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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Bill Maher

Aired February 26, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher. Outspoken, outrageous, some of you think he's totally out of line. Mr. Politically Incorrect has something to say about everything, from Saddam's interview with Dan Rather to war with Iraq and a lot more. He may tell us what he thinks of Michael Jackson. Bill Maher is here for the hour with your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's one of my favorite people. It's always a pleasure to welcome him to the program. He's Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher," which made its debut last Friday on HBO and as I said to him off the air and I'll say it on, the best -- one of the best debut shows I have ever seen. It was a brilliant hour of comedy and I recommend anybody to watch it Friday nights, 11:30, on HBO.

He's also author of the best-seller -- the bestseller "When You Ride Alone You Ride With bin Laden: What the Government Should be Telling us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism." It's also available on audiotape as well, and you see the audiotape on your screen.

Well, how did it feel?

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": That's all I came for.

KING: How did it feel?

MAHER: Endorsements.

KING: How did it feel?

MAHER: To do a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

KING: To do a show on a network with no commercials.

MAHER: Right. No commercials.

KING: What was it like?

MAHER: It was great. I think it's the format that we have always been aiming toward. I think what people didn't like about "Politically Incorrect" went away, which is that every one who's on the stage is pretty bright, you know? It's not quite that wide net we used to cast.

And we have an hour, you know? The other complaint about "Politically Incorrect" was it's so short and you get started and we have to go to commercial. So I think...

KING: Did you format it, though, to have a new comic every week? You had a kind of -- not a rant, things you were bugged about.

MAHER: New rules.

KING: New rules. New rules, yes, which was terrific.

MAHER: New rules. We do that every week.

KING: Did you expect Chris Rock?

MAHER: Only right before show time. They said, you know, expect a surprise.

KING: That was -- it was hysterical.

MAHER: Yes. Yes. He's a good man. He really is. I mean, he doesn't forget.

KING: And that interview with the congressman. You going to do something...

MAHER: Yes.

KING: ...like that every weekend?

MAHER: Yes. Yes.

KING: Is that the format?

MAHER: That's the format. Interview with a newsmaker, some body who is making news, right after the monologue and then we'll get to the panel -- you know, we'll mix it up it's always going to funny.

KING: It's terrific.

MAHER: Thank you. I appreciate it.

KING: Without question it's a great show, as the book is a great book. Everything's going good for you, Bill. I'm glad things turned around so well.

MAHER: I finally hit my stride here in my early 30s.

KING: For a man who was in trouble with the White House.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: Zapped it around.

MAHER: I'm sure I'm still in trouble with the White House.

KING: All right. Let's get into some things. Dan Rather is going to be on this show tomorrow night.

MAHER: After this show I'm definitely going to be in trouble with the White House.

KING: Dan Rather is going to be on this show tomorrow night to tell us about that. What do you make of the -- him getting an interview with Saddam? Three hours.

MAHER: Yes, Well, I don't think it's that hard. I think Saddam picked him, right? I mean, Saddam wants to get his point across. Saddam Hussein is using him as a propaganda tool.

Somehow when Jesse Jackson goes over to Syria or to Kosovo and gets prisoners released they say, Oh, they just used him. Remember?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Well, aren't they just using Dan Rather?

KING: But you're not saying he shouldn't have done it.

MAHER: No. But I'm not saying it's a great coup. I think it was a harder get to get Robert Blake.

KING: Barbara Walters got Robert Blake.

MAHER: Yes. I think that was a harder interview to get.

KING: Than Saddam Hussein.

MAHER: Don't you think? Saddam Hussein wants to have a sounding board.

KING: All right. What do you make of this whole Iraq thing. Give us the overview of Bill Maher, who's tended on this program to be pro-military.

MAHER: I am. Always have been. I mean, you know, I'm...

KING: You're hawkish.

MAHER: Hawkish. I'm for definitely for military kicking some butt around the world...

KING: But...

MAHER: ... I just don't think this is the right war.

KING: Why not?

MAHER: Well, as I said on my show the other night, I think you have to buy three things to buy this war. One, that Saddam Hussein has bad weapons, and I do say -- I agree, he has chemicals. I bet you he has chems and nukes -- and bios. I don't think he has nukes.

But the other two things you have to buy to buy the war are -- is that he's in league with bin Laden. Let's not forget that's who we're really after, is the people who attacked us.

KING: Bin Laden. Whatever happened to him?

MAHER: Exactly. Whatever happened to bin Laden? This looks to me, and it looks to a lot of the world, like we couldn't get bin Laden. We lost our keys in the garage, but we're look for them in the living room because there's better light.

Or to make another analogy, it's like we're the big kid on the block and this little kid Osama came by and threw a rock through our window. So we went over to his house and we kicked his butt in Afghanistan, and on the way home, we kicked his cousin's butt for no reason.

KING: So there's no logic. And what's the third thing?

