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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Bill Maher

Aired September 13, 2004 - 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 shooting from the lip at President Bush and John Kerry and all the rest of the day's news. He makes you laugh, he makes you mad and he makes you think. And he's taking your phone calls. Bill Maher for the hour, next.
I have to think of something every week. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Coming now, an almost every 2 month visit, always great to have him with us, Bill Maher, host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO. Seen Friday nights at 11:00 and repeated 732 times during the week. He's up for a primetime Emmy, for outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program. His "New York Times" best selling book, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden" is also available in DVD. And his one-man show, "Victory Begins At Home" is out on DVD as well.

Since you were last with us, both conventions were held, what were your impressions?

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: I don't do impressions, Larry.

The first week we were on, we had the Democratic convention, we were back. And I did an editorial saying people should watch the conventions. First of all, I think the networks are remiss not to show them to us.

KING: Even though we know the outcome.

MAHER: Because it's not about the outcome. That's different, yes. That's so typical of the press, that it doesn't matter unless it's a horse race. It's not. It's a civics lesson. These are the conventions. these are the people who are purporting to run our country and pretty much the world. Shouldn't we give them a week of the year, just to see what they're selling?

It's like a little trade show, here are our ideas, here are our people, here are the faces of our party, come to our booth, just hear our pitch. And you learn a lot about the people and the party. What I learned from the Democratic is that they screwed it up again, Kerry didn't call out Bush. He didn't.

KING: Someone made a decision not to attack. People don't...

MAHER: Right!

KING: Focus groups say they don't like attacks.

MAHER: Because the Democrats still believe if you attack the president or mean to George Bush, it will offend the swing voters. It doesn't matter with the swing voters. He can do anything he wants to, to John Kerry. He can call a war hero a coward and a war criminal. Why aren't the swing voters offended at that?

OK. So, he missed a good opportunity. And I think the people rightly, to a degree, look at that and say, you know what, if you can't get tough with George Bush, what are you going to do bin Laden?

KING: Did you sense that before the Republican convention. Did you say that convention should have been tougher?

MAHER: The Democratic convention?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Absolutely. These are times when people expect and want the guy in power to be the kind of guy that goes for the jugular. And they somewhat base that on how he runs his campaign, which is not totally wrong to do. So -- look, I'm not saying I don't think John Kerry would be a good president, because I do think he would be a good president. I think he's a rotten campaigner.

KING: What did you make of the boat controversy.

MAHER: Let me get to the Republicans. You asked me about both, because they deserve equal time. Because they pretend, I think, to be macho guys, but you see what sentimentalists they really are. The Republican Party, very sentimental. Everything is about lump in the throat moments, you know, that really catch us and make us not have to think so much. They don't do nuance. They just want to feel.

You know, when Reagan was president, people always said to Republicans, he made us feel better. OK. I guess that's somewhat important, not really to me. I'm much more concerned what a man does than how he makes me feel.

It's the same thing with George Bush, you can go to a Republican and go down a litany of things: what about the environment, what about the economy. Yes, but, he had his arm around that firemen. And he threw out that first pitch. You know, they're just sentimentalists.

This is why we didn't have a plan in Iraq for the post-war. This is why we never had one, because they didn't develop one. Because they just figured we'll win the war and then they'll have freedom. And we know how wonderful freedom is. We'll just sprinkle that freedom dust over the Iraqis and then it will be over, which is so silly.

KING: But they were rough on terrorism. They weren't sensitive. In fact, they criticized sensitivity toward terrorists.

MAHER: Well, Dick Cheney criticized it. A guy who had five deferments, an unlisted phone number and lives in a hole. That's the guy that criticized -- sensitive.

It's a word, by the way, that Bush and Cheney both have used also. But again, I have never seen a party that depended more on the American public not really paying attention.

KING: But if true, it works, right?

MAHER: It does work. I mean, the swiftboat stuff works.

KING: What about it?

MAHER: Well, I think it's...

KING: 250 guys, that's a lot of guys saying.

MAHER: That's 250 guys who weren't there. OK? You and I both work for the same giant corporation, right?

KING: We do.

MAHER: It's like me saying, you know what, Larry King works over at the Time Warner conglomerate. I'm going to judge him. I'm going to say, he's not doing the right thing there. I have been hearing some things about the way he runs his show. I don't think -- they weren't there. The people who are closer to the action and closer to the boat tend to support Kerry's side.

Also, how come...

