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Interview With Bill Maher

Aired January 28, 2004 - 21:00   ET


KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher is back. Outspoken, outrageous as always. We'll talk about the New Hampshire primary, all the Democratic candidates, how president Bush is doing, we'll even talk about Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, the death of Jack Paar and a whole lot more and we'll take your calls. Bill Maher on the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: He is never dull. It's always great him with us. Bill Maher is the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO now back in its second season. New time. It's on Friday nights at 8:00 and there's an encore at 11:30. Live at 8:00 and then repeated at 11:30 and repeated throughout the week.

He's a Grammy nominee for the best spoken word album for his reading of his bestselling book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden." That is still available in both hardback copy and as a tape and the tape nominated for Grammy and best of luck with that.

MAHER: Oh, please.

KING: It's terrific book.

MAHER: I'm up against 50 Cents.

KING: It's a terrific book. It's a great read, Now are you enjoying Real Time? How's it going?

MAHER: I love it. I think we're very comfortable. I think we're getting some good guests. We're getting some of the big players. We had Edwards last week and Clark the week before. I think politicians are seeing it as a place where they can come and be seen a human, but not silly. I think a lot of the shows make them look silly.

KING: Do you like the time slot?

MAHER: For me, later is always better. Larry, you know that. I'm a moon person, I live by the light of the moon. We have to tape at 5:00 to get on at 8:00 back East live, at least last year, we taped at 8:00 which is perfect for me because I get up at 6:00.

KING: But they repeat at 11:30 so at least you're on late. First things first, Jack Paar, who had an influence on anybody who every spoke in front of a camera.

MAHER: I was too young to appreciate Jack Paar. He was gone by the time I was a kid. I grew up on Johnny Carson and he was my hero, still remains so but my parents never got over the loss of Jack Paar. They felt that he was the benchmark of wit. And Steve Allen. Steve Allen and Jack Paar. They never warmed up to Johnny the way they liked Jack Paar. It was a different era. It was much more -- you know, back then you could just do an intellectual talk show and Jack Paar was much more of an intellectual -- it wasn't like it is now where people have no attention span and you have to have balloons and brass bands and nonsense and they appreciated him, I think.

KING: We're going to do a whole tribute to him tomorrow night. A lot of people including his daughter will be on who he used to refer to a lot on this show. First things first...

MAHER: ...Jack (ph), Douglas (ph), and Racko (ph). Can you get them on? What was the German one?

KING: Weaver. Charlie Weaver (ph).

MAHER: Right. A lot of people started there.

KING: The Smothers brothers who he put on but never understood why they were funny. He would put them on because he knew the audience liked them and he looked at them, like, what are you doing? Why is this funny?

MAHER: Maybe it's good he gave up the show to Johnny then.

KING: New Hampshire. What do you make of this? Everybody won.

MAHER: Everybody has Joementum. Did you hear that? Joementum. It went Joewhere. It is funny the way it is all about spin, especially Joe Lieberman. I like Joe Lieberman, we all do, a nicer guy.

KING: Doesn't exist, he's a great guy.

MAHER: But you know what, when you poll fifth, go. You got to go. It's not cute any more. It's like you're Woody Allen and everyone says I love you. You're just too old to be doing it. To say, well, it was a three-way tie for third, it's just like Japan saying we silvered in World War II. And what is his plan to count on the bounce that Connecticut Jews normally get when they go to South Carolina?

KING: No, Delaware. He could win Delaware.

MAHER: He could win Delaware and it still won't make any difference.

KING: What do you make of the John Kerry story? What do you make of John Kerry?

MAHER: I'm often critical of the people because so few people on television are because they want to kiss the ass of their audience but I tell you the people are the ones who have straightened this race out. I never thought it should have been Howard Dean. I always said it should be either Kerry or Clark. I said the guys who served in their country in the military get dibs on the nomination.

KING: You're a military guy?

MAHER: Well, I'm not personally, but I have great respect for them. And I just think, just like in an Indian tribe, the best warrior gets to be the chief, you know? That's just fair. And I think the people of Iowa and now the people of New Hampshire have really straightened this race out. John Kerry, when he brings a guy on stage who he saved his life in Vietnam, how do you top that? It's like when Jerry Lee Lewis (ph) used to light the piano on fire. You just can't top it.

KING: It's like when some of his critics criticize -- how can you knock a guy when some of the critics who never -- who skirted the war or stayed out of the war or ducked the draft or had weird deferments, not John Kerry.

MAHER: Excuse me, Howard Dean was skiing in Aspen during the war, that's, you know, this is one issue that the Democrats could make against President Bush. You know, as Michael Moore got into a little trouble last week saying he was a deserter.

KING: You wouldn't go that far, would you? You don't know what he did that year in the National Guard.