MAHER: The third thing is that you have to buy that he not only has these weapons, but that we have to preemptively take the weapons away from him.

KING: For the first time in our history, I think.

MAHER: First time, this is a very new doctrine. And I agree with the doctrine if it's applied to the people who attacked us. That is not Saddam Hussein.

This linking of him with al Qaeda and this idea that he is about to strike, that his claws were up there -- I just don't buy that.

KING: Do you think it's -- do you think they don't believe it or do you think they do -- they're on the wrong track.

MAHER: They're on the wrong track. They are.

I heard on -- "Frontline" had a great documentary on the Bush plans to go to war even before 9/11 and they said, it was interesting, last time I was here on the show I compared -- we were talking about Iraq and I said, Well it's a case of herpes. It's a disease you contain and suddenly it became cancer.

Well, last night on "Frontline," I heard that Colin Powell, before he made his big turnaround, used to talk about Saddam Hussein as a toothache. It comes and it goes. You just have to live with it. It's something you contain. Obviously he's more afraid of a toothache.

KING: Let's say your principal -- every thing you say is correct. Would it be terrible to go in and took him out?

MAHER: Well, it would.

KING: Not bad to get rid of herpes.

MAHER: No. Except that here's the other analogy that I brought up on my show. I didn't quite finish it, so I'd like to do that here.

KING: You may. MAHER: I think people, if they want to know what's going to happen in Iraq, consider this analogy. Now they've tried to present it like it's all going to be rose petals on the liberators as they march down the streets in Baghdad.

No, what you should picture is Waco. Iraq is Waco. Saddam Hussein is David Koresh. He's a real bad guy, an evil man who's got an arsenal that we don't like. And, of course, we shouldn't like it, but I think right wingers always defended David Koresh because the idea was, Well, he's not using it. It's just going to make matters worse if we go in there.

And that's what -- I've seen this movie. And in this case, our army is the FBI and he is David Koresh. And I know how it ends. The FBI gets decimated when they go in and the nut bar takes the whole place with him rather than give up his weapons. He uses them.

We are forcing this guy to use his chemical and biological weapons when I don't think -- for 12 years he has not so much crossed against a red light and suddenly he has become this menace who is about to attack us.

KING: What's your alternative?

MAHER: Well...

KING: Just continue inspections ad infinitum?

MAHER: Well, maybe not ad infinitum but -- first of all, there are no good choices. We have to realize that. There are no good choices.

KING: Bad world.

MAHER: It's a bad world, but if we're going to fight the bad guys, and I think we should, we've got to fight the ones who are No. 1, 2, 3 on the list. And that to me is not Saddam Hussein. To me, that is an old score they are settling and it looks like they are settling an old score.

We were told when this war started, by the administration, we cannot lump together all of the Muslim people. That's wrong. We're just fighting the terrorists, don't lump them together. This is lumping. This is lumping. This is saying exactly the opposite of what they said in the beginning. Hey, he's an Arab, close enough. Same day, different towel.

KING: The other night, you eloquently defended a lone voice in the night. You defended France.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: France is really -- they're get racked.

MAHER: Right. That was one of my new rules. Lay off France. At least they're standing up to the Bush administration, which is more than I can say for the Democrats.

Now I don't think France has altruistic motives in doing so. But as I also said about the U.N., isn't it their place to put off a rush to war? When people say, the U.N. ineffectual, they're risking being irrelevant. Well, no, I think I remember being a peace-preserving body. I think that's their job.

Is the U.N. job's really to clap him on the back, and say, You go get him Tex!

KING: But the Security Council...

MAHER: Go kick some ass over there!

KING: Security Council did set measures that they expected to be met.

MAHER: Yes. OK. But it should be the last resort.

KING: The last, last resort.

MAHER: The last, last resort. And, you know, for those who say it's somehow un-American to oppose this -- well, no, it's not un- American, in fact it's very American to -- especially before the fighting starts, to say simply, Hey, maybe we should try it another way.

KING: Bill Maher's our guest, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO, the author of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden" and we'll be taking calls, of course, on tonight's show. He's with us for the full hour.

Dan Rather tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MAHER: New rule: no more whining about the French. At least they're standing up to the Bush administration, which is more than I can say for the Democrats.

And by the way, it doesn't make me un-American to say, I'd rather live in Paris than in places where cheese only comes in individually- wrapped slices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "THE TONIGHT SHOW")

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Have you seen these ads that claim SUVs support terrorism? Have you heard about this campaign? You know something, I think there might be truth to it. Do you ever see an SUV pull up to the gas pump you can see the terror in their eyes. Like $80!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If that's the lead-in they gave us, what do you make of this SUV. You are an anti-SUV persons are aren't you? Don't you drive -- what car do you drive?

MAHER: I drive a hybrid. Yes. I got that right after 9/11. I thought that's a good way to actually do something.

KING: The subject of your book.

MAHER: Is that we are not asked to do anything. Yes, look, I don't want to be the -- I'm kind of glad Ariana has taken the mantle.

