHER: All I know is, when I was watching CNN and the other news channels earlier in the day -- not that I watch the other news channels -- they kept making a great, big deal about the fact that they were very careful about predicting the winners this year.

And I kept wanting to just say to them, calm down, relax. You can do your job. We know that it's a tough job to predict winners. And it's not Florida again in 2000. Although I did understand Pat Buchanan won again. (LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But this time they had to write him in.

KING: Any thoughts on Elizabeth Dole coming to the Senate? Elizabeth Dole and Hillary Clinton are going to be in the Senate. Their spouses ran against each other and now they're in the Senate together.

MAHER: You know, Larry, all day long I've been hearing that one of the big stories is women in politics again. We heard this a few years ago, it was the year of the woman. This year, woman governorships. What a non-issue.

What a non-issue, because women in politics sound exactly like men. This nonsense that somehow we have approached a new era, where we're going to have kinder and gentler governing, or somehow they're going to be more wise -- they sound exactly like every other politician.

It obviously doesn't matter if they wear a red suit or a red tie. Politics obviously trumps gender. The only difference between Liddy Dole and Bob Dole is, she uses the viagra in her hair.


KING: What did you make of the apparent success, the obvious success, of President Bush tonight? I mean, he went out in an off year and campaigned heavily, and appears to certainly have a more controlling voice in the House and could well pull off the Senate.

MAHER: I find it depressing, quite frankly, that he's so popular when he has really done so little as far as the No. 1 issue that people should be concerned about, which is the war on terrorism. The Hart-Rudman commission report came out -- well, the first one came out in March of 2001, where they said, please, we're going to do something, we're about to be attacked. No one read it, no one did anything, and of course, we were attacked six months later.

Now this new report comes out a couple of weeks ago and says nothing has changed since 9/11. I don't understand why a president who has not affected the kind of changes we need in homeland security, has this kind of popularity. I can only guess that the people are not paying attention.

KING: But he's fighting to get a homeland security bill passed, the Democrats help up in the Senate, that now apparently he might get through. So he would tell you.

MAHER: Well, when you say the Democrats held it up in the Senate, it's not for no reason that they held it up. I think they had some problems with the fact that the people were not going to be unionized. It doesn't matter.

The point is that he is the president. He is the guy who should be kicking ass and taking names. And if he's not, I think we have to pin it on him. So I really don't understand that.

I expect the people in Congress to be careerists, because they are. They are no better than that. When they talk about values, as they all do in their ads, people should just turn off the TV. Because obviously their value, which means what's important to you, is winning the election, which is why they're running those disgusting negative ads.

But the president, I do expect something more from.

KING: Are you going to miss Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond?

MAHER: No, because no one has told them that they weren't running.

KING: All right, Nevada had an election today. Nevada defeated an issue that would have allowed adults to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for personal use. Nevada knocked that out tonight, Bill.

MAHER: And by the way, 3 ounces of personal use is about what you would need to get through this election day.


MAHER: I mean, that's an issue that I have fought for very much for purely philosophical reasons. Btu I find it, as usual with this cause, very hard to get the people to organize in the way they should.

I'm not saying that's because they're pot smokers, but I heard that one guy was in the voting booth for 20 minutes and then he asked for more quarters.


KING: This is the most money ever spent in an off-year election. McCain-Feingold is now in effect.

MAHER: Yes, you're right, $900 million was spent on TV ads. For that kind of money, we could have had one more episode of "Friends." I see it as a national disgrace, Larry. Did you find out if Mondale won?

KING: Mondale is behind, but it's only 5 percent of the tally in and it's a very scattered area. It's much too early.

And in South Dakota, the incumbent, Mr. Johnson, is ahead by 3 percent. And Missouri, the lady is behind by 3 percent, but they're still counting votes in St. Louis so it's still up in the air. In Louisiana, there's going to be a runoff on December 7th.

MAHER: I find it amazing that at a time when we are under attack, and also our economy is so bad that the Democratic slogan this year was, "Are you better than you were five minutes ago?" people seem to find comfort in the incumbent, in the status quo.

It seems like, if there's any time for not the status quo, it would be now.

KING: So you are pessimistic tonight, are you not, Mr. Maher?

MAHER: I'm realistic, Larry.

KING: The public has disappointed you.

MAHER: Well, I mean, to say nothing, yes. But absolutely, I think that people need to wake up. I think, as Bob Dole said in 1996, where's the outrage? I'm surprised that people, in this one opportunity that they have in a democracy to express how they feel, act as if, OK, let's just go along to get along.

I can understand that in other times, in the '90s, when we were living in prosperity and peace. I cannot understand it in the year 2002.

KING: Thank you, Bill. We're out of time. "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden." That's Bill Maher's new book. And if I can add a personal note: it's terrific.

MAHER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: That's our chore for tonight. We had a great time doing it. Hope you enjoyed it as well. And we turn you now back to more of America votes, 2002.


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