MAHER: That's the point. We don't know what he did that year but I have called him a draft dodger many times and I would stick to that. The definition to me of a draft dodger is someone who finds a way not to go to the war.

KING: Like Bill Clinton.

MAHER: Bill Clinton, exactly. But why not George Bush in that same category? I don't know why the press has given him a free pass on this. You either figure a way to get out or you go. And rich kids go. Oliver Stone went to the war. George Bush found a way to get out. The National Guard now is a way, unfortunately, to get in. I feel sorry for these National Guard guys. They thought they were signing up for paint ball on the weekends.

But then it was a way out. It was a way when they came to you and said, you know what, we'd like you to go to Vietnam. He could say, you know what, I'd love to go to Vietnam, but I'm guarding Texas. I can't. But, apparently, from some sources he didn't even do that. First, he got a dispensation to go and serve in Alabama because he was going to be working on somebody's campaign. Right away, I don't think this is something the normal soldier is allowed to do. Sir, I'd like to go work on a political campaign in Alabama. Well, the requisition forms are over there, soldier, just fill them out. And then, according to the "Boston Globe" he never showed up for that.

KING: Was Clark a disappointment to you?

MAHER: Why, because he didn't win? .

KING: He was doing much better in the polls and I would call this a disappointment, wouldn't you?

MAHER: Well, I think the military vote probably got split and Kerry got the momentum and the bounce off of Iowa and people think, you know, he is a lot more experienced as a politician, but I have to tell you, having talked to General Clark a couple times on my show, he is the quickest study. I think he does have the sharpest mind. I think there is a reason why he was No. 1 in his class at West Point and has excelled and gone right to the top everywhere he ever went in life. For a guy who's only been at it for this long, I think he's doing enormously well.

KING: How about Edwards?

MAHER: Edwards...

KING: He said on this show he has to win South Carolina or he's done.

MAHER: Yes, and I think he will. I think he is the one guy who does have momentum. Kerry also. He's a new face, too. But when I talk to him, I was very impressed. I think he will be president someday. I tried to put the bee in his bonnet. I said, you know, you're only 50. You don't want to do what Clinton did, which is peak too early. I mean, look at poor Clinton, he's chomping at the bit, he's a young man relatively.

As we know, Larry, 60 is a new 40. 100 is the new 78. That's the one I'm waiting for. But, you know, I said to him, you're only 50 years old. If you served as vice president for a term or two, you'd be perfect. Then you wouldn't be so young when you got out. Because you know, Mr. Pretty Boy, I'll tell you what will make you look older because he's worried about that that he looks too young. Being president for a couple of years. You'll look like Abe Lincoln after a five-day drunk.

KING: Is Howard Dean done?

MAHER: I hope so. Howard Dean did his party a great service. He got their blood boiling again. No Democrat was standing up. I remember I used to do jokes about how lame they were. He got it going again. He's a trailblazer. He's -- you know I compared him on my show to John the Baptist. Someone who goes before, but not the star of our show. He's like that electric chair massager that you have at Brookstone that gets everybody into the store, but at the end of the day, we don't really buy it. We buy a sensible clock radio. And that's John Kerry.

KING: Well put. Our guest is Bill Maher. The host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO, Fridays at 8:00 repeated every night, every Friday night at 11:30. We'll be taking your calls of course with Bill, back with more topics, don't go away.


DAVE LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE DAVE LETTERMAN SHOW": Here we go. Top ten ways I Howard Dean can turn things around. Number ten... HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Switch to decaf.

We're going to South Carolina and Oregon and Washington and Michigan.


DEAN: Start working out and speaking with an Austrian accent.

CRAIG KILBORN, HOST, "LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN": Let's see how Dean's yelp of defeat stacks up against some of the other great screams of recent history.

LETTERMAN: And the No. 1 way, I, Howard Dean can turn things around...

DEAN: Oh, I don't know, maybe fewer...




MAHER: Taking their cue from the State of the Union that President Bush delivered on Tuesday, the state of Ohio says they're going to ban gay marriages, which is crushing news for a lot of gay couples who dream of building a life together in Akron.


KING: You're funny.

Our guest is Bill Maher. Lots of things to talk about.

Now we swing to the Dean rant.

What do you make of that which as been shown 7 million times?

MAHER: I can't watch it again. Please don't show it again.

KING: No more tonight.

MAHER: Well, first of all, it's a media creation that he's angrier than everybody else. I mean, you should Lieberman when the run out of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the deli. No, but it is. First of all, I don't think that is a reason he should be disqualified from being president. As a matter of fact, we need more anger in this country, not less. It should be a requirement. And if you're not angry at the massive corporate fraud that's going on the last four years, than, obviously, like the president, you don't even read the paper. Having said that, what Howard Dean doesn't get is that it's a given that the media is going to take your worst moments and weave them into a delightful tapestry of hate because that's what the media does.