KING: Plus the Pentagon, the actual papers.

MAHER: How come when Bush wants to defend himself about showing up in Alabama, which plainly, he never did. I mean there's not one credible witness who has come forward to say, I was with George Bush in Alabama. Don't you think, given the kind of comradery that men under arms have, if they were together at any point, somebody would have said, I remember George Bush, kind of a frat boy, liked to snort the coke, whatever it was, or didn't. But that somebody would have come forward.

OK, no. But they say well here we have the discharge papers. Oh, the military issued the discharge papers, anything the military does is beyond reproach. How come when the military issues Bush's discharge papers, discussion closed. But Kerry's medals, also issued by the military, somehow, they're very suspect, we better look into that.

KING: Did Kerry not respond well enough to that initially?

MAHER: Of course he didn't. Absolutely not.

KING: Isn't that something about the measure of the man then?

MAHER: It is.

KING: If you pause. MAHER: It doesn't give me pause, because the other guy -- I don't pretend that John Kerry has all the answers, but Bush has none and he's cheating off Cheney's paper. John Kerry isn't the best candidate I've ever seen, but macaroni and cheese is better than sand and spit. And that's pretty much to me the choice that we have.

KING: Does that choice have a chance?

MAHER: It's funny, people keep asking me that since the Republican convention, does Kerry have a chance? Well, unless the media comes up with any more embarrassing medals, I think he still has a chance. I still think he has a chance, because we have debates, which I understand that they're in the final process of negotiating. Kerry wants 115 debates for each of his positions on the war and Bush wants one, as long as John Kerry signs a loyalty oath and promises not to speak.

That's another thing. Why doesn't John Kerry just explain. This is exactly what happened to Al Gore, refuse to explain simple things, like he wasn't a huge liar about the Internet. He just let it go. They have absolutely lambasted Kerry about his statement saying, I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

OK. An unfortunate choice of words. But really, the explanation is very simple. There were two versions of the bill. He liked one and didn't like the other. Same as George Bush. George Bush was ready to veto one form of that bill.

And by the way, the form of the bill John Kerry liked was the one that said to get that $87 billion, we're going to take the richest 1 percents tax cut and give it back to the soldiers instead of having the rich people get it. And George Bush just wanted to spend more borrowed money. So once again, John Kerry crazy man.

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher. Lots of topics to cover. Your phone calls will be included.

And Dr. Phil tomorrow night. A one-two punch, Maher and Dr. Phil, to make you feel better. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; When he sees my pet goat drinks water, he also likes to drink fresh milk. Sometimes I...

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Where was Bill Maher on that fateful day, his Emmy nominated series was to return to HBO? He decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity.

Now, not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no personal assistant rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Maher just sat there and continued to read "My Pet Goat."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: A message from Vice President Dick Cheney -- Dick.

Mr. Chairman, delegates, distinguished guest and fellow Americans, I am having a heart attack.

LETTERMAN: Isn't that awful? Isn't that just awful?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Funny season, isn't it, Maher?

OK, when this show is repeated, we're on live now. But it's repeated at midnight Eastern time, 9 Pacific. But at midnight Eastern time, when this -- if you're watching this show being repeated, the expiration of the assault weapons ban treaty has occurred.

MAHER: I didn't know where you were going.

KING: OK, what do you make of this?

MAHER: A horror, not that that ban we had the last 10 years meant anything, it was full of holes. It's really so annoying that, OK, 70 percent of the American public are for the ban. All law enforcement is for it. But Bush, of course, has to cater to what they call that extra chromosome group. You know, if they would just be honest about it, the gun lovers.

KING: Say what?

MAHER: Gun lovers, sporting enthusiasts, if they would just admit, we love guns. OK, it's a vice like gambling or booze or drugs, it's just something we like. Stop this nonsense about how we need assault weapons. For what? What is the reason here? I guess part of it would be, well in the early days of the Republic we needed the militias to have guns, because what if the government got out of hand. Well, you know, the government has F-16's now. I don't think even the assault weapons would help with that. And why do hunters need something that could knock down a cement wall. Why do they need a gun where you just pull the trigger and it sprays 300 bullets in a minute. Shouldn't they at least need to know how to aim if they're sporting enthusiasts. I mean, there's just no reason for this, combat weapons.

KING: Why are they so powerful to go against wishes of 70 percent of the American public?

