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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bill Maher

Aired December 17, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher. He's back, shooting from the lip, like always -- we love him -- on the capture of Saddam, the Michael Jackson child molestation case, all the rest of the day's news, and of course, your calls. Bill Maher for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always good to welcome him to this program. And tonight some congratulations are in order. Not only is his book, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden," been on the best-seller list since it came out, but his audio version, either in CD or in cassette, is nominated for a Grammy.

Congratulations.

BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": You must be friends with the publisher because I think...

KING: On, you...

MAHER: You just plugged that a lot, and I appreciate it.

KING: You got a nice -- your Grammy -- Grammy nomination...

MAHER: I got a Tony nomination for the Broadway show based on that, and a Grammy nomination.

KING: You're on a roll.

MAHER: Everything but the field it's in. It was not reviewed by anyone in the literary...

KING: No one reviewed it?

MAHER: No, no.

KING: And HBO...

MAHER: Just other people...

KING: ... renewed you, right? You're coming back?

MAHER: Yes, we're coming back January 16. We'll be covering the entire election year, or however long it lasts.

KING: Let's go to the obvious first. Let's deal right from the top. What do you make of the capture of the big man? MAHER: Saddam? I thought you meant that. Well, it was like Ground Hog Day. He popped out of a hole, and we got four more years of Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: I tell you, that Karl Rove makes magic.

KING: You have a way of pinpoint -- Karl Rove did this?

MAHER: Well, no. I think it was real, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see Usama bin Laden right around convention time -- unfortunately, as Howard Dean's running mate.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You're implying that...

MAHER: No, no. I think it was real, but I do think it was very telling that the Marine who captured him, the first words out of his mouth were, President Bush sends his regards, because, you know, this whole war wasn't a big personal grudge match.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But what I really find interesting about the whole situation was that he was cowering in a hole, and that was cowardly. And I remember somebody getting into a lot of trouble about two years ago for broaching the subject of terrorism and cowardice. And I did get in trouble when I said...

KING: You did.

MAHER: ... you know, the terrorists weren't cowardly. They may be evil -- and we think they are, I certainly do -- but that wasn't cowardly. This was cowardly. That's the difference. That's what I was talking about.

KING: His sons weren't cowardly.

MAHER: Well, we don't know how much...

KING: Died in a shootout, didn't they?

MAHER: I think they were with other people who were shooting, and they sort of had to join in. I don't know if they were the ones who -- because I think they were probably cowardly, like their father, if they had the choice. But that's the difference, and that is why I think a lot of people feel that this guy was never in league with al Qaeda because they were two completely different types of people, true believers and cowards. And I still believe that if Usama bin Laden wanted to get a nuclear weapon, he wouldn't go to Hussein, who obviously doesn't have them and didn't have them. I don't think it says anywhere in the Quran that you have to get your bomb from a true believer. He'd probably go to Russia or some place that does have loose nuclear weapons, and that's probably where we should be concentrating our efforts.

KING: This was, was it not, a big get, though. Very big.

MAHER: Absolutely. I'm...

KING: And symbolically big.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: Big and symbolically big.

MAHER: Yes. And it's great for the people of Iraq because the people of Iraq have been under this guy's thumb for, many of them, their entire lives. And they're kind of like Morgan Freeman in "The Shawshank Redemption." Remember?

KING: Sure.

MAHER: Remember? He was in prison his whole life, and then they let him out and he didn't know what to do. He got a job at the supermarket and he kept asking the boss, Can I take a pee? And the guy kept saying, You know, you don't have to ask me. You can pee now. You're out of prison. Well, I think that's the same situation the Iraqis were in. They've been still asking if they could go to the bathroom, and I think with this guy gone, they're going to -- I think it's going to get a lot better over there. It may get worse right away, but I think, in the long run, it'll get better and...

KING: What do we do -- we, the collective we, the world -- do with him?

MAHER: Well, I think there's got to be a trial and I think he's got to be found guilty, and I'd love to see him hung. I don't want to see this guy, you know, freed and writing a tell-all book. I don't want to see him...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... going to be freed?

MAHER: Oh, you never know, Larry.

KING: Come on!

MAHER: Not freed, but I definitely think he could put a book out, you know? "My Eight Months in the Hole" -- it would be kind of like a Baby Jessica story, you know? I mean, weirder things have happened. I mean -- and I think this guy has got to -- you know, they got to see him killed.

KING: Someone told me that on one of your Web sites, you said that you'd put him in charge of rebuilding Iraq. Were you -- you were joshing?

MAHER: I was joshing, yes. But I mean, I don't know if you saw the story on "60 Minutes" about two weeks ago, but the mayor of -- I think the city is Karbalah, which is a pretty sizable city, is the old Ba'athist guy who was running the city before they left, and they are now in the process of getting back some of the army that we supposedly defeated.

But by the way, "60 Minutes" -- I don't care if those guys are 1,000 years old -- and a couple of them, by the way, are -- that is still the best show of its kind. Don't you think? I mean, the things that they put up there...