KING: When you do it, you're not thinking this my worst point.

MAHER: But he's had a lot of worst moments, and when you give them that, they are going to do that to you. That's part of the obstacle course of getting to the White House. You can't scare the cattle. He just scared people. I have to say, I don't want to look at that any more and I doubts about him, not because of that specifically, but just the way he handled that the aftermath that Diane Sawyer, the David Letterman.

KING: They fired their campaign manager today, too.

MAHER: That looks bad too. You know, it wasn't the campaign manager that melted down in front of an audience, it was Howard Dean. I am sorry, but Howard Dean...

KING: Why do Kucinich and Sharpton stay?

MAHER: Probably because it's more fun to run for president than to do what else they were doing, which was what?

You tell me. As opposed to what. I don't know why candidates who have such little poll numbers don't get more bold with their proposals. I mean, where's Dennis...

KING: Kucinich is pretty bold. He'd pull out of Iraq tomorrow, he'd pull out. He'd change the whole health system.

MAHER: Wait a second. Mr. Dennis Kucinich who is Mr. Left Wing, Mr. Coup (ph), Mr. Nut, Mr. Department of Peace. Remember, he proposed...

KING: 91' proposed that.

MAHER: Hey, Dennis, I used to do ecstasy, too. But I got older and I stopped. But his plan is, let's get out of Iraq right now and he's the far lefty. George Bush's plan is lets get out of Iraq in four months. The difference between George Bush and Dennis Kucinich is four months. So, they're not that different.

But what about ending the drug war?

What about Cuba?

What about all these third-rail issues.

If you're polling at 1 percent, what do you care?

What does it go down to the negative numbers?

What do you have to lose by taking on the third rails in American politics?

And I don't see any of them doing it.

KING: Sharpton will do well in South Carolina there's a high black... MAHER: We'll see. I mean, I love Al, but he didn't win Washington, D.C.

KING: What do you make of celebrity endorsements?

Madonna backs Wesley Clark, so does Michael Moore.

Howard Dean has, Martin Sheen, Ted Danson, Michael Douglas, Al Franken.

Dennis Kucinich, has Willie Neslon, Ben Affleck, Danny Glover.

Kerry has Carole King, Dennis Hopper, James Taylor.

Al Sharpton, has Rus Simmons, P. Diddy, and Jay-Z.

MAHER: Now, you just read that two seconds later I defy anybody to match the endorsement. Jay-Z has who?

Kucinich, no, I'm sorry, that's Willie Nelson. You're right, then I want to vote for Dean. It's stupid. It's stupid. It's indulgent to think their endorsement would make a difference. I think it could back fire on the candidates.

KING: You were discussing in the little bit we ran about Akron, the state banning of gay marriage. Florida officially bans it and it was upheld today by Florida court.

MAHER: Part of this is because President Bush talked about it in the state of the union.

KING: What do you make of the whole idea of a gay marriage?

MAHER: It shouldn't even be debatable. If gay people want it get married, what do we care?

It's astounding to me that this president is going right up to the line and probably will cross it before the election of making this a constitutional amendment. Yes, let's put that in the document because the constitution, along with ending slavery and the Bill of Rights doesn't really say enough about weddings, Larry. I think it should say more about weddings and by the way birthdays, too.

KING: You don't believe it's an institution of a male and a female, that's been the institution?

MAHER: It's an institution of property, that's how marriage started. It was an institution for alliances. For property. For passing along to the primogeniture as they called it. It had nothing to do with romance or man or women or any of that nonsense. And people in this country are following the people in Europe with voting their feet leaving an alter, that they don't care about marriage any more. Marriage doesn't matter. One out of four adults in this country lives in a nuclear family, that's astounding. That's astounding from what it was 50 years ago. Now, once women became independent. Once women didn't have to go from the shelter of their father to the shelter of a husband, they are saying we don't need it. I don't need a man -- I don't have to marry one, certainly. If you want to live with someone, if you want someone in your life, why does the government have to get a piece of that.

KING: What did you make of the State of the Union Address?

MAHER: Well, as much as I could summarize it, apparently, Saddam Hussein was a threat and that threat lives on in gay marriages and steroids. I mean, why the president would pick out steroids as the one -- if you're going to highlight.

KING: It wasn't a highlight, it was near the ended the speech and he's a baseball fan and he's worried about sports. He used to be an owner.

MAHER: He's a baseball fan?

KING: Big baseball fan.

MAHER: But isn't he president of the United States before baseball fan?

OK, but if you're going to take this speech, which should not be a description of the state of the union. To get that we passed that long ago, it apparently is a laundry list now, and you're going to highlight one health issue in this country, steroids?