KING: Miss Huffington owns this.

MAHER: She really has. She's taken all of the heat and I'm glad.

KING: Why's that?

MAHER: Because I don't want to be the car police. I just want people to be aware of the fact that SUVs are not helping the problem because the people who we are fighting are funded by oil. You know, where do they get their money, like everybody they get it from their relatives. We are fighting an Arab/Muslim terrorist group. Excuse me, that's who it is. It's not the Swedish people. And they're financed by oil, not drugs. OK. So, yes, oil is involved in this equation.

But, look, I understand also the point of the other side which is that we all are selfish in our own ways. Yes, we are. We all do things and wish we could do better. I'm not saying to trade in your SUV. That's your big thing and you can't live without it, fine, then do something else. You know, then don't put up so many Christmas lights this year, because that also uses oil. And stop also with the pretense about SUVs. I think that's what bothers a lot of people.

KING: Pretense meaning?

MAHER: Well the pretense they're all named Explorer and Navigator and Aviator and Tracker like you're Daniel Boone. Please, you're going to McDonald's to get a McRib in the thing.

KING: By the way, a spokesman for the industry said today they're safer than sedans.

MAHER: Certainly not safer to other people. And I don't believe that either. All of the statistics I saw about rollovers -- they're just selfish. It's like, it's a selfish car and we're all selfish, as I say, in our own way. But that's what I and a lot of people see what we see. It's like when a guy, you know, you know, there's that someone that uses that lane that you're want supposed to go into, we used to call it the schmuck lane because if you went in it you were a schmuck. To me, it's a schmuck car.

KING: OK. Let's turn to terror alerts. Were you frightened during orange?

Did you panic or did you not go somewhere you intended to go?

MAHER: No. There's nothing we could do. I mean, what am I going to build a bomb shelter in my backyard? No. If it happens, it happens. I am not going to...

KING: But you should, I mean, it's not bad idea to store water, let's say if they're going to crucify the water system.

MAHER: Right.

KING: It's not a bad idea.

MAHER: They suggested three things, water, food and a portable radio so if the world does come to an end you can hear Rush Limbaugh blame it on Clinton.

KING: Which he would.

MAHER: I love that joke. But, no, to me I read every day in the paper about how much money we're using to bribe other nations to help fight the war in Iraq and in, like, the next column I read about how we don't have money here. We don't have hazmat suits. We don't have money. Sorry. The money here for homeland defense, just don't have it.

KING: Your old friend Ari Fleischer denied that today, that we bribe other countries. Or that we give...

MAHER: Of course he did.

KING: Was it an honest attempt to get countries to agree with us by presenting the issues to them?

MAHER: Yes, because he's the president's flack. He has to say that. Of course, that's his job, is to lie for the other person while he's not lying. We all know that that's not true. I mean, it is not a coalition of the willing. It's a coalition of the bribed.

KING: So what, you don't do anything to protect yourself against the possibility of...

MAHER: What can I do? What are you doing? Am I missing a trick here?

KING: My wife is storing up stuff. She goes out -- Mormons, they do that. They go and store stuff. And it ain't bad idea.

MAHER: So, it's an excuse to shop. That's what you're saying. It's one more excuse for her to...

KING: Makes Costco heaven.

MAHER: No. No. That, to me, is not the way to fight this.

KING: By the way, in this war, the journalists will travel with the troops.

You like that idea?

MAHER: Well, once he starts using his chemical and biological stuff, trust me, the journalists will not be traveling. Did I say front lines? I said front page. I said we'd get it on the front page. Bye-bye!

Really, somehow I think Geraldo's mustache will go right in the other direction.

KING: Well he'll invent a site to broadcast from.

OK, so you think we won't go along in danger zones?

MAHER: Well, if I was over there and part of the media, that would be quite a badge of bravery to follow troops into a chemical zone.

KING: Any read on the Democratic contenders? So far they're lining up. A lot of play lately for Howard Dean.

MAHER: Howard Dean, yes. I don't know, time will tell.

KING: Anyone jump out at you?

MAHER: You know, I wish Gary Hart would get into it. I'm not sure at this point whether I would say this in a year that I want him to be the candidate, but I think he's interesting. I think he has credentials that other ones don't. No, 1, he was part of the Hart Rugman commission before 9/11, after 9/11.

KING: Told of -- warned of 9/11?

MAHER: And after they put out a report that said no virtual progress. They talked about all of the things that are not being done like guarding the ports, like first responders. All that stuff, it's so boring, it's more fun to go to war. I mean, it's a lot more fun than guarding the ports, whatever, first responders, yada, yada. But Gary Hart has that on his side and he also has the Clinton thing, I think, going for him which is -- he was Clinton before Clinton. Remember?

KING: Yes, he was.