KING: Nothing comes close to it.

MAHER: They really are the only ones who get it. When I see stories like that, or the one they did about how you can just walk into a chemical plant with the most deadly chemicals in the world and toss a grenade in there, if you'd want to, no security at all -- when I see those stories, I think, Thank God that they put that on the air. And I hope that the people who they are exposing see this. I hope the government sees this and has some reaction to it.

KING: Do I gather from your remarks you are opposed to us going into Iraq?

MAHER: Well, I was to begin with, but I always said it was a 60/40 for me. I always said I did not think going after a country that was not directly involved in 9/11 -- even though I know 70 percent of the American people think that's what happened -- was not the approach, you know? After World War II, we went after Japan. We didn't attack Spain. OK.

But you know what? The idea that Bush has -- and it is a big idea, I got to give him that. He's a guy with big ideas. The idea of transforming the Middle East and fighting this in a long-range way by having democracy in Iraq is not the worst idea I could think of, and I'm rooting for that plan.

KING: Sure.

MAHER: I think that plan could work. So it doesn't matter, those of us who felt we shouldn't do it to begin with -- we did it. Now we got to make sure that what we do there works. We have to leave a place better than we found it. We don't do that very often.

KING: Do you expect James Baker to be successful getting other countries to help?

MAHER: If I read the headlines today, he already was.

KING: Yes. He's good. That's a good choice.

MAHER: The velvet hammer.

KING: What did you make of the Bush trip to the troops?

MAHER: Well, you know...

KING: It was good move. MAHER: A good PR move, yes. It replaced the flight deck photo op with a better one. But President Bush makes me very nervous, in the sense that I don't think he understands foreigners very well. And I think...

KING: Foreigners?

MAHER: Foreigners, yes. He's never traveled before. I don't think he was ever outside the country. Is that true? When he ran for president, he kind of bragged about the fact that he didn't know much about foreign affairs, and it was laughed off in this country, where we applaud ignorance very often. And when he says, They hate us for our freedom, I just wince because it's such a two-dimensional way of looking at things. It's one thing to deliver a turkey, it's another thing to really understand what's going on there. And this is a president who says he does not read the paper.

KING: Correct.

MAHER: That's -- you know, I mean, Paris Hilton doesn't read the paper.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And he reminds me of Paris Hilton in many ways. They're both sort of born to the manor. They both sort of have that -- if you like him, you call it confidence. If you don't, you call it arrogance. But people do wind up following people like that, and they have followed Bush there.

But if I could just finish this thought about freedom? When he says, They hate us for our freedom -- you know, I read something in the paper that might help the president. I read about -- two weeks ago, there was a story about somebody at Friday prayers in one of the Iraqi cities, and one of the imams said something like, The West will try to convince you of democracy and freedom, and they'll wave all these shiny concepts in your face. That is how the infidel has infiltrated us in the past. You know, it would have been good if he read that article because it is a little more than just they hate us for our freedom.

I also read in the paper that half the Iraqis marry their cousins. And the story went on to say that, you know, loyalty in this country is based on clan, on family. Half of them marry their cousins? That's an amazing statistic. I think if he would get this bigger picture of what's going on Iraq, he wouldn't be following a plan based on something as simplistic as, They hate us for our freedom.

KING: We're going to take a break. We'll come back and ask Bill Maher about the current Democratic candidates, the judge releasing John Hinckley, Jr., for visitations with his parents, the Michael Jackson case, the Rush Limbaugh matter. All that ahead, and your phone calls, as well. Bill Maher, who returns to HBO -- when do you come back on this...

MAHER: January 16.

KING: He returns -- Bill -- Bob Costas has it now. The Costas- Maher -- what is it called?

MAHER: Switch-off.

KING: Switch-off.

MAHER: I don't know if Bob is on right now.

KING: I think he is.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... last week.

MAHER: OK.

KING: Oh, no, that may be on "The NFL Today."

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Yes, right. I think that's what it is.

KING: They run into each other.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW": According to CNN, before the soldiers pulled him out of the hole, Saddam yelled, I'm willing to negotiate! You know, I'm no expert on the art of the deal, but when you're in a hole with 600 soldiers, what is your bargaining chip, exactly?

DAVE LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW": And I'm telling you, this guy, he was a wreck. I mean, you saw the pictures and just -- and they had to clean him up in a hurry. And so what they did was they give him an emergency queer makeover. And that seemed to do the trick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Gore this week officially endorsed Howard Dean for president. The news was extremely disappointing for Joe Lieberman, and to Howard Dean.

TINA FEY: It was announced Tuesday that Queen Elizabeth will undergo surgery to remove torn cartilage from her left knee. And then it's, Look out, WNBA!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That from "Saturday Night Live."

Bill Maher our guest. By the way, when "Real Time With Bill Maher" returns on January 16, it's got a new time, too, 8:00 PM this year.

MAHER: Whoa!

KING: Whoa.