It just astounds me. Two days later in the paper obesity. Enormous health problem, cost $75 billion a year. Half of which the taxpayers pick up. Does he mention that? no. Steroids. It's just astounding that this is what got him all -- Barry Bonds is jacking that ball into the upper deck, I know something is screwy there. We've got something about that. I can see that ball clear as night.

KING: What do you make of weapons of mass destruction, now, today?

The guy saying there aren't any and he's been there. The president saying, well, we might have if we had information.

MAHER: I'm so bored of that whole argument. Look, he lied to get us into the war.

KING: He lied or based on information given him?

MAHER: Little of each, whatever it is. You know what, Iraq is, to me, the least political thing George Bush has ever done. I have less of a problem with him going into Iraq than I do with almost anything else he's ever done. The idea that we would kick over Iraq to have a place in the Middle East where we could establish democracy, that is not a bad idea. History remembers what people did. It doesn't remember how they got there. In a hundred years, if that plan worked and Iraq turns out to be a democracy and that spreads the brush fire of democracy a lot of other Muslim states and that will help the problem we have with being attacked by fundamentalists. George Bush will be remembered as a guy who did a really great thing. People don't generally remember how you got into a war. So, yes, did he lie? Yes. I certainly recognize a lie when I hear one, but people need to stop carping on that. Did he have weapons? Clinton thought he did, the U.N. said he did. It was a shell game, we didn't know what was under the peanut. It turned out there was absolutely nothing. I thought he had weapons, didn't you?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: OK, so the peanut was empty. Yes, so they lied a little -- like I said, it's not a good thing, it's hardly the worst thing he's done.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more with Bill Maher. Your calls at the bottom of the hour. Host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO, Fridays at 8:00, repeated at 11:30. Don't go away.


CONAN O'BRIEN, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: What I asked was, how you feel the debate went for you? I'm asking you a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you think it went. Is went about as well as that damned Iowa caucus. Is it me or are these seats getting whiter and whiter. I mean, Iowa, New Hampshire, what's next? Sweden.

O'BRIEN: All right. Now, sir, Sweden is not a state.

Congressman Kucinich, with your poll ratings incredibly low, a lot of people are wondering why you haven't dropped out yet?




JAY LENO, "TONIGHT SHOW" HOST: Well, folks early reports from New Hampshire just coming in the news, not encouraging, not good. Yes, it seems Americans are so fat now, they're getting stuck in the voting booths. Thousands, thousands are trapped as we speak.

I'm wearing my new Joe Lieberman watch, problem is, it stops running after New Hampshire that's the trouble.


KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Is Scott Peterson a big story to you?


KING: Michael Jackson a big story to you? MAHER: It's a more interesting story. You know, it's something you cannot take your eyes off of. He looks like Norman Desmond. Remember "Sunset Boulevard"? I expect him to come out one day and say it's my lovers that got smaller.

I mean, why does a black man need a parasol. That's my question about Michael Jackson. First of all, you don't usually see a parasol.

KING: Yes, they're out.

MAHER: They're a little bit out. And the last time I saw one, a black man was holding one for Scarlet O'Hara. But, I mean, Michael Jackson, look, we've gone over Michael Jackson before and I told you, I happen to think that he's not guilty. I just can't believe that he does this.

But he's such a liar that he...

KING: What do you mean?

MAHER: He's a ridiculous liar. He's stolen -- he said he only had two operations. That day he only had two operations. Remember the thing with the shoulder on 60 minutes and then you saw him waving and doing jumping -- he's a terrible, terrible liar.

So, obviously, his credibility is so damaged. But, you know, I think a lot of Michael Jackson mania and people's emotions about it are sort of involved with their ideas about kids in general. I think our ideas about kids in general in this country are so messed up.

KING: Don't get started, Bill. You're not a fan of kids.

MAHER: I am not a fan of kids. And even more, I am not a fan of parents who are kid whipped.

KING: Kid whipped?

MAHER: Kid whipped. You know, like "P" whipped. We're kid whipped in this country. Everything has to be for and about the kids.

They took off my -- there was this great show on ESPN, this show called "Play Makers". They took it off.


MAHER: Yes. And I heard this guy explaining, well, you know, they compacted the drama so it looked all bad. What about kids who are watching that? Well, kids aren't watching it, first of all. Yes, a few stray kids might watch anything. Do we have to get rid of everything kids might watch.

How about this, kids don't watch "Play Makers" and I won't watch "Finding Nemo." That has a lesbian fish in it. That could be bad for kids.

KING: I never thought about that. Really, come on, how can you not like kids? They're the future. You were a kid. If someone didn't love you, Maher, you wouldn't be here.

MAHER: That's nothing to do with whether you like kids or not. I don't dislike kids, I just don't like being around them so much. Babies I'm not crazy about.

KING: You don't like to hold them or take pictures with them.