MAHER: That's how our system works, special interests. Is it in the American people's interests for the Bush administration to cater to oil companies and energy companies and timber companies and pharmaceutical companies?

Are any of those in the interest of the American people, no. But they give Bush the money he needs to buy advertisements that will then fool the people into think Bush is on their side. It really is so perverse how the system works.

KING: Now, we have -- there's another element this year. In fact, we're going to show a clip of it now. When you and Michael Moore, unashamedly, begged Ralph Nader to leave the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Obviously we're not convincing you because of words. So I'm just going to say, because of all your great service and because we do really love you, but we disagree with you on this. Michael and I are going to get down on our knees and beg you not to run. Please. Please.

MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR: Ralph. Please, Ralph.

MAHER: Don't run for president.

MOORE: Ralph. Ralph.

MAHER: Because you are a great American, don't run. Please.

MOORE: Don't this. Don't this. Don't do this, Ralph. Come home Ralph.

MAHER: Come on we're on our knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not only is he running today, he forecast a Bush victory.

MAHER: He did?

KING: That was in the paper I read.

What do you make of Ralph?

MAHER: I love Ralph. He's done a lot of great service for his country. I don't understand.

KING: Ego.

MAHER: If it was anybody else, I would say yes. But how can you have that kind of ego and then never dry-clean your suit. I just don't -- if you were really and egomaniac, wouldn't you have a little more outward vanity than he shows. I mean, he's right about his issue. That's one thing I said to him in that segment. I said, Ralph, you're right. You're right about America being in hock to corporations. But sometimes being right is not the same thing as being correct. It is a fine difference. It is not the correct thing to do to stay in this race, even though you're right about the issues. Also, I'd say something very interesting that he said, I said, would you stay in the race if Kerry was running against David Duke? And he said, no. So obviously, there is a line where he would leave. But that -- apparently George Bush doesn't cross it.

KING: Everyone said Iraq would be the key thing in this race. But it appears not to be, because the parties don't seem that far apart on the issue.

MAHER: That's another problem Mr. Kerry has, he does not differentiate himself enough.

KING: He has a key issue, over 1,000 dead -- Americans dead.

MAHER: Well, I think, you know, what's happened in Iraq is that it has all become very routine. Another day, another car bombing, another beheading, another city we've given up on. So it just becomes something people don't hear anymore. And it's a shame because this is the issue that's going to dominate our country's national life in the next (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Again, that's Kerry's fault?

MAHER: Yes, that is.

KING: Bush totally supports what he's done, continues to support it despite whatever occurs each day, he still continues to believe what he does is right.

MAHER: He has to, he's Bush the resolute. I don't really know what the answer is. I mean, I feel for Kerry in a sense, that he can't really evacuate just pulling out of there, I mean, that would be even worse. It is Bush's mess. In a way, I want to say, you know what, let's let Bush win this election, because he's never had to clean up one mess he ever made in this is life. Let him clean up this mess. Because it's sort of unfair that he leaves another -- another mess, just like he did with the baseball team and oil company and everything else. And somebody else is going to come along and fix it for him. But it's interesting right before the convention, he gave a number of interviews, the president did.

And he indicated he had learned certain things about Iraq and terrorism. He said he learned that terrorism was a tactic. Wow, we've been egging him on for that one for a couple of years. And his statement about Iraq was very telling, he said something like, an enemy that should have been defeated lived on to fight another day. That's what he learned. What do you mean, should have, it's not their fault. It's an administration that should have seen the big picture better. They had no idea about really what was going on in Iraq. They didn't have a clear picture. Saddam Hussein, not a threat. He was in a Caligula phase of his career, a real jerk in winter.

And I just don't think they saw what was going on. They're not thinking three moves ahead. This idea that the war ended quickly, he called it a catastrophic success. As John Edwards said, like most of the American people I have no idea what that means. It's a catastrophe. There is no success part in it. They thought a three week war, that was the real war. Saddam Hussein and the insurgents over there, they knew that the real war starts when the three week war ended. They knew this war that they're fighting now, the guerrilla war was the real war.

George Bush thought the three week war was the movie. That was the trailer. This is the movie. We'll be back with more of Bill Maher, and at the bottom the hour we'll start going to your phone calls don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: New rule, hurricane's names should be scary. It's bad enough we can't name hurricanes after women anymore because it's sexist, now, they're all getting waspy names like, Alex, which is the least effective approach because hurricanes hit the south. And can you imagine how fast the Carolinas would evacuate if they announced Ludacris was head their way?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: My mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic. That is the truth. I was raised Catholic formally, although I must say the Jewish mind out even in the Catholic system. Give you an example. We used to go into confession and I would bring a lawyer in with me. It's true. Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I think you know Mr. Cohen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A very funny Bill Maher in 1982 with Johnny Carson.