MAHER: I got to get up early, huh?

KING: Up into primetime, man Maher.

OK, what do you make of the Democratic group, starting with Mr. Dean and the gang? What do you...

MAHER: Well, you know, I was, I think, like a lot of people, curious as to why Dean was so far ahead, and then I read this article in "The New York Times" Sunday magazine about two weeks ago. Did you read that article?

KING: I sure did.

MAHER: And apparently, Dr. Dean is ahead because it's good for your social life. That's what I got out of this article. Did you read it? It's...

KING: People like...

MAHER: Well, it's very Internet-based.

KING: Very.

MAHER: And the Internet is a very social situation now in America, and it said a lot of the people, even though they were for Dean, really, it was about meeting a group of people with similar interests. So it's sort of Friendster.

KING: But could that elect him?

MAHER: No.

KING: No.

MAHER: No, I don't think so.

KING: Do you think he'll get the nomination?

MAHER: You know, I did before this Saddam thing happened, and now I think maybe the Democrats are going to go, Wow, you know, because I think the Democrats had sort of let themselves believe that Bush was more vulnerable than he is, and now he looks invulnerable. And I think the other candidates -- I mean, I always say the guys who were warriors get dibs, which is Kerry and Clark. I think if you made the ultimate sacrifice for your country...

KING: They did.

MAHER: ... I think you -- all things being equal, if they're both good men, they should get dibs on the nomination for the highest job.

KING: Do you think Lieberman was helped by the fact that Gore didn't call him?

MAHER: He seems to thinks so. But the Lieberman campaign seems to be under the impression that there's a large block of voters in America who think George Bush would be perfect if he was just Jewish.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: That's what I get out of the Lieberman campaign, although I like Joe Lieberman a lot, also. But you know, you watch these guys, and you watch their positions change. I mean, Dean is under attack from his fellow Democrats now, a lot about changing positions.

KING: Oh, yes. Getting rough, too.

MAHER: And you know, ethanol, for example. Thank God for ethanol. Not that it's really a good fuel source. It's not. But it is such a litmus test. It tells you who has integrity because they all have to win Iowa, and to win Iowa, you have to say you're for ethanol, which, as we all know, is something bogus, but farmers want to grow it because they get money for it. So if you go to Iowa and say ethanol is a great substance, then I go, You're not getting my vote. You're a sellout, like anybody else. Same thing with Cuba. You know, the entire country for 40 years has been held hostage, our foreign policy toward this nation, because of a bunch of Cubans in Little Havana who might control you winning or losing Florida.

It's issues like that that tell me who these guys really are because they all talk about how it's the message, but it's not really the message. It's more about me. It's about me winning. Can I get in? That's all that's important. Yes, I have to sell myself out a lot when I'm running, but it'll all be worth it once I get in because then it'll be me in there, and I'm better than the other guy!

KING: I'll be good.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: We haven't spoken since -- what do you make of the Schwarzenegger election, and early part of his governorship?

MAHER: Well, I was surprised that he got that dough through, the $15 billion bill, but it is a plan to solve our problems just by borrowing more money, actually. I think it is amazing that the Democrats can't make more hay of what has been the most banner year ever for Republican hypocrisy. I mean, you have Bill Bennett with the gambling. You have Rush Limbaugh with the drugs. You have Strom Thurmond with the black child. You have Arnold Schwarzenegger grabbing women left and right. And I notice, suddenly, the Republicans are very -- Well, let's be adult about this. Tut, tut, tut. You know, when Clinton was doing it, it was the end of the world, but now that it's Arnold Schwarzenegger, we're -- Please! We're not childish, like a lot of people, about sexual matters. So he had some rough frat-boy...

KING: Do you see the Limbaugh case as hypocrisy?

MAHER: Rampant hypocrisy.

KING: Rampant?

MAHER: Oh, that's the worst hypocrisy there is. It also blows a hole in the theory that you can't work high.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: That was always a big -- that was always a big arrow in the quiver of the drug warriors, was that, you know, when you're impaired, you can't work. Well, obviously, this guy was working high as a kite. He was doing oxycontin in Elvis numbers.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: That's the only way I can describe it. Those were Elvis numbers.

KING: What...

MAHER: But wait a second. You asked me about hypocrisy. For Rush Limbaugh -- look, I have a little soft spot in my heart for Rush Limbaugh because when I did get in trouble a couple of years ago, he was the first one to say, Bill Maher was right. And so I am rooting for him to overcome this. But you know what? He is going to have to come clean. He's going to have to get up there and say, which he has not so far, that he is no better or different than a crack addict. It is the same thing. He calls it medication. Well, you know, pal? We all have our medication. The 6:30 evening news, where they do those ads for drugs -- they could have one that said, Ask your doctor if Jack Daniels is right for you. It's the same thing. We all have our poisons. And what he has to do to get my respect...

KING: Fess up.