MAHER: And I think he could honestly be the guy to say, you know what, isn't it time that we stop this nonsense because we eliminate people because they are anatomicly correct? Because they have sex and they like women? I suffered for it, Bill Clinton suffered for it. Is the country better off that we cripple these two men?

KING: Back with more of Bill Maher back with the "Real Time with Bill Mahar." It's on HBO Friday nights live at 11:30 Eastern. And we'll be taking your calls for Bill Maher soon -- shortly as well. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you against -- are you saying you're against the missile shield why?

MAHER: I am against they missile shield, should I be shocked?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I want to know why on earth you would oppose a shield that would defense the United States of America.

MAHER: Because it doesn't work. It doesn't work and because the people who are attacking us have box cutters. It's a dumb plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP -- "REAL TIME")

MAHER: New rule, getting cheated on by your husband doesn't put murder up for debate.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: If this was a man running over a woman, it wouldn't be on Larry King every night, although candidly if there had been a man at the wheel, it wouldn't have taken three tries to get the job done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bill Maher, we never discussed that topic. We never did that. But thanks for the credit. We never did the topic.

George Bush today -- chief of his economic advisers, Mr. Hubbard resigned as of Friday.

MAHER: Oh, really.

KING: And there is economic problems. What's your view on all of this? Bush for president.

MAHER: Again, it's like one of those economically situations where I've seen that movie before with Reagan where they're basically saying let's starve the beast. That's their method of, you know shrinking the government is that we'll cut taxes and there won't be any money for the Democrat spenders to throw around.

KING: But the people will take tax cuts and invest it and there'll will be more jobs. That's the theory?

MAHER: Oh, yes, that $300 is burning a hole in my pocket. But the thing is the beast never starves. The beast borrows. The beast is like your wife, it likes to shop. So you don't really accomplish that goal.

And I think economically, like for a lot of reasons, people think -- and this is why we have a problem with George Bush. I mean, he's certainly not dumb. He's sneaky. If anybody's dumb it's us. It's that method of sort of announcing things with three words behind you, making a big splash, making it sound good and degree things in the sunlight and then in the shadows a few days later, you undo.

I don't think economically, we're in a good position. I don't think this tax cut helps.

KING: Doesn't he look, though, incredibly politically strong?

MAHER: Look at this. I brought this for you. This is a good example of what I'm talking about. Front page of "The New York Times" today. "Panel of Expert Folds Bush Plan to Study Climate."

His State of the Union address. A lot of talk about the environment, the Clear Skies Initiative. They're at great words and slogans. Healthy Forests proposal.

"A panel of experts has strongly criticized the Bush administration's plan for attacking global warming. Lacks most of the elements of a strategic plan. Goals cannot be achieved without far more money than they have allotted. Unlikely to accomplish the aim laid out by the president in several speeches. Lacks a guiding vision, executable goals, clear timetables..."

KING: So you're saying he didn't mean it when he said it?

MAHER: I'm saying they make a big splash about it and everybody listens to that. ,Good he's cleaning up corporate malfeasance. Good, he's cleaning up -- but they don't see this. They don't see the follow-up when he actually undoes it.

KING: We're going to go to calls for Bill Maher in a couple of minutes at the bottom of the hour.

What do you make of the Michael Jackson hulabaloo?

MAHER: Well, I defended Michael Jackson several times. I think this country with Michael Jackson uses him as kind of a scapegoat because we are a youth-crazy country.

KING: You don't think sleeping with young children is...

MAHER: Well, I wouldn't...

KING: You don't like anybody under the age of 21, do you?

MAHER: I don't like anyone under the age of 21?

KING: Children, you don't like children. MAHER: I don't like children, but there are a couple of people under 21 I like.

KING: Never mind.

MAHER: But it is a youth-crazy country. And I think Michael Jackson somehow is the guy who gets blamed for it when we have a much bigger problem.

Yes, there's a pedophilia problem and part of it is because parents let their 13-year-old daughters leave the house with jeans that are about an inch above the promised land and shirts that say "Porn Star" and "Slut". And we have all this lip service about leave no child behind and everything is for the children.

But you notice that when we need one for advertising or for modeling or for a movie, snatch them up and throw them into the volcano.

KING: But Michael Jackson lets himself be used by doing these things. Doesn't he?

MAHER: I personally don't think Michael Jackson is doing that with the kids and there's no proof of it. Yes, he was sued once, but he's an obvious target for extortion.

And I just think he's a guy -- yes, he's not like the other boys. OK. He sounds like Anna Nicole Smith and he looks like the corpse of Jackie O. i mean, he's not a normal guy, we get that.

But to take that leap to -- I wouldn't recommend sleeping with kids. That probably is something that shouldn't go on between an adult and a kid. But to lay it all on Michael Jackson, I don't know. It says more about us than I think it says about Michael Jackson. He doesn't spend his time watching ten hours of Michael Jackson footage every week, or maybe he does.

KING: Reality TV, you're going to deal with Friday night, right?

MAHER: Yes, reality TV. One of my weakness.