MAHER: Why are you bringing that out?

KING: To show how funny at stand-up you were.

MAHER: What do you mean was.

KING: That was when you wore a jacket, you looked nice, you looked cute.

MAHER: Larry, don't dig up things like that.

KING: I don't have anything to do with it. The production staff found it and just that it annoys you makes them feel good.

You know, that's television.

MAHER: It's like an actress' early girly pictures.

KING: You don't think you looked good there?

MAHER: That doesn't matter. I looked like a...

KING: Oh, stop. You aged a little. I know you looked like a child and we know how you hate children.

KING: Bill Clinton's heart problem. He called into this program to discuss. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said he made mistakes. What do you make of that whole story and will it hurt the Democrats that he can't get out and campaign?

MAHER: He'll get out and campaign. I truly believe he'll rise again. One of my big themes in life, in my stand-up, I try to do it on the show, I did it a few weeks ago with high fructose corn syrup is food. I've been saying this for years about food. I've gotten a lot of gaffe for it.

KING: Which is?

MAHER: I said for years that food was probably worse for you than smoking, and certainly is bad. Now the statistics finally back me up.

KING: Food in general.

MAHER: The food that Americans eat. Americans get huge amount of calories, they're malnourished. This is where our illness comes from. And this is Bill Clinton's problem. I mean, people do not realize what is going to kill them. It's the food. I'm telling you. The call is coming from inside the house. It's not going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or monkeypox, West Nile, it is the food. It is not something -- you know, shark attacks, it's the buffalo wings. I wouldn't touch a hot dog unless you put a condom on it. This is what people are not getting about the way we live. That our food is killing us. Food is either poison or medicine. I've seen people on your show talk about this. I saw Naomi Judd so don't look at me like I'm crazy.

KING: No, you're not.

MAHER: We had this massive -- the president signed into law this massive drug entitlement program, Medicare, because it's important to keep our seniors high. And while we were debating this, which is going to cost trillions of dollars, nobody ever stood up and said, why are we so sick? Why do we need trillions of dollars worth of prescription drugs. And do you know what the top four or five prescription drugs are?

They're all anti-bloating medicines, antacids, digestive aids, all things to put out the fire in our stomachs from the poison we call lunch.

KING: But people like it. The problem with fat is it tastes good.

MAHER: But it's never been off the chart like it is now. Really, I'm telling you. And when I mean the chart, I mean it literally. This is what I was talking about with high fructose corn syrup. If you chart the rise, the 3,000 percent in high fructose corn syrup, it goes exactly with the rise in obesity in America. And it's not surprising people have all their coronary blockages at the age of 58.

KING: But he's going to bounce back.

MAHER: Oh, Clinton? Please. Just drive a stake through that guy's heart. He will be around and they need him.

KING: Friday night you have CNN's Christiane Amanpour as a guest, Professor Cornell West, P J O'Rourke, conservative (UNINTELLIGIBLE), very funny guy. You have a good show coming.

MAHER: Wow, I'm going to be there for it.

KING: And who are your remote guests?

MAHER: I think Christiane Amanpour is one of them. And I'm not sure about the other one. I think we'd like to get Kitty Kelley Kelley.

KING: When we come back, we'll take your phone calls for Bill Maher, the host of "Realtime With Bill Maher" Friday nights on HBO. It's a live show and then it's repeated frequently. And we'll be back with your calls right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Put on a shirt. You're a news magazine, not "Blue Boy." This guy's got such a package on him, I had to sign for it.

I haven't had any -- I haven't had anything this gay in my house since Jim Jay Bullock (ph) crashed my Christmas party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTER": In his keynote address, Democratic Senator Zell Miller endorsed President Bush, Democratic Senator endorsing President Bush. I believe Miller is -- he's the most prominent politician to switch sides, well, since Jim McGreevey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back. We're going to take your phone calls for Bill Maher. Before we do though, what did you make of the Zell Miller address?

MAHER: I like anybody who keeps it real. And he did. That was, at least -- I got the feeling that's what was in his heart. It's better than what you get from most politicians.