MAHER: ... is just to say -- exactly. I am no different and no better than a crack addict. I spend all my time thinking about it. I lied and corrupted my life to get it. And I deserve the same thing a crack addict gets, compassion. He has my...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... said they should go to jail.

MAHER: Exactly. And if this doesn't change his mind -- it's like when Reagan got shot. That should have changed his mind a little about gun control, but it didn't. KING: All right. The Michael Jackson matter. And now a poll today says most Americans think he didn't do anything wrong.

MAHER: Well, I think he's just a boy who wants to be in a man's body, or maybe the other way around.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: No. I'm kidding. I said I wouldn't do that joke, but it was too funny to resist. I've never done those kind of jokes about Michael Jackson...

KING: I know you don't.

MAHER: ... because I never believed that it was necessarily true. If it turns out to be true, I wouldn't be entirely surprised. However, it is sort of a railroading of him, so far. And it's odd because he actually has a railroad on his property.

KING: Railroading by?

MAHER: Well, I mean, the case is a little fishy so far. I mean, for one thing, I think of a child molester as someone who lures a child by the Internet, meets them furtively, kidnaps them. I mean, when the parents are dropping the child off at your doorstep, you know, then don't they bear some responsibility? I mean, talk about enabling someone. They're delivering a child to you?

Also, you know, Michael Jackson has said -- and for years -- that he wants to stay a child, that he never had a childhood. Actually, he's never had an adulthood. I would say this to Michael Jackson. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but for you to keep saying, I you never had a childhood -- you know, what? OK, we'll say you got your childhood robbed. From the time you were 5 years old to the time you were 18, you had to work. Then you became a, quote, "adult." That's 13 years. So I'll give you back those 13. That takes you to age 31. From then until now, Michael, you're on your own. Somebody has to get over it, at some point. We all have to get over our childhood at some point. It's time he did move on.

KING: We'll cover more areas with Bill Maher, whose book has been nominated -- his -- a vocal reading of the book in CD has been nominated for a Grammy, for which we congratulate him. The book has been a best-seller. And "Real Time" on HBO returns on January 16 at a real real time, 8:00 PM Eastern. Calls at the bottom of the hour. Back with more questions after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: Here's how they're trying to spin the capture of Saddam Hussein. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Saturday, United States troops carried out a raid in Tikrit, capturing a bearded, disheveled man whom they insist is Saddam Hussein. Or is it? Look, kids. Bush arrested Santa. Vote Howard Dean 2004. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: By the end of the week, they believe charges will be filed against Michael Jackson. So right now, Michael is in Tikrit picking out a hole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher, comic and best-selling author.

What about the Hinckley -- John Hinckley -- a lot of people forget this -- was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is not a convicted felon.

MAHER: Right, but he did try to shoot the president.

KING: Yes, but he's not -- but I mean, people sometimes forget that.

MAHER: Well, first of all, I don't understand why it's a different crime for attempted murder. It just means you're a bad shot. I think you should get the same penalty, whether you hit the guy or not.

KING: But assuming he would have gotten not guilty if he had murdered, too. Assuming that.

MAHER: Well, I think...

KING: What do you think of his getting the chance to...

MAHER: I guess so. I saw Ron Reagan, Jr., say, Well, if he's so sane now, maybe he should just go to prison and think about what he did. And I think that's reasonable.

KING: You would not have let him go home?

MAHER: Well, I mean, he wants to go home to spend the holidays with his family. I know a lot of people who would shoot a president to avoid spending the holidays with their family.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You may be one of them, Maher.

MAHER: No!

KING: What is your image of Christmas, by the way? Let's face it, how do you celebrate the holidays?

MAHER: Well, it's definitely not Jesus' birthday, you know that, right? KING: Well, I'm not a biblical scholar.

MAHER: Right.

KING: Well, when is his birthday, do you know?

MAHER: Well, it's in the spring, probably. That's the way it's described in the Bible, as the springtime, when the three Wise Men got there and...

KING: Shepherds are tending the flock.

MAHER: ... that kind of stuff. Right. And they didn't officially make his birthday December 25 until, I think it was the 4th century. And of course, December 25 had been a popular pagan holiday. It's the beginning of the solstice, you know? It's when the years -- the days start getting longer again. So it was always a very popular day with the pagans, and the Christians wanted to get more...

KING: The question was, how do you celebrate it?

MAHER: By telling this story over and over again to anyone who will listen because I like to make people's heads explode, especially around religious times of year.

KING: Couple of other quick things before we go to calls. You're not going to do a Christmas special, I gather, with choral groups singing...

MAHER: I would love to do one with the sweater, you know, the kind of -- I think I could get...

KING: And Andy Williams.

MAHER: I was just going to -- it's so funny. I was just going to say I think I could take over for Andy Williams.

KING: The Bill Maher Christmas special. Who'd be on? The Grinch would be on, Captain Hook.

MAHER: I'd like to have Nine Inch Nails, people like that, Marilyn Manson.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What do you make of the gay marriage issue? And will it be an issue in the campaign?