KING: What's the difference between HBO and ABC?

MAHER: Well...

KING: We've got a minute to the break.

MAHER: I could go on. I think I'm amongst people now who understand me and appreciate me. That's not a terrible knock on ABC and I don't mean that as a slight. I just mean that I think when ABC bought "Politically Incorrect" from Comedy Central, they didn't know what they were getting. They thought the title was cute and they didn't realize that I meant it. I am politically incorrect. I'm going to say things that are uncomfortably truthful. And that's what I got in trouble for.

KING: What do you think of Jimmy Kimmel?

MAHER: I like Jimmy. And I haven't seen the show because I don't want to be in a position to be able to comment on it because that's an awkward position for me.

KING: I'm just saying...

MAHER: But I wish him well. I no gripe against Jim. He's a funny guy.

KING: Bill Maher, the author of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden" on tape and in books, of course. And bestseller in both. And the host of Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO.

When we come back, always fun. Your phone calls for Bill Maher. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP -- "LATE SHOW")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW": The other thing, of course, George Bush desperately wants to attack Saddam Hussein and go into Baghdad and get Saddam Hussein.

And Saddam Hussein -- and this guy, he may be crazy but he's quick thinking. He has challenged George W. Bush you in a debate. He thought, well this, better than a war, why don't we talk it over for a little bit?

So here now, we have the official White House response to the Saddam Hussein challenge of a debate. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: George W. Bush gladly accepts Saddam Hussein's offer for an internationally televised debate. The debate will be structured in the traditional format. A three minute opening statement by Saddam Hussein. Followed by a three minute rebuttal from George W. Bush.

The Bush administration, dedicated to the exchange of ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Why does listening to John Ashcroft make me feel like the world's already ended? If we're going to be warned about terrorism can't we be warned by someone who makes you want to survive?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bill Maher, host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO.

Let's go to calls. Plattsburg, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, my question is what is your opinion on Ashcroft's new agenda, Operation Pipe Dream?

MAHER: Well, thank you for serving me up that nice softball, lady.

I'm all for it. I think as long as we're on code orange and the attacks coming from not only Iraq, but North Korea are imminent, the best thing we can do is bust Connie Chong. I mean, you realize we literally have busted Cheech and Chong, that he was one of the people that he went after.

I mean it is astounding. Where are the Democrats on this? Where is the party that's supposed to be the liberal party, the party of true compassion? The party of common sense? Where are they, when something like this goes down?

KING: Where are they?

MAHER: Exactly. They're nowhere. They're nowhere. Nobody is saying this is astoundingly stupid, in a time of orange alerts, to be busting the head shops. That is really the big threat, is people are getting roach clips in the mail.

KING: New York City, Bill Maher, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I just want to say, Bill, that I'm really glad that you're back on TV.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: And my question is this president stole the election and now he's doing this war. What do you think that we can do and why isn't anybody doing anything?

KING: That's what he just asked rhetorically.

MAHER: Yes. Well, first of all, this president did not steal the election. This election was not stolen. It did fall off a truck. I've mentioned that before. It fell off the truck and the Democrats were -- did why you see an election around here? The Republicans were like, No, we didn't see nothing.

But that's different. They did not steal the election. That -- Al Gore lost that election fair and square by insisting on his platform of ending charisma as we know it and being a candidate who would not stick up for his own ideas.

Again, that is what the problem with the Democrats is. If Al Gore had stuck up for what he believed in instead of shying away from it -- the Democrats are so skittish about whatever -- whatever they say boo, liberal -- oh, no, no we're not liberal. We're really junior varsity Republicans. We're trying to be conservatives. How are we doing?

If Al Gore, for example, had defended his book that Bush ridiculed. That whole thing...

KING: The environmental book.

MAHER: Yes, the book about we should phase out the internal combustion engine in 25 years. Well, there's the idea that should have been defended. But Al Gore wouldn't do it. The Democrats don't do it.

KING: Manteca, California, for Bill Maher, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening Mr. King and Mr. Maher.

KING: Hi. Where are you, in a chamber?

CALLER: Yes.

I wanted to ask Mr. Maher why, as a celebrity, he would devote all his resources in a futile attempt at activism in the anti-war movement when he could really help us out in the medical marijuana war on drugs against the DEA and...

KING: Yes, why don't you stand up in that area instead of taking on war efforts?

MAHER: Well, excuse me. But I have spent a great amount of time, personal capital finances on this issue. I'm sorry...

KING: Medical marijuana.

MAHER: Medical marijuana and regular marijuana.

KING: Yes.

MAHER: I'm not of the opinion that...

KING: You are in favor of legalization.

MAHER: Yes. And the fact that they have moved the debate so far off the table that we have to cower and say, No, no, we just want it for medical purposes. It's just for people who have bone cancer.