MAHER: I don't, you know that. But I'm glad they exist, because who else am I going to date in 20 years.

KING: We will now take a break. And when we come back, your calls for Bill Maher, nominated for a Grammy for his reading of "When You Ride Alone," his book, "You Ride With Bin Laden." Also, the host of "Real Time" on HBO.

Right back with your calls for Bill Maher right after this.


JON STEWART, HOST "DAILY SHOW": Meanwhile, an intriguing battle for third place has developed among Senators John Edwards and Joseph Lieberman and General Wesley Clark. General Clark has been working especially hard these last few days. He's been taking the shift at the drive through window at a local doughnut shop.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks it'll be $3.81 ma'am.


CLARK: OK, now. What are you doing tonight?



LETTERMAN: Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the "Late Show" unfair edit. And I believe tonight's "Late Show" unfair edit features President Bush from the State of the Union address last night. It's the "Late Show" unfair edit. Take a look.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In two weeks members of my administration and this Congress will be in a prison cell.


KING: We're back with Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO.

Before we go to calls, two quick things. The Limbaugh matter.

MAHER: Oh, well, I mean, obviously, this is one that really hits home because I've been such a proponent of ending the drug war. And there's just nothing about preferring the high of OxyContin that makes you morally superior to someone who prefers the high of marijuana or cocaine or whatever drug you're using. That's number one. It's morally indefensible, I think. He wants compassion, he should have compassion. But where was his compassion for all the people he said should rot in jail because they wanted to get high?

Secondly, he was doing 30 OxyContin a day. You know, I thought I was a drug user. But in my life I never got that high. Thirty OxyContin a day? Which proves, again, that you can work high.

And the part that I think people don't really talk about enough in that whole case, is what about the maid? What about the fact that he was pressuring his maid? Exchanging cigar boxes full of cash. And by the way, Rush, you know, I'm for you, because I'm wishing you compassion because you were nice to me when I got in trouble, but anytime you're exchanging cigar boxes full of anything in a parking lot, you're a drug addict. OK?

I mean, the Republicans are hard on the help. I think that says a lot about -- right? Strom Thurmond with the maid? And how about the media's treatment of that situation, calling it an affair? An affair? Like it's some delightful, upstairs/downstairs romp between the maid and the master of the house. We're talking about 1925 South Carolina. A 15-year-old black maid? That's an affair? Excuse me, that's called rape. Because rape is when one party does not have any say in whether sex happens or not. And when you're a 15-year-old black maid in South Carolina, your choice is, well, don't fight and just have sex, or struggle, get raped anyway, and then lynched.

So, let's stop calling it an affair, OK, media?

KING: And finally, before we go to calls, Mars. Are you looking forward to this?

MAHER: That I completely don't understand. President Bush was like focused like a laser beam on terror. Everything was terror, terror, terror. And then suddenly, and we have got to go to Mars. Did I mention Mars?

I can't get excited. I don't know why people get so excited. I mean, I look at the pictures and I say to myself, they look very familiar. And then, oh, yeah, that's because they look exactly like the last batch of pictures from Mars, which looks exactly like the drive between L.A. and Las Vegas. Isn't there a cheaper way to get a photo op of him in a space suit? Do we have to spend $80 trillion?

KING: Let's go to calls. Tampa for Bill Maher, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Bill Maher is if it comes down to a three-way race for the Democratic nomination and if a strong candidate does not actually come out from the rest, do you see that we're going to get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Democratic Party if they can't truly get a definitive candidate they can back to beat Bush in 2004?

KING: There's nobody, nobody has the lead, they go on to the convention with mixed up delegates between Kerry, Edwards and Dean or Kerry.

MAHER: No, I think it would be wonderful to have a real convention again where we didn't know who the nominee was.

KING: Haven't had one.

MAHER: Haven't had one in how many...

KING: '52.

MAHER: Is that the...

KING: The last second ballot. 1952.

MAHER: Wasn't '60 still in play?

KING: No second ballot.


KING: Never -- second ballot was -- Eisenhower went to a second ballot in '52.

MAHER: Boy, you really know your stuff.

KING: The second ballot. We never have a second ballot.

MAHER: Wow. I think it would be great, and I think if it's among Kerry, Clark and John Edwards, I think those are all strong candidates. I think ...

KING: It wouldn't hurt the party.

MAHER: I mean, like a Kerry/Edwards ticket, that's a very strong ticket that would make Karl Rove a little nervous. I mean, obviously when he gets through smearing them, you know, you don't know who's going to be standing. But, I think that's a stronger ticket than they thought they would be facing.

KING: Long Island, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. King, Mr. Maher. If you could put someone else on a Democratic ballot, who would it be and why? And would you be asking John Fugelsang to be a guest on "Real Time"?