MAHER: I think if the Democrats want to make it an issue, and I don't think they will. And therefore, it'll be like the drug war, one of those issue that both sides just go, We don't want to go near this one. It could hurt us. So there'll be a conspiracy of silence about it.

KING: What's your opinion about it? MAHER: It's no-brainer! Talk about religion and how stupid it is -- it would not be an issue except for the Bible, except for religion. That's what is so bad about religion. It stops thinking. It makes people not exercise common sense. Common sense tells you that two gay people are not being gay, why, just to tick off Jesus? Why are they doing it? Why would a young teenage boy become gay, so he gets beat up more? There's no reason for someone to fake it. People are gay. It's in nature.

This idea that we have to punish people or somehow proscribe homosexuality only comes from religion. There's nothing else that could convince people that is so anti-logical. So I'm for it.

KING: So they should be allowed...

MAHER: But not personally.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: They should be allowed to get married.

MAHER: Of course. They should be allowed to do anything anybody else does. And I'm sure in 100 years, when we look back on it, we will see this as silly as we thought we were when we kept blacks and whites from not marrying, or kept blacks in bondage.

KING: Hard to believe that wasn't too long ago.

MAHER: Jim Crow was not that long ago.

KING: You're not kidding.

All right, we're going to take a break. And when we come back, your calls for Bill Maher. He returns to HBO on a weekly basis with "Real Time With Bill Maher" starting January 16. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENO: How about this? This is unbelievable. This happened today. A man who had gunpowder and a fuse in his carry-on bag at the San Francisco airport was allowed to board his flight after he told the airport security people the gunpowder and fuse were used for his hobby of shooting golf balls out of cannons. Well, thank God he wasn't carry anything dangerous, like nail clippers or tweezers! Oh, gun -- oh, go ahead. He's only shooting golf balls out of cannons!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": All right. Here's the day in the life of Saddam Hussein. 9:00 a.m., receives "sorry you got captured" FTD bouquet from Osama. 10:00 a.m., Saddam asks White House if the pre-war offer of exile is still available. 11:15 a.m., receives call from confused President Bush saying, "hang in there, buddy. We'll have you out of there in no time." Noon, Al Gore announces he's endorsing Saddam. What? Gone haywire there. 1:00 p.m., David Blaine announces he'll attempt to spend six weeks in Saddam's bunker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher, the bestselling author of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden" now out in paperback. The audio version has been nominated for a Grammy. Bill Maher wrapped up his first season on HBO, will be back again in January, starting January 16 at 8:00 p.m. We go to calls for Bill Maher. Portland, Oregon, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: And I'd like to ask Bill, does he think that General Clark could have a chance? I would really like to see General Clark beat Bush.

KING: What do you make of General Clark?

MAHER: I like General Clark a lot. We had him on the show and I found him to be very engaging. He looked me in the eye. That's always a big thing. Seemed to know what he was talking about and was surprisingly adept as a politician. Because it was right before he announced and I tried to get him to do it. It was only like a few days before.

And I said, my mother was in the army. She was. My parents met overseas. She was an army nurse. And I said, you know, "she's a big fan of yours and you could make an 84-year-old woman very very happy, you know, I gave him -- and he very deftly got out of that. So I think he's a better politician than people give him credit for. And again, I have to give dibs to the warriors. You know, especially at a time when we're supposedly at war.

KING: Santa Barbara, California, for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Good evening. Good to hear your humor, Bill.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is, what right does the United States have to interfere with other countries, their government and their traditions? And do you not think that this Bush rushed to war? Is but the first step towards this third world global empire.

KING: Uh-huh. An angry woman from Santa Barbara. Imperialism ranks again.

MAHER: No. I don't think we're looking for an empire. I don't think we've ever been looking for an empire. I think Colin Powell made that point recently. He's not the only one to do it. That the only pieces of land we've ever asked for overseas were to bury our soldiers. Many of whom were over in that land to help the people.

And, I think President Bush is sincere about trying to reform the Middle East. I don't think he did it to get oil or any of that stuff. But I think there is a terrible double standard that goes on that incites hate for us.

We are in a shooting war with these people over there and somehow when we kill them, it's war. When they kill us, it's terrorism. I don't think President Bush because perhaps, again, he doesn't read the paper, understands Arab pride. Maybe if he'd read Thomas Friedman's column once in a while, he'd get that.

That after World War II when we had the Nazi officers, we treated them like officers, like they were gentlemen. "You were just on the other side of things and please. Enjoy yourself. Have a coffee." I'm not saying we should do that to our enemies here but maybe if he would just give them the kind of respect that they crave...

KING: But as he says, Bush says often, 9/11 changed us. Changed the world.

MAHER: Yes. And it did change the world. But it's not like terrorism didn't happen before 9/11.

KING: Nothing like --

MAHER: Oh, really? We were part of it. What was Hiroshima? That was killing civilians.

KING: We didn't go to war.

MAHER: OK. But did we have to end it that way? Did we have to -- I understand the definition of terrorism from this administration to be attacks against civilians.