But, you know, I think he is going through menopause. I saw him give a speech about a year earlier against CBS, and against Les Moonves because they were going to air the Beverly Hillbillies reality show. And he gave this, Mr. Moonves, don't air the Beverly Hillbillies. It's an insult to rural people, like this was the Mccarthy hearings. You know, have you no decency sir, airing the Beverly Hillbillies. So, he's got a screw loose.

KING: El Dorado Hills, California, as we go to calls for Bill Maher, the host of "Realtime with Bill Maher" on HBO. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, there.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Bill.

MAHER: Hey.

CALLER: Bill, I think you're incredibly well-informed. And I'd love to know, No. 1, what is your education level? And from where? And No. 2, what are your primary news sources.

KING: Good question.

MAHER: Yes, they ask me that a lot.

KING: Schooling.

MAHER: Schooling. I did completed high school successfully and then went on to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

KING: Did you graduate Cornell?

MAHER: I did graduate. I graduated a little early, ran out of money.

KING: You mean you left early or graduated early?

MAHER: I graduated early. I still had my apartment for what have been the last semester. But I didn't quite have the money. I was a pot dealer at that point.

KING: Degree in what?

MAHER: Pot dealing. English. I didn't go to college to become something as that's become the vogue, you know. There was a time when people went to college to get an education. And I guess I was a throw back to that era, because I knew I was going to become a comedian, how can you prepare for that?

KING: And your chief news sources?

MAHER: My chief news sources? I try to see absolutely everything.

KING: News shows, Sunday morning?

MAHER: No. I'm not up Sunday morning.

I watch you, I watch -- I switchback back and forth between CNN, MSNBC, see what they've got going. I watch the nightly news.

KING: Do you read a lot of papers?

MAHER: I see the "New York Times," "L.A. Times," "USA Today." That's my daily diet. Magazines and, of course, Hustler. Larry Flynt's editorials are better than most people give him credit for. I don't think enough people see that.

KING: Tempe, Arizona, hello? Tempe, hello.

MAHER: You know, I've been to Tempe.

KING: Tempe, are you there? OK. Well, they told me 5, Tempe. And I punched 5 and now I have Las Cruces, they tell me. Is this Las Cruces?

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi. OK. They told me it was Tempe. Go ahead.

CALLER: I want to ask Bill about the paychecks for the Congress and the Senate. What if they would just cut their pay in half. In fact, I'd like to trade my paycheck for their paycheck and see if they can live on my paycheck. Because if they can't balance a budget on 60,000, 70,000 dollars a year, then they don't need to be balancing the country's budget.

KING: Are they overpaid?

MAHER: You know what? Excuse me, ma'am, I know you mean well. But this is a good example of people not seeing the big picture, people not being able to tell a gnat from the elephant in the room. This is what the Bush administration depends on, you not having any sense of perspective.

The amount of money going out the window because Congressman are perhaps overpaid or underpaid, who cares? It is pennies compared to hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars.

Let me give you an example of waste, we're talking about the Clinton thing about the food. Robert Sammelson (ph) wrote a great column in "Newsweek" a couple of years ago, where he was talking about this exact bill I just brought up, the Medicare entitlement bill.

A question was asked two years ago to seniors. The question was, in the last six months, how much of a problem was it to get the prescription medicine you needed? 86 percent, no problem what so ever, 9.4 percent, a small problem.

So almost 96 percent of seniors said this is not a problem, and yet George Bush, because he's willing to spend every penny in the treasury to get reelected, pushed through this giant entitlement bill that is only going to get bigger for people who do not need it. This is what you should be upset about, not that a Congressman is making $135,000 instead of $125,000.

KING: But that bill brought great consternation to conservatives.

MAHER: As well it should, because he spends money like a drunken sailor. I don't mean that as an insult to drunken sailors. Michael Jackson in Toys R Us spends less money than this guy.

KING: Nanaimo, British Columbia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hello.

CALLER: It's Nanimo, not Nanamo.

MAHER: Yeah, Larry.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: It's very hard to pronounce.

Anyway, thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: What I would like to know, from either one of you, as a Canadian, we watched both the Democrat and Republican convention. Throughout the Republican convention, the inference that 9/11 was the cause for going to Iraq, when we all know that was not the cause -- could somebody please explain why the media has not picked up on that?

KING: Well, haven't they? Haven't the media...

MAHER: It depends what you consider picking up on it. The media prints everything. It's what -- again, what prominence do you give it? Is it the elephant.