MAHER: Yeah, I love John Fugelsang. He should be a guest on "Real Time."

KING: Who is he?

MAHER: Let's remember that, John Fugelsang. He is a comic who used to do "Politically Incorrect" all the time. Very thoughtful, very passionate. As far as who else? I think they got the right guys now. We were talking in the break about Colin Powell, he's not a Democratic, but we both said he should have been president and we wished he was.

KING: He didn't run.

MAHER: No. Whipped, Larry, whipped.

KING: Westburg, Long Island, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, thank you for taking my call, Larry. Mr. Maher, do you have a theory as to why all our presidents, with the exception of JFK, have been, like, white Protestant men, middle-aged to old? You know, no ethnic stuff? Is there any reason for that?

MAHER: Well, perhaps because most of the country is white, Protestant and...

KING: Used to be. Not any more. I don't think...

MAHER: White people still -- that's a myth. I mean, ethnic people are all over TV and so forth, but the country is still mostly white. I mean, why isn't there a woman president? Why not a bald president? There's a lot of prejudices against who you can have for president. You know, and I can't sit here and blame the men. Women vote, too. If women want somebody, they're in the majority. There's more women than men in the country.

KING: Ellijay, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Thank you, Larry. Love your show. Bill, do you favor making the Bush tax cuts permanent?

MAHER: No. I favor repealing the Bush tax cuts. That's something that I find so selfish about George Bush, is that he seems to be intent on spending every last dime he can get his hands on to help him win reelection. Some presidents are pay as you go presidents, and some presidents are like, spend all you want, we'll print more.

I mean, this Medicare entitlement that he signed, which costs only $500 billion to start and God knows how much in 10 years. OK, it nullified a key Democratic issue, that's right. Bill Clinton nullified a key Republican issue, welfare. But when he nullified their issue, it saved us money. This one is spending money. And I guess tax-and-spend Democrats are bad. I don't really know why, you have to tax and spend, how else is the government going to get money except tax? What are you going to do, roll sellers, have a bake sale?

So tax and spend is bad, but isn't don't tax and spend even worse? Aren't these deficits going to come back to haunt us? George Bush is such a -- you know what, the guy behind me will pay.

KING: Tom DeLay said if you didn't have the tax cuts, the deficits would be more.

MAHER: Well, that's crazy.

KING: That's what he said.

MAHER: Yes, but he's a pest control officer. He's you know...

KING: That was his business? MAHER: Isn't he -- wasn't he the guy who was an exterminator?

KING: Yeah. OK. We'll continue with Bill Maher. More calls right after this, don't go away.


MAHER: Seems the Mars rover no longer wants to talk to us. So minutes ago President Bush announced that this proves that Mars is not cooperating with our inspection, and the war is on!




LENO: Something interest, a "Newsweek" poll said that if the elections were held today John Kerry would be George Bush 49 percent to 46 percent and today President Bush called "Newsweek" magazine a threat to world peace.


KING: We're back with Bill Maher host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO, the author of "When You Ride Along You Ride With Bin Laden," nominated for a Grammy in the speaking tape department, right?

And let's go back to calls. Chicago, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Bill, it disturbs me terribly the way the religious right has permeated government and specifically the Republican Party. I think you have very interesting views on religion and God. Why don't -- why don't you write a book or write some essays about your views? Also, I'd like to see you kick O'Reilly's butt.

MAHER: I like the way she throws that in the end -- and if you have time, kick O'Reilly's butt. Well, I wrote an article about religion in "Details" magazine about a year ago. Thank you, lady. You know, I always love to go off on religion, I think it's one of those most deleterious things to come down the pike in human history.

I think it has caused more misery. I think it stops people from thinking. Just think of the wasted energy. What could be done if people would channel the energy that they waste towards silly, superstitious pursuits. I mean, you think of -- I'm not picking on the Muslims, because we do things that are just as dumb.

But when you see the pictures of people going on pilgrimages. That for 1 week of the year, they pick up all their belongings and then they travel great distances, go in a circle around a black rock. Okay. What if we took all that human effort and passion and channeled it towards something constructive? What a different world this would be.

KING: But they believe, they have faith. MAHER: Exactly. It's dumb. They have faith, because some other human being, whose brain was no better than theirs, told them he knew what happens when you die. And it's pretty silly to believe what some other human tells you when he tells you he knows what happens when you die. Because I promise you, he doesn't.

Of course, there are all sorts of questions we're all scared about. Like what happens when we die? Is there a heaven? Am I on the VIP list when I get there? But to believe what other people tell you is just dumb. To believe in fairy tales for answers we can't possibly know.

KING: Sevierville, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Hi, there, guys.


CALLER: My question for Bill, one quick comment first about Rush. 30 OxyContin a day explains a lot. But my question is, why do you think Americans are reacting with complacency rather than outrage that the government is stealing away our civil liberties via the unpatriot Act?