KING: Killing of innocents deliberately.

MAHER: What did we do in Germany? In 1945? That war was coming to a close. And we bombed the holy hell out of hundreds of German cities for no other reason than to demoralize and kill the population.

In March of 1945, Swinemunder. There was 25,000 people, refugees, crammed from the East after having been raped by the Red Army. We strafed and bombed the city until 23,000 of them were dead. Dresden is only the most famous of the cities.

Sherman's march through the South. We have committed acts that would under the Bush definition be considered terrorism because they were deliberately aimed at civilians. I'm not saying we're an evil country. I'm not saying we're a terrorist country. I'm saying it is not as black and white as the president would like to paint it.

KING: Virginia Beach, Virginia, for Bill Maher, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Bill, you and your "Real Time" are excellent and we want to let you know how much we appreciate your show. My question is, if you were stuck in an elevator, who would you want to be stuck in an elevator with?

MAHER: Paris Hilton and George Bush because I would like to tell them a few things that have been going on in the paper.

KING: Brooklyn, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Bill and Larry. I thank you very much for your accepting my phone call.

KING: I can tell you're from Brooklyn.

CALLER: I want to ask you two questions. What is your opinion on illegal aliens having driver's license and having a right to vote which you know, upsets me a little bit especially with what happened on 9/11. And second of all, what is your opinion on bear hunting season in New Jersey being legalized after so many years because I know that you love animals.

MAHER: I do love animals and it was just so disgusting to see Dick Cheney -- so disgusting to see Dick Cheney having a -- I guess what they call a turkey shoot the other day where he was shooting pheasants in cold blood which really, for me, said it all about Dick Cheney.

If he enjoys that kind of a massacre. It was not a hunt. It was a massacre. So, I don't like hunting in any form. I don't understand why someone would want to shoot a beautiful animal with a gun instead of a camera.

As far as the illegal alien issue goes -- I'm getting something in my ear here. I just -- that's a tough issue. I mean, for one, illegal immigrants are here because we want them here. Because they do jobs that we do not want to do. So then to deny them the rights that people have here when we're living -- we're living off their -- the work that we wouldn't do ourselves.

But we lie all the time. The biggest lie this year about a foreign country, I think, was when during the Medicare debate, people kept saying, well, the seniors want to get their drugs from Canada. But we have to stop that. Even though they're cheaper up there. We have to stop that from going on because, you know what, it's not safe. Yes, Canadian drugs, that's right. It is a third world country. When I go to Canada, I get dysentery half the time. How can you trust Canada to get you the drug.

KING: Don't drink the water.

MAHER: Never drink the water in Canada. What other enormous lies. But people don't care. They don't care and they don't react to it. How come during this Medicare debate that we just had where the Republicans and the Democrats debated, 400 billion, 500 billion, a trillion dollars. How much money should we give to seniors for drugs? Nobody ever stood up and said, "Excuse me, why are we so sick? Why do we need even old people, 500 billion dollars worth of drugs? Is it normal to be this sick?" I promise you, it's not. That's the elephant in the room that no one will address.

KING: The drugs itself. The prescription...

MAHER: The fact that we're so sick.

KING: Because we're living longer.

MAHER: Why do we need all this OxyContin...

KING: We're living longer.

MAHER: That's not why. People are supposed to live to be 90 or 100. They do in societies where they're clean. In Okinawa, everyone lived to 90 or 100 and they were healthy.

KING: I guess there's OxyContin because there's pain.

MAHER: Why is there so much pain? I know. Is it normal to be in so much pain as a human being?

KING: I don't know.

MAHER: It's not. We just get used to it. Because we live in a polluted, intoxicated society and so we're living in pain because we have polluted ourselves. But it is not normal. I was saying, in Okinawa, they used to live to 90 or 100. They were all in fine health. After World War II, they got American fast food. Now they're dying in their 60s and 70s like we are of diabetes, of heart disease and everything we die of. It's not normal to be this sick. They don't address the root of the problem.

KING: Rome, Georgia for Bill Maher, who makes you think. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. What do you think or where do you think the $750,000 confiscated from Saddam Hussein's rat hole, where do you think it will go to?

MAHER: I think it will go to the Bush re-election campaign and I think it's going to do a lot of good for him. That's where you see results.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Bill. My question for Mr. Maher is actually Regarding the Osama bin Laden, do you think the United States might be under a false sense of security thinking that the war on terrorism is over when it's a never ending story?

MAHER: Absolutely.

KING: Never end, it will always be...

MAHER: Also...

KING: When does it end?

MAHER: Also, you know, Bush says we have to drain the swamp. But really, what he means is we're going to kill the mosquitoes. Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, if he was involved in terrorism, which is doubtful, they are the mosquitoes, there are always going to be mosquitoes. To drain the swamp, you have to address the problem of why so many people in the world hate us. An I know the conservatives hate to hear that. They're never going to like us. Screw them, they hate us, we'll just fire back. You know what, that's not going to work. You do have to drain the swamp but the swamp has to be that pool of hate that we live above. There's always bin Ladens. That's like, you know, in the first James Bond movie where he says, you can kill me and 008 will take my place. Well, that's the same with bin Laden. Trust me, 008, al Qaeda, will take his place.