KING: The media. The right wing radio, is the media the "New York Times." The answer to that is both.

MAHER: Absolutely.

KING: So, who is the media?

MAHER: Well, the media is all of it. The media is all of it.

But to get to her question about why isn't this more of an issue? I think this should be more of an issue. Was this as prominent in the media, including those two areas you just mentioned? Was this as prominent the nonsense from the swiftboat guys? I don't think so. I think more people heard about that.

I read something recently, that still somewhat slightly less than half of America thinks that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11. Now, some of that we can lay at the blame of the people themselves, but some of that, it is the media's fault. It is the -- the media's obligation is to make available to people what is important for them to know. The media has to do editing. The media doesn't edit themselves enough.

KING: But the right wing accuses the media of being left wing, whatever that is, the total, 80 percent of the media, is left wing. MAHER: That's ridiculous.

KING: Saying that they are editing.

MAHER: That's ridiculous. The media is -- I don't think the media is really left wing or right wing. I think they're lazy, stupid and bitchy.

KING; And they want a story, right?

MAHER: That's why they treat me so well.

KING: Columbus, Ohio. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Two part question, please. Bill Maher, what happened to the part of your show where callers call in and ask you questions? OK. And another part, why are the American people so blind to this war turning into Vietnam? 26 of our troops committed suicide. What's that about?

KING: Calls. What happened to calls on your show?

MAHER: We tried calls for a very short time at the beginning, and I don't think we were able to get the technology to work.

KING: It ain't hard. It's 2004.

MAHER: I know. Talk to the people at my show. But it really wasn't that. It was the fact that in a finite amount of time, we just wanted to deal with the people I wanted to talk to. You do the call thing well.

KING: Thank you.

You don't think Iraq is becoming Vietnam, do you?

MAHER: No. In Vietnam, George Bush had an exit strategy. I'm joking, of course. But there are certainly some areas that are similar. It is something of a quagmire.

I think it was interesting, when George Bush was on with Tim Russert, I think it was. He said what bothered me about Vietnam was, it was a political war. Politicians were making decisions. You really should let the military take care of it once you go in there.

Well now I notice that military commanders in Iraq, I think there's one named Lieutenant General James Conway, I believe is his name, he was saying recently, when we went into Fallujah, it was not done right. When you send the marines to take a city, you can't vacillate. He used that word about George Bush, the resolute, vacillating. You either take it or you don't.

We talked about this before about the fact that, George Bush said we have to show the Arabs strength, that's the only thing they understand is strength. And I agree with that. But he's not showing them strength. That little idiot Sadr, that Muqtada Sadr, he runs into the mosque, I'm on base, you can't get me now, I'm on base.

We're not showing them strength. And we're also running this thing, according to our election timetable. So, we're not going to take back these no-go zones. Half this country now is not in our control, because we don't want a big fight right before the election.

But at some point, if we want to make this work, we're going to have to take back these cities. And what this general is saying, you just make it harder, you make it more costly if we have to go in again and take them. So, you tell me that George Bush isn't playing politics with American soldier's lives, because he is.

KING: Tempe, Arizona. Hello. Now we got, Tempe. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Bill and Larry, I love you both. And I never miss "Realtime."

Why does bush's record on the economy, job loss, the war and deficit not hurt him. And Bill do you think the polls really reflect likely voters.

KING: Here's the latest poll "Time"/"Newsweek, " Bush 52, Kerry 41. That's "Time" rather. And "Newsweek," Bush 49, Kerry 43.

MAHER: I do think these are accurate.

Why don't people hold these against him?

Because he had his arm around the firemen. What don't you get about that.

KING: This election is 9/11, is this what you're saying? You saying this election is another 9/11.

MAHER: I'm saying this election is photo-ops and confusing people. But yes, that's part of it. You know, the Republicans are so much better at running a campaign. The Republicans get it. Is what you do is take the other guy's best issue and you destroy him on it.

KING: Clinton did that.

MAHER: Clinton did that. But they did it too. What was John Kerry's best issue, Vietnam, war hero. They took that. They took -- Somehow, The other guy, George Bush, whose flashbacks are of blackouts. You know, this guy -- you know, maybe it doesn't matter what he was doing during Vietnam, OK, he was in rehab. But somehow they turned black into white. They took Kerry's best issue and made it a liability. The -- to put it the other way, what was George Bush's best issue, 9/11. OK, I tried to hand the Democrats an issue there because...