KING: What do you think of that?

MAHER: I think total information awareness was the name that they were using for that program. Total information -- if anything sounds more Orwellian, I'd like to hear it. They don't even realize...

KING: We never had a 9/11, Bill. 9/11 had to change things. It just had to change things. Logically it had to change things.

MAHER: But they have taken it to extreme extremes that I don't think are the things that will keep us safe. I think the Bush administration, one of the quibbles I have with them, is that they fight the war on terror in places where it's easier.

It's easier to go into Iraq. People can understand a war a lot easier than they can understand, well we've got to put all the money towards defensive measures. I would rather, instead of defending us with the PATRIOT Act, which has been used for such things as busting strip clubs in Las Vegas, so, don't tell me it's not being abused, I would rather see them put the money towards defending our nuclear plants, which are pretty much defenseless as it is.

We talked about this last time. The "60 Minutes" report about the chemical plants where anyone can walk into a chemical plant. The ports, all the cargo that comes into the ports that is uninspected and tracking down loose nukes.

You know, this whole thing with Iraq was about Saddam Hussein might get a nuclear weapon and give it to bin Laden. Wasn't that really was the whole thing about? That bin Laden, the guy who really has us in his sights, would get a nuclear weapon? And Howard Dean was right when he said that getting Saddam did not make us safer, because Saddam, he's captured. Are we safer because now he can't fire off all his weapons of -- oh, that's right, he didn't have any.

And that's the point. If bin Laden wants a weapon, and he does, he wouldn't have gone to Saddam Hussein who he hated in the first place and didn't have any. He'd go to Chechnya or Russia or Serbia or China. Some place where he could actually get one: North Korea. So, I don't think we're putting our best foot forward when it comes to how we are defending our country.

KING: Houston, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: First of all, Mr. Maher, I think you're an absolute genius.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: I do. And my question is with this administration with its extreme secrecy and corruption, what do you think of Patrick O'Neil's book "The Price of Loyalty."

KING: He didn't write the book, it's about him.

CALLER: Why do you think we don't have a Ken Starr on this administration?

MAHER: That's a good point. Let me take the first one. The O'Neil book, he says in the book, the Bush administration was focused on going into Iraq from day one. Now, as I said earlier in the program, I don't have a real big problem with this idea of kicking over Iraq to start Democracy in the Middle East, but what I do have a problem with is if it was so big in their minds from day one, shouldn't they have mentioned it in the election? Shouldn't they have told us if this was such a big thing to them when they were running for office instead of just springing it on us?

The second thing is, Ken Starr -- yes, George Bush is a lucky man because of the timing. He came into office just as that special prosecutor expired. And when I think of some of the things that would trigger a special prosecutor. I mean, do you know that -- I mean, I've read this. George Bush's father was having breakfast with bin Laden's brother on 9/11.

No, I'm not saying anything wrong was going on there, I'm just saying if it was Clinton, you don't think they would have made a thing about that? If during World War II, if on the morning of Pearl Harbor FDR's father was having breakfast with Tojo's (ph) brother?

If during the Cuban Missile Crisis, old Joe Kennedy was tanning with Raoul Castro (ph), you don't think there would be a few inquiries? The fact that the bin Laden family was spirited out of the country on 9/11 before the FBI could have asked any questions?

KING: They hate their brother. The bin Laden family. MAHER: They say they hate their brother. I don't think people in that part of the world ever hate anyone in their family. I think they may have difference of opinions. And look, the bin Laden family, the contractor, they worked on my deck, they were polite, they never ate of the refrigerator, Larry, so I have nothing else to say bad about the bin Laden Construction Company.

KING: Orlando, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Bill, you and I share a love of animals. Could you comment on the Bush administration's plan to weaken the Endangered Species Act so that hunters and the pet and fur industry can kill or import animals that near extinction?

MAHER: You said it very well yourself, so I won't have to go over those details of this horror. I mean, in general, the Bush administration's environmental policies are my No. 1 complaint against them. When people say to me, why don't you like George Bush, I say, most of all, he's bad for my health, you know.

KING: The environment was mentioned in the State of the Union.

MAHER: Not once. And when he does, hides like everything behind 9/11. We have to clear the forest, because terrorists can hide behind trees. I never understood the Republican idea that it's most important to keep business going. The fact that we're killing ourselves, that's secondary.

And they can't deny it any more. We've introduced a segment on our show a couple weeks ago called "Reading to the Precinct." Because he proudly says he does not read the paper. And I read the story to him about the fact that the Eskimos are among the most polluted people in the world and they live a very pure life, but it's because the winds blow over the north pole. And they have all this toxic -- if we're polluting the Eskimos, what the heck do you think is going on with the rest of us?