KING: Bill Maher's our guest. We'll be back with more calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN: Now that -- what's your next goal in Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Conan -- Conan that's simple. We still to catch Osama.

O'BRIEN: Well, how are you going to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're going back to the lucky hole and wait. In if terrorist trap ain't broke Conan don't fix it.

O'BRIEN: OK, very good. President Bush everybody. Go back there. Go get them. Good man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": It wasn't just a hole. He had a hole adjacent to a hut. That's pretty nice if you can find it. A lot of people will just rent you the hole or the hut. Hard to get them together. But anyway, her's what he had in the hut. He hand unopen packages of underwear, guns, can of 7-Up, and a Paris Hilton video.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher.

We go to Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Oh, hi. First of all, bill, I just have to say I love you. You are just one of the coolest people in the world.

MAHER: Finish your thought.

CALLER: OK.

MAHER: Thank you very much.

CALLER: I've heard you say more than once you hate computers and the Internet. Now that you have your own Web site, which, by the way, has over 2,000 members, I'm wondering if you ever log on to check out what's being discussed there.

KING: Talking about you on your own Web site?

MAHER: I didn't know they had members.

KING: Are you a member, ma'am?

CALLER: I'm certainly am from day one.

KING: Joined his Web site.

MAHER: And there is only 2,000.

KING: Do you watch it?

MAHER: That's terrible.

KING: Now he's depressed.

MAHER: I can't believe there are only 2,000 members.

KING: Maybe in Toronto.

MAHER: Do they charge for this?

Can I make money off it is what I'm asking. No. I'm not against the computers and, you know what, on this vacation, one of my goals was to finally get into the Internet. So I have...

KING: Did you?

MAHER: I have 13 days left in this year and I plan to do it. I plan to actually...

KING: You beat me.

MAHER: ... get on Internet. My contention was always just it was overrated. I should have listened to myself. Because if I had followed my own advice and taken my money out of Internet stocks before 2000, I would have saved a lot of money. I didn't believe my own advice. But I always thought it was overrated. And I always used to do the corporate shows when Internet pool was going big. And corporations had a lot of money to pay me to come and do "Politically Incorrect" live for them. And I'd sit in the middle and I'd have four executives from an Internet company around me, and I would do a version of my show. And it was also good because I sort of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I was the anti-Internet guy. And they believed the Internet was the greatest invention ever. And when I said to them that all the inventions of the 19th century were much more prevalent in changing our lives in the 20th century than anything, their heads would explode. But, it is true. Between 1850 and 1903, we got the refrigerator, the light bulb the car, air travel.

Now, what would you rather live without?

A refrigerator, electricity, a car, an airplane or the Internet?

It's important. It's not that important.

KING: Mississauga, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. I just want to say I think you're very outspoken which is great. I think it's a great breath of fresh air. I'm just wondering why or if you ever considered getting yourself into politics.

MAHER: No. I could not ever be in politics.

KING: Because?

MAHER: Because my views -- my views are those of someone outside of politics. When you're in politics, you have to be political. I'm not political. Political means you play the games.

KING: Do you have to cop out to be successful?

You have to...

MAHER: Absolutely. That's what I said about ethanol. You know, I would have to go to Iowa and say ethanol is good. I'm just not built that way. I always say to put it in short hand, I think religion is bad and drugs are good. Now, imagine starting a campaign with that. I would get exactly 14 percent of the vote.

KING: Oakville, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Maher, I'm absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you.

MAHER: Well, I'm thrilled to be talking to you, too.

CALLER: My question for you is, do you plan on staying behind the marijuana mission?

I don't know if you've realized...

MAHER: I do.

CALLER: But you've saved peoples' loves up here in Canada and the United States. It was because of you discussing it on TV and a Web site called the marijuana mission that made my family understand what marijuana does for people. And it actually stopped my grandma's seizures. So, I'm no longer considered an epileptic just because I smoke it every day. And I appreciate you so much. And we talk about you up here all the time. You should run for Congress, sir.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: You remind me so much of my lawyer Allen Young, and he is the greatest one up here speaking about marijuana and you keep on talking down there, buddy.

MAHER: You keep puffing as the president said, let's roll. It's a good opportunity for me to bring up Tommy Chung. Tommy of "Cheek and Chung," you know he's in jail right now. He was...

KING: I didn't know.

MAHER: On the anniversary of 9/11, that's how brazen this Justice Department is. On the anniversary of 9/11, they arrested Tommy Chung for selling bongs over the Internet, Larry. We cannot allow that to happen. Do you feel safer? Do you feel safer now?