KING: How do you make 9/11 blackout?

MAHER: In Michael Moore's film he shows the seven minutes where he just sat there when the country was under attack. We talked about this extensively the last time I was here. OK, even after the movie came out, nobody's really talking about it. Then I talked about it on your show. I talked about it on my show for two weeks in a row. And Michael Moore said, you know, you've really elevated this. You've made this an issue. There as editorials I had in papers. John Kerry commented about it. But then, they dropped the ball. This is a huge issue. This could have been their swiftboat stuff.

But I've asked -- the question I asked Republicans if George Bush did the right thing, and of course, they always have to work backwards from whatever he did. Now we've got to figure out why it was the right thing. Sitting there like a bump on the log for seven minutes, that was the right thing. In fact, if he sat there for 20 minutes we would have found bin Laden. But They Couldn't answer that. They can't answer that.

And then when they say George Bush did the right thing, you say to them, so if in other words, if you were president and somebody told you the country was under attack, you would sit there for seven minutes?

This could have been their swiftboat, but, as usual, the Republicans into the ether.

KING: We'll be back with more of Bill Maher, try to get him, every time he comes on -- how did we book. You know, we call it our mandy pandy booking, here we go again. You know, always run the middle course, play it safe. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: New rule, when politicians speak, they have to stop doing this. It looks like they're giving a prostate exam to a midget. We don't know what this means. If John Edwards doesn't stop, he'll give himself carpal tunnel syndrome and waste the next eight years suing his thumbs

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: The president finally explained why he sat in that classroom on 9/11 for seven minutes, after he was told the country was under attack, he said he was quote "Collecting his Thoughts." Boy, what a time to start a new hobby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Omaha, Nebraska, hello.

CALLER: Hi, bill. I have a question. If you were to be able to ask the candidates one question at the debate, what would it be?

MAHER: Why isn't the drug war part of this election? KING: The what.

MAHER: Drug war, a huge, huge issue.

KING: You think it's a false war? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in favor of the war.

MAHER: Why isn't it even introduced as a topic.

KING: But they're both in favor of a war on drugs. They both would like to see drugs eradicated. What are they going to say?

MAHER: That's ridiculous. It a ridiculous position. It's ridiculous that is's not up for debate.

KING: Because both sides agree.

MAHER: They don't agree. They shouldn't agree. We'll it's like how they agree on gay marriage. Do they really agree. That's what I hate about the Democrats, they're weasels. The Democrats -- I understand the Republican position on gays, for example, because it's moronic, but I get it. They read the bible, they think that gay -- homosexuality is an abomination. OK, it's stupid but real to them. But the Democrats, they don't think homosexuality is an abomination. They don't think that gay people any less than anybody else. Than why can they only have civil unions. Why do they have to call whatever goes on under their roof something different than other people can call it.

KING: Tough answer. Memphis, Tennessee. Hello.

CALLER: Did you mean Nashville? That would be me.

KING: Nashville? I was told Memphis. But they're not that far apart. Go ahead.

CALLER: Close enough.

You know, a year ago it occurred to me how patheticly ignorant I was about Islam and the Middle East, so went to the trouble of going to the bookstore, which is a little trouble here. But I did, and I picked up a couple of books. About Halfway into the first one, I realized how impossible this whole mission was going to be. And my question to you, Bill, recently, I think too many people vote. I think the question is how do we get the vote out. Well, I think too many people vote.

I'm inclined to agree with you, because I've been trying to engage in some conversation on this subject for the last year and a half, and can't find anybody who knows anymore than I did before I picked up my first book.

Do we have chance of, actually, intelligently electing the right guy or not?

MAHER: I didn't hear that. KING: Do we have change of intelligently electing the right person?

MAHER: No. No. Come on, Nashville. Lets, not have a pie in the sky stuff like that. But I know -- I know what you're saying. And I commend that gentleman for going to the bookstore. See isn't that nice, that he recognized that we're in a war, and maybe it would help if our citizens got a little savvy about that. Our wartime leader, as he calls himself, never asked Americans to do that.