And I don't understand why people don't see planet Earth as like, it's like a big bar where you're not allowed to smoke. We as a society said, okay, we can't smoke in bars and as someone who is an ex-smoker and defends smokers, I understand that. We're saying, you know what, you can't pollute me with your crud. Why don't we use that same theory when it comes to planet Earth?

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Bill Maher. Don't go away.


MAHER: New rule, you can't get to be president by screaming for it. I know it hurts to lose, but once you make me cringe, it's over. The good news, Howard Dean, is you're no longer the angry guy. The bad news is you're the creepy guy. You're the weird uncle everyone tries to avoid at the family Christmas party. You're the guy at the bar who was just starting to make a girl like him and then said something incredibly stupid like, "you'd look really hot if you lost 10 pounds."




LETTERMAN: So, here it was, July 8, 1999. Do you remember that poll?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who could forget?

LETTERMAN: Yes, we first told this joke July 8, 1999. Here it is now. Clinton classic joke. President Clinton visited a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The Sioux chief presented him with a new intern, Kneeling Fox.


KING: Austin, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, I wanted to ask Mr. Maher, where were you during the Vietnam war?

MAHER: In high school. I am the luckiest, as far as generations go. I came of age in 1973. I was 17 years old. So next year I would have been eligible for a draft.

KING: You're just 40...

MAHER: I just turned 48 and 1973 is the year they ended the draft.

KING: But you would have gone, right?

MAHER: Absolutely. Who knows what you would have done when you were 17.

KING: But in retrospect, you feel you would have gone. Dallas, hello.

CALLER: Bill, you mention the corporate fraud regarding this administration and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), don't you think it's possible that Martha Stewart is being prosecuted because she is a Democrat who contributed heavily to Clinton?

MAHER: I didn't know Martha Stewart was a Democrat.

KING: I believe she is, I'm not sure.

MAHER: I compared Martha Stewart to Saddam Hussein on my show last week, not that he's as bitchy, but -- I'm kidding -- in a sense that prosecutorial discretion. It's not that Saddam Hussein wasn't guilty and I'm sorry, Martha, it's not that -- I think she's guilty, too. Prosecutors have a choice of who to prosecute. There's too much bad in the world. You can't go after everybody.

KING: You can prosecute civilly sometimes instead of criminally.

MAHER: You go after the biggest fish first. That's what I don't think we did when we went after Saddam Hussein and I don't think we're doing when we go after Martha Stewart. It's hard for me to believe that there aren't 100 or 1,000 bigger corporate frauds to go after before Martha Stewart.

KING: Burlington, Ontario, Canada, hello.

CALLER: I wonder, Bill, if you've felt that the U.S. government will repeal the marijuana laws across America as we are at, Canadians For Safe Access?

KING: Do you see marijuana legal?

MAHER: Are you high? No. But can I read something, Larry? This is from -- there was a huge case, recently, the Ninth court said basically Proposition 15 is okay. That's the one that said medical marijuana. It's kind of tricky. You can have marijuana, you just can't obtain it. I'm not kidding. That's what it is. If it magically appears in your hand or you grow it, but you can't buy it.

KING: We had a patient on who was sent marijuana every month by the government.

MAHER: As long as you don't actually -- there's no intrastate commerce. That's what it's about. The dissenting judge, this is what he said. This is very instructive in what goes on in the drug world. He said, "even if you're not paying for the marijuana, you're using a crop which could be sold in the marketplace and which is also being used for medical purpose in place of other drugs which would have to be purchased in the marketplace."

So in other words, people who use medical marijuana are hurting the profits of the drug companies, and that's what this is all about. If you want to ever learn what goes on in the drug war, follow the money. It's all about the money. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America does not want a drug-free America. It wants an America free of the drugs that are its competition. Liquor and prescription drugs.

KING: Bill Maher, it's always great to see you. Bill Maher will be back with us March 3, the night after the big March 2nd primary, that's the primary that could decide everything. New York and California both that day. And I'll be back and don't forget Bill Maher on -- host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO, 8:00 p.m. Friday nights, repeated at 11:30 p.m. I'll be back in a couple minutes. Don't go away.


KING: I love talking Aaron Brown off the air. It's one of those -- you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and play it on one night of Christmas.

Tomorrow night, a tribute to Jack Paar, what a lineup of guests. Regis Philbin, U Downs (ph), Randy Paar, his daughter, Mike Douglas, Pat Sajak, Bob Newhart, Dick Caven (ph), Merv Griffin. Tribute to Jack Paar tomorrow night.

A tribute now to "Newsnight." What better way to pay tribute than to introduce you to the host. Aaron Brown. Mr. Brown, the next hour is decidedly yours.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Whether they like it or not, I guess. Thank you, Mr. King.


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