Well, of course, people with bone cancer should be able to take whatever they want, whether it's marijuana or turpentine if they wanted. But that isn't where the debate should be. The debate should be that by outlawing marijuana, you are simply legislating taste. You are saying, I have a taste for Scotch and you don't, so I'm right and you're wrong and that's not the way America should be.

This country is so sick from what it eats, what it drinks. The idea that this one substance, which nobody ever dies from, is the one that we outlaw? I always say if people want to make marijuana legal, somebody is going to have to start dying from it.

KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry and Bill. KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Bill I wanted to say I really loved your "Politically Incorrect." I haven't seen your new show because we don't get HBO up here, but I'll a lookout for your book. My question to you is...

MAHER: You don't get HBO out there. Where do you live?

CALLER: In Vancouver, Canada.

KING: British Columbia. Canada doesn't get HBO?

MAHER: Canada doesn't get HBO?

CALLER: We get it on satellite.

KING: OK. Well, buy a satellite.

CALLER: Yes. Exactly.

MAHER: Really? Canada? oh, my God.

KING: You have have to buy a satellite, I guess. Go -- what's your question, sir?

CALLER: I was just wondering what his thoughts on North Korea and Kim Jong saber-rattling with test firing the missile.

KING: Wouldn't you get busy with him?

MAHER: Well, I wouldn't get busy with him, Larry, please don't drift off into the ebonics.

KING: OK. Poor choice of words.

MAHER: Right.

Well, again, I really feel this is the situation where the administration took a bad situation and made it worse. It didn't help that Bush first puts him in the axis of evil. I mean, not to try to think like Kim Jong-Il, but I think if anyone was put into an axis of three people and labeled evil, three countries, and then we start to attack one country, wouldn't you think, Well, I guess we're next on the list? Iraq, OK, check, and then who else is in this little club?

KING: Iran and me.

MAHER: Yes. So, I mean, I understand why he's a little paranoid. It also didn't help that Bush called him a pygmy. That kind of rhetoric doesn't help the situation. I suggested we call him Little Kim.

KING: What would you do about North Korea?

MAHER: Well, I wouldn't have done that. I think what they're doing now is they're finding out that the policy we had before is probably the only policy.

What I've heard is that North Korea is just a whore. They just want money. They do this all of the time. They stick people up.

KING: They make it and sell.

MAHER: They just want money for food and for oil. They're not really wanting to attack anybody, but they want to push to the point where we have to bribe them. And, of course, we are of the chief bribers in the world.

I don't understand why every country isn't standing there with their hand out going next window. We want cash bribes!

KING: We're be right back with HBO's Bill Maher, bestselling author, host of his own show on HBO.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MAHER: The bidding for turkey is still at $26 billion; $26 billion to let us deploy our troops there. Now Joe Lieberman came out today and he said not to criticize the president, but that's what happens when you let the gentiles do the haggling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP -- "LATE SHOW")

LETTERMAN: ... Rather, right here on the CBS Television Network, interviews Saddam Hussein. It's going to be on like in two days. Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Dan rather goes on are over there.

And this Saddam Hussein is a fascinating guy. And he's weird, but fascinating. And in the interview he claims he's only had two operations on his nose. Does that make any sense?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Dan Rather will be with us tomorrow night. Want to get to more phone calls.

What was your read on Trent Lott, affirmative action, that whole thing?

MAHER: Well, I'm against anyone losing their job because they say something for obvious reasons, Larry.

KING: I wonder where that came from.

MAHER: Everyone -- I hate it that this is a country where you say one thing that offends people, even though it was incredibly offensive and I have no doubt that he is a racist. I really don't, I'm sorry. But I never liked Trent Lott. I always thought he was an oily politician and I'm glad he's gone. But I'm sorry that that's the way it went.

And I think it's a good indication of how the Republicans -- it was so not a Republican way to do it because they are better at marketing and they are better at doing things more slickly. Like George Bush coming out against the affirmative action program at the University of Michigan. I mean what is that?

But a sop to soccer moms. To tell soccer moms your white kid is going to get into the -- don't worry about some black person taking your white kid's place because we're going to...

KING: Bill Clinton said on the show that he thought Trent Lott was a scapegoat.

MAHER: Yes. He was. He had to go. He was inconvenient.

But the bigger race issue with the Republican Party, at least it brought that to the surface that they're always winking at white racists in America. They go to Bob Jones University and make a speech. What is the point of making that speech at Bob Jones University as Bush did in the year 2000?

KING: Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. I wanted to tell you, Bill, that I've been watching you since the comedy channel.

MAHER: Hey.

CALLER: And when you left the air, it was like losing a member of my family. You spoke for a lot of...

KING: By the way...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I should remind people that Bill Maher, "Real Time With Bill Maher" is on. A lot of people calling -- 11:30 Eastern time on Friday nights live and then it's repeated frequently during the week on various HBO channels.

I'm sorry, ma'am, go ahead.

CALLER: And the show was great. I saw the first show, it was great. Thank you. My question is what do you think about Bush giving money for AIDS in Africa and are you aware of the real reasons behind that decision?