This is what I would like to say to the Bush administration about that. You can't have it both ways. Either 9/11 was such a transforming event and is such a dire threat that we need the Patriotic Act, the Patriotic Act II which could curtail a lot of civil liberties that we need to go to Iraq or you can bust Tommy Chung. You can't it have both ways. You can't have the Patriotic Act and curtail the civil liberties because 9/11 was that bad and also have the time to go after Tommy Chung for selling bongs on the Internet. Can't have it both ways.

KING: You favor the legalization?

MAHER: Of course. Another no-brainer. There's a religion out there, too, having to do with drug laws. It's also nonsense.

KING: You'd legalize all drugs?

MAHER: I would. Yes. But obviously other drugs, it is a different situation, because other drugs can be very dangerous. But there's something more dangerous than OxyContin. It's called the hillbilly heroin, because it's like heroin. No wonder it's popular.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Bill Maher. He returns to "Real Time With Bill Maher" January 16 at a new time, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENO: Cardinal Martino of the Vatican, he's complaining that we have mishandled Saddam Hussein. He thinks we might be mistreating him. I don't think we're mistreating him. OK, we're not treating him like an altar boy. But I don't think...

(LAUGHTER, BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Bainbridge, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Bill.

MAHER: Hi.

CALLER: You are so funny.

MAHER: Thanks.

CALLER: And I -- really hilarious. And I agree with you on so many issues, but I have a question. I'd like to know what's happened in your life to make you so bitter against God and religion. I mean, do you -- you sound like you just hate religion and faith and...

MAHER: Right. And I'll tell you, one thing that you should always be aware of is lumping those two things that you mentioned in together. You said I'm bitter about God and religion. I'm not bitter about God. I believe in God. I just don't believe in the bureaucracy that people think they need to get through to him.

Why do you think you need religion to talk to God? Why do you think that someone who is no smarter than you are, because I promise you, we all have the same brain in our head -- how come that somebody knows what happens when you die and you don't? You believe them? Why? Because they got a pointy hat on?

I mean, I just don't understand why people think that they need to go to another person to get to God. God doesn't need an agent. You know? That's what a priest is. He's an agent. And, obviously, the opportunity...

KING: So when you say you believe in God, you believe what? That there is a creator? That there is a being?

MAHER: Absolutely. But I don't know what it is. What I do know is that I will not know as long as I'm alive on Earth. That's the deal. While we're here on Earth...

KING: We don't know?

MAHER: We're not going to find out. And anybody who tells you different is lying. They don't know either.

One thing I know heaven won't be. It won't be the way people perceive it here, religiously, like it's just kind of a better version of Earth, you know, where everything is air conditioned and you're with the people you liked all the time and you don't have any hunger or your favorite food is there. You know what? If that's what heaven is, I'm going to be so disappointed.

KING: So I gather then you're not in league with these people who communicate with the dead.

MAHER: That's different, though. That's not necessarily religion. I believe that there might -- yes. I believe that when you die, you pass on to another world, another form. I don't know what that form is. But I don't dismiss that. You mean like John Edward?

KING: Yeah.

MAHER: I don't dismiss that.

KING: Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Oh, hi, Larry. I love you very much. And hi, Bill. Many thanks for your honesty done with such great humor.

MAHER: Thank you.

KING: We only have a minute. What is the question?

CALLER: Will you ever return to network TV?

MAHER: Well, I'm on network TV.

KING: HBO is a very successful network. But I guess she means...

MAHER: I know what she means. She means free. You want me free. Well, I don't come free, lady. I'm cheap but I ain't easy.

KING: Would you go back?

MAHER: You know, I'm so happy there. It's...

KING: All right, we'll get one more call in. Bangor, Maine, hello.

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi. What's the question?

CALLER: I want to know if Bill will marry me.

MAHER: Bangor? We just talked. I just had to do the do the old Bangor joke. Thank you. Well, I appreciate the offer. You know, I'm 46.

KING: You really want to marry him?

CALLER: Yes, I do. Based on his answers on religion, he's my soul mate.

KING: Well, send a letter and we'll forward it to him.

MAHER: Thank you very much. I'm 47 and I've never been married and I consider that the greatest accomplishment of my life. You know... KING: We have 10 seconds, will you ever marry?

MAHER: That's absolutely positive.

KING: Come on.

MAHER: What?

KING: What, would you?

MAHER: The silliest thing in the world to do is to claim I'm going to be something in 10 years. You don't know what you're going to be in 10 years.

KING: Thanks, as always, Bill. Don't forget.

MAHER: I know you'll be here.

KING: Thank you.

MAHER: I hope.

KING: Your lips to God. I'll be back in a minute to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The arrest warrant in the Jackson case is due to be filed tomorrow, and we'll have a major follow-up, major guests dealing with it tomorrow night.

"NEWSNIGHT" is next. Aaron Brown is off tonight, a little under the weather, and who better to replace him than our man about everywhere, the one and only Wolf Blitzer, the Wolfman himself. Mr. B, how do you do it? How do you do it?

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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