The Israelis, they are in a war. Are they savvy, oh you bet they are. They have a good picture what's going on with there enemy. We don't. Bush calls the axis of evil, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Because he got one of them right. Because it turns out, that the three countries -- there were three countries that really aided 9/11. And they were Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from and for years bin Laden got his money from Saudi Arabia. Iran, talk about a big story that the media didn't play up. It turned out that, Iran, let those hijackers in and out and passing through that country without ever stamping their passports. Because the Mullahs over there were like, we know you're bad guys who hate America, so you know what, we're not going to ask exactly what you're going to do, but come and go as you please. And of course, the third country was the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Now, what did those three countries that actually did the deed?

What do they all have in common, they're all theocracies. Because this is really all about religion. It's so ironic that George Bush, who's so religious doesn't get it that they hate us for our freedom if we just give them freedom -- religion is more important to them than freedom. It's much more important to them that their sister never walked down the street in a miniskirt than it is all the freedom in the world. Their freedom is in the next life.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: This is nerve-wracking. There's a giant hurricane heading toward Florida again. And it's very serious. Earlier today, Governor Jeb Bush ordered the National Guard to place sandbags around the crooked voting machines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Did you see that speech last night? He came out and he said, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." And George Bush said, "that's great" and sent him to Fallujah today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Again, Maher. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Hi there. I just have a quick comment and then a question. Just some of the Democrats are supposed to be these peace- loving people and all the horrible things that sort of come out of some of the actors and musicians' mouths just makes them a lot more scarier as an observer here than the Republicans. And so just on that note, the 527 is part of the Swift Boat that the president has said that John Kerry's service is being honorable and everything but the 527s have been bashing Bush for months, I just want to know what you think about that, Bill.

KING: He said ban all 527s.

MAHER: Well, yes. He's like the ventriloquist with the dummy. I can't help it. Ladies and gentlemen, I can't help what my dummy says. Come on. You know, the 527s are for George Bush what paramilitary death squads were for South American juntas, you know. Just somebody that does their dirty work. We don't know what the death squads are doing.

KING: Hold on. Kerry has dirty work done for him, too. Moveon.org.

MAHER: Absolutely accepted. Yes, but I don't think they're spreading vicious unfounded lies about George Bush. You don't have to lie about George Bush's record, you just have to tell the truth. I said this on our show. I was for McCain-Feingold. By the way, George Bush who criticizes Kerry all the time for being a flip-flopper completely flip-flopped on McCain-Feingold. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was against it then signed it into law. But I am willing to flip-flop and say, you know what, I was wrong. McCain-Feingold didn't work. There's more dirtier money, it's a dirtier campaign than ever. So obviously we have to do something else. I think we should get rid of all political advertising on television because first of all, we got rid of cigarette smoking commercials on television. We said that's...

KING: ...too much income for the station.

MAHER: And you talk about why doesn't the media cover this election? Because there's no incentive for them to cover the candidates for free. If they cover it for free, then the candidates don't have to buy all that advertising time on that station.

KING: They give them lot of time for free. They carry speeches. Certainly we do. We carry speeches all the time.

MAHER: You're CNN, you're a news organization, and you're on cable. The broadcast networks gave the conventions one hour each night and Kerry had to race through his speech to make sure he hit the finish line.

KING: We only have a minute left. Machias, Maine, hello.

CALLER: I would like to ask Bill who would he like to see run for president and why? KING: If these two were out of it, who would be your candidate? It was Nader once.

MAHER: Yes. But I knew he wasn't going to win.

KING: But who now? Who in America would you like to see president of the United States?

MAHER: You know I've always been a fan of Colin Powell. You know that. I think he's a terrific choice but I don't think that's ever going to happen. We have an editorial coming up that says if Clinton could run again, and he should, the Democrats would run him. And if Schwarzenegger could run, the Republicans would run him. Why don't the two parties just call it a wash, 22nd Amendment out the window, Article Two of the constitution out the window and then you can put those two together. Are you kidding? You could put those debates on "Pay Per View."

KING: Bill Maher. Watch him on "Realtime With Bill Maher" on HBO Friday nights at 11:00. I'll be back in a minute to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night, Dr. Phil is our guest. Saw a great movie today by the way. "Ladder 49." It's going to open soon, with Mr. Phoenix and Mr. Travolta. A terrific film.

Speaking of things terrific, a specific pinch-hit host on "NEWSNIGHT" tonight. Our own Judy Woodruff sitting in for Aaron Brown. She was at the Redskin opener yesterday, saw my wife sing the national anthem. You look great, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: She -- thank you, Larry -- Shawn was phenomenal. We were lucky to hear her and we're glad the Redskins won but we can talk about that later.

KING: Go get them, Judy.

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