KING: You suspect that decision, too?

MAHER: Yes, I read the other day that a lot of that money is going to come out of funding for malaria or something else they were going to do overseas. Look, I'm not against giving the person credit where credit is due and I'm not going to judge this until I've seen the end result and I think it's certainly a step forward.

That's an excellent move to say to the world, even if it's just window dressing at the moment, it says a lot more to the world than what we have been doing. Because, I've mentioned this before on your show and people hate it when I say it, that that we love to think of ourselves as generous. We think of ourselves as big givers.

No. Dead wrong. We're quite the opposite. Among the industrialized nations we are dead last in the percentage of what we make to what we give to the half of the world that is starving and disease-ridden. So it's a good step.

KING: So you're reserved?

MAHER: I suspect, I mean the president -- excuse me, his administration has made us all suspect at all times the bait and switch. It's like, OK, that's the bait, I get it. But let's wait to see where the other shoe drops.

KING: Long Beach, California, for Bill Maher, hello?

CALLER: Hi, I'd like to know, Bill, how you feel about the fact that our leaders are constantly encouraging us to get involved with our own government and yet when thousands of protesters are protesting against war with Iraq he responds by saying I'm not swayed in any way.

MAHER: That's a good question.

KING: He said focus groups wouldn't change his mind.

MAHER: Right. Well George Bush is the one who says he does not need a focus group or a poll to tell him how he feels. In which case I say why don't you get rid of Karl Rove and the other 20 people who bring them to you every day, every hour on the hour. He listens to his inner poll, I mean soul.

KING: What did you make of this worldwide protest movement? Obviously, Larry, if you've been reading the papers, it's the communists. Did you read that?

KING: Who said that?

MAHER: Many people. Many people on the right have been saying that this is the communists. Hello? Could we at least update this?

KING: Are there still any?

MAHER: That's right. It's insane the way they are trying to make it un-American, to have a different idea about the way we should handle a common problem.

To even bring up the word treason, which a lot of them do and a lot of them are sneaky. They say I wouldn't go so far as to call it treason, which sort of does call it treason. It's a little bit of how long have you been beating your wife kind of question.

And you know when Benedict Arnold handed over Westpoint without firing a shot to the British, that's treason because he did not have the same goal as we all did.

KING: Right.

MAHER: But all of us Americans I think have the same goal. We want to be safer here in America, especially from terrorism.

For us, for people like myself to be saying we are not safer from terrorism by invading an Arab country and leaving littered on the ground hundreds of thousands of dead bodies, Arab-Muslim bodies that are going to make sure that every Arab kid in the world who ever thought about terrorism is going to be hell-bent to attack this country until long after I'm gone.

That is a reasonable position. That is just saying we have the same goal, we think a different approach is better. That's not treason.

KING: Prescott, Arizona, hello?

CALLER: Yes, hi. Bill, I'm so glad you're back. I so respect and admire your intelligence.

MAHER: You have a very bright audience, Larry. I have to say a very intelligent audience.

Continue, ma'am, please.

KING: Good judge of character, too.

CALLER: Here's my question once again, so glad that you're back. I'm a Democrat. I'm direly in need of your suggestions here. New rules for being a Democrat. New rules for being a Democrat. Do you have any suggestions? Please.

KING: Do you have a new rule? Howard Dean said the other night I'm returning Democrats to the Democratic Party. He got a standing ovation.

MAHER: Right. They're working on their laugh lines.

I notice that nowadays in politics you've got to get your laugh line first. Al Sharpton had a great one. He said something about the Christian Right finally meeting the right Christian.

But don't support them unless they act like Democrats. People always say it's a crime that we're only -- half the people vote. I don't think it's so bad that only half the people vote. I think for the Democratic Party to start acting like the Democratic Party, and as you know I'm not a Democrat, but I think the country is served best when we have two opposing viewpoints.

KING: What are you? MAHER: I'm an independent.

KING: You do not vote in primaries.

MAHER: No, I don't think I do, but I might. If there was someone I liked I would help them get a leg up. I have.

But I don't think there's anything wrong if you don't like any of the candidates, don't vote. Let's see how far down the voting percentage can go before people in the parties wake up and say, oh something really has to change because nobody's voting for us.

KING: Time flies when he's with us. We'll be back with our remaining moments. Dan Rather tomorrow night.

"Real Time With Bill Maher" is on at 11:30 Eastern, Friday nights live, it's live everywhere on HBO, and then it's repeated frequently throughout the week. In fact, they'll repeat last week's show at 11:30 tomorrow night on one of the HBO channels.

He is also the author of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden." It's available on tape and as a book, of course. Back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP -- "REAL TIME")

MAHER: We are opening a new front in the war on terrorism. American troops are headed to the Philippines to disrupt a Muslim rebel group there and get them back to doing what they should be doing, making Nikes for Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: Now, there's no end to the helpful information you find on the ready.gov site. It tells you how to be prepared for a biological threat and a chemical threat and an explosion including the critical piece of information, and this is true, if you catch fire do not run! Other advice reminds you to remember to keep at least a half of tank of gas in your car, that just as a reminder of why we're in this mess in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher, he did a lot of voices speaking out. They're in the comedy area.

Carmichael, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi there, Bill. I have a brief two-part question for you. In your lifetime, do you expect to ever see a serious effort by the White House to reduce our deficits, and our own American Poverty. And, b, not reserving it just to the politicians or to Gary Hart, who would you like to see or who would you endorse as a next presidential candidate.

MAHER: Well, to answer your first question, as far as deficits go.

KING: They have been.

I don't understand how the Republican party is the party with the reputation for fiscal conservatism and fiscal sanity, when they're the ones who run up the debt. It was Reagan who ran up the debt and now bush is doing it again, and in between, Clinton and Bush's father, I must say worked so hard to get that deficit and that debt down.

KING: Who would be your candidate. Who would you like to see as president.

MAHER: We were talking about her during the break, Ariana.

KING: Ariana Huffington for president?

MAHER: Yes.

KING: She was born in Greece. Can't be president.

MAHER: That's right. That's why Kissinger -- we can cover that up because she does not have a heavy accent.

KING: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. I think one of the reasons you have such an intelligence audience tonight is because most of us are women.

MAHER: I would go along with that.

CALLER: Thank you.

KING: What's the question.

CALLER: OK. I'm just wondering what Bill thinks about the programming on the media through the media. Is it -- do you feel it's brainwashing the Americans against countries like Iraq?

MAHER: I think the media has not been very critical. I think the media is serving only...

KING: Where were you seeing the criticism? Your seeing on the media.

What do you mean?

We showed you the war protectors we have debates.

MAHER: Well, they have to show the war protests.

KING: What do you want the media to do?

MAHER: Question what we're doing. I don't see any of that. I read it sometimes.

KING: Sunday morning on its it's on television.

MAHER: I don't. I don't see a lot of criticism from the media. I see a lot of flag waving. I mean, you talk about Dan Rather going to Saddam Hussein and having an interview, but Dan Rather mostly does a show that I'm sorry, looks like Bob Hope. It's very Bob Hopey. It's very like our boys and of course, we love our boys and there is a lot of sides and this should be dispassionate.

KING: Granville, Ohio. Hello.

CALLER: Pardon me, I have a cold.

KING: It's all right.

CALLER: I absolutely love Bill Maher. Bill, I love you. I've watched you from when you were on Comedy Central.

MAHER: Thank you. I feel like Joe Millionaire tonight.

KING: What's your question, dear.

MAHER: Larry, let her get the love out. Don't rush love! If anybody should know that it's you! I'm kidding.

CALLER: OK, now, come on, boys.

KING: Boys will be boys.

CALLER: One of the things I want to ask, you is I really just don't understand your fascination with Ariana Huffington. To me she seems self-serving is. I know she wants to be regarded as sophisticated and the world view, but sometimes she says things that are shockingly ignorant.

KING: We only have a minute left.

MAHER: I have to know what she means.

What did she ever say that was shockingly ignorant?

CALLER: Please.

MAHER: You've answered your own question.

KING: Why do you like her so much.

MAHER: She's fantastic in bed. I'm kidding. We are just friends. But because she's just a brilliant woman. She's an incredible friend when I was going through all my troubles, she was absolutely my rock. And publicly as well as privately. And she's also someone who's not afraid to change her mind. She started one way and -- yes. I mean -- it takes a lot of guts.

KING: And we'll help you out a little because if you haven't seen "Real Time with Bill Maher," they're going to repeat it. It's repeated tonight at 10:30 Eastern on HBO. One of the HBO channel, repeated tonight at 10:30.

MAHER: I think that's the main HBO.

KING: It's "Real Time With Bill Maher," on HBO. And author of "When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden," also available on tape.

Always welcome at this program.

MAHER: Thank you, Larry. Great to see you.

KING: Bill Maher!

We'll come back and tell you about tomorrow night and other thing, too. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight I want to offer my congratulations to Jeannie Phillips, aka, Dear Abbey. She's honored for her work by the Alzheimer's Association in Los Angeles. This disease has touched her life very personally and she should be saluted for her commitment to help others. And the all sporting fans don't forget to read my column, "Sports a La King." It's on every Wednesday on CNN/Sports Illustrated on the web. The address to get right to it is si.com/larryking. That's si.com/larryking. And "Sports a La King" is interactive. So give it a read. Spend me your e-mails and I'll answer them each week in the mail bag portion of the column. Once again, the address is si.com/larryking and you can log on tonight and we'll sort of talk sports.

Tomorrow night Dan Rather is us to discuss his visit with Saddam Hussein, that should be very interesting. We'll include your phone calls.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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