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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bill Maher

Aired November 23, 2004 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher, America's most controversial comic. His take on the election, on Dan Rather stepping down from CBS News, and more. And he'll take your calls too.

But first, a primetime exclusive. John Green. He's the fan accused of throwing the drink that led to the basket brawl the whole country's been talking about since last Friday. We'll get his version of what happened next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: If you haven't seen this incident which occurred Friday night, you're living on another planet. Anyway, joining us from Birmingham, Massachusetts is John Green, accused of being the person who threw that cup of water that hit Ron Artest at Friday's Pistons- Pacers game. And with him is Shawn Patrick Smith, the attorney for John Green. They're in Birmingham, Michigan. John, you're a season ticket holder?

JOHN GREEN, FAN ACCUSED OF THROWING DRINK AT RON ARTEST: I go to a lot of the games, Larry. Yes, I do.

KING: And give us your version of what happened that night. It's 45 seconds left in the game. The foul occurs. One player strikes another. Artest goes over to the bench. Where were you? What happened?

GREEN: I was sitting up a few rows from the announcer's table, and -- when the fight broke out, everybody started yelling "fight" and we -- a bunch of us ran down into the aisle and started getting a better view of what was going on. We were a few rows up further than -- there were just some empty seats we ran to when we saw that nobody was sitting in them. The fight broke out when a cup that came from our direction landed on Ron Artest.

Ron Artest -- I think it hit him, it looked like something, a blue cup or something, hit him in the chest. He in turn looked around. It looks like I guess maybe -- from the video, it looked like the guy next to me was smiling or laughing or something, and Ron Artest immediately thought it was him, came right by me. I didn't know what was going on at the time. He kind of scared me. I pushed him aside, and he started attacking the guy next to me.

So the only thing I did was grab him from behind. I was pulling him off of the guy. And he was shouting something at him. I don't know what -- I couldn't quite hear it. And I was shouting at Artest to get off him. You know, it's not a big deal, or something like that. And then he kicked me from behind, like mule-kicked me into the shin. And that's when I reacted.

KING: What did you do?

GREEN: I just started pulling at him. And then I -- I don't even remember the whole thing. You know, the tape pretty much speaks for itself, Larry.

KING: What do you make of the prosecutor who says that you were the fan who threw the cup that led to this thing?

SHAWN PATRICK SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN GREEN: Larry, I'm going to have to field that question.

KING: All right, Shawn, go ahead.

SMITH: The prosecutor has made a lot of statements about this case. I've talked to the police about it. We're not going to comment on the cup and who threw the cup. The video -- it's pretty clear the cup comes from the direction where John is. The problem is not the cup. If you take yourself out of viewing this thing and starting with the cup and really look at it clearly with the way it should be looked at is that these players are out of control and things are happening, then you'll understand where we're coming from.

KING: Yes, but if John says he didn't throw the cup, why can't you answer that he didn't? Because while the players shouldn't go into the stands, a fan shouldn't throw a cup at a player, either.

SMITH: You know, I agree with that. I agree with that on a regular level. But as a lawyer, you know, I need to tell you how I feel. And I'm not going to let John sit here and comment on whether or not he threw the cup or if he knows who threw the cup or anything like that. But I can tell you that after the investigation's done we'll be answering all the charges fully and things will be fleshed out and we'll deal with them.

KING: With what you know of authorities there, Shawn, would you expect your client to be charged with something?

SMITH: I would have expected it two days ago, but I did some research, and I'm -- if they do charge it I think we're going to be prepared to have the case dismissed. This is not an assault and battery, and even if you can prove that John threw the cup it's not an assault and battery. It's a type of thing that's never been charged before. And look, what are you going to do, charge every person that ever threw something at a game with some criminal offense? It will change the -- I mean, it's just not feasible to do that. This is a common occurrence in sports. These are professional athletes that should be under control and know how to deal with it. Running up into the stands is not something that any Piston would ever do or any Chicago Bull or Michael Jordan or anybody, any famous player like that. I just can't see them doing that. KING: John, I want to show you what Ron Artest had to say on NBC's "Today Show" about the brawl and his suspension. It was on this morning. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON ARTEST, SUSPENDED FOR SEASON FOR NBA BRAWL: I wish that situation would have never happened. You know. It wasn't good at all. You know. For anybody. David Stern, he's been pretty good to me throughout the years. And I don't think it was fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you think it was fair, his suspension, John?

GREEN: I'll tell you, Larry, when it comes to fair or not fair, that's up to the commissioner of basketball.

KING: I know. But what do you think?

GREEN: I'm not the one who decides that kind of stuff. You know, I tell you what. I like going to the games when Ron Artest plays. He's a great player. And he makes the games between the Pistons and Indiana. That's the most highly sought after game of the year. I went down to Indiana last year when the Pistons played them. And you know, I went to this one. I love going to the games. What happened was very unfortunate. I don't think -- you know, I saw Ben Wallace shove Ron Artest in the neck, and I didn't see Ron Artest fly off and try to beat the crap out of Ben Wallace. But I do remember when he got hit with a cup that he came up and tried to pummel a bunch of fans. I tried to pull him off, and he went on from there to go on down and beat a few more people up. And you know, Ben would have taken him on right there, it looked like, but Ron didn't want any piece of that. So you know, like Ben Wallace -- go ahead, Larry.

KING: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

GREEN: I said like Ben Wallace says, you know, life's too short to feel sorry for people. He did what he did, and he's got to pay the price. Do I think it's too stiff that Ron Artest got a year suspension? I love sports, and I would like to see Ron Artest out there because the games aren't going to be the same without him there. And it's not fair...

KING: John, what about the reports that...

GREEN: But it's also not fair that he did what he did. He scared a bunch of people. He put a lot of people in harm. A melee, you know, broke out. People were in danger. People were throwing stuff. And it's unfortunate what happened. I think it got way out of hand. I think if everybody could take one night back in their life, I think everybody there would take it back.

KING: John, what about reports of your troubles with the law, that the Michigan Department of Corrections database said that you had a record, including a conviction of carrying a concealed weapon, a conviction for check fraud, the prosecution said you're on probation for a third offense of driving under the influence? If you're ever charged with something, this is not going to look good. How do you respond to that?

GREEN: Larry, the trouble that I was in was when I was a lot younger. I was in trouble for you said the carrying a concealed weapon. I was in the Marine Corps at the time. And I think I got pulled over for a loud muffler. I had a hot rod at the time. And they found, you know, a reason to pull me over. They went through my car because I had some empty beer bottles in the back seat that I was taking back to the store. And they found about an eight-inch throwing knife under my seat. And you know, they went from there, and they charged me with a bunch of stuff I was in, for assault and a fight I was in a long time ago. And you know, I did some time. They were saying in the newspaper that I did eight years in prison. They said five years in prison. I don't know what they're saying. I've never done that kind of time.

KING: What did you do?

GREEN: I was in trouble -- I did a few months in a correctional facility in a halfway house, and then I walked away from it at one time, and they said I broke out of prison. So I mean, I'm not escaped from Alcatraz or anything like that, and I'm not going anywhere. And if I have to face charges, then I'll face charges. And what happens, you know, I'm ready to -- you know, I'm a grown guy. If something happens, then I'll do what I have to do. I mean, a cup hitting somebody, I don't think should be -- constitute somebody going on a rampage and beating people. You know, the guy's a thug. I mean, so he's going to pay the price of what happens to him.

KING: Shawn, will this...

GREEN: We all pay our prices, Larry.

KING: Shawn, will this prior thing, do you think, affect John?

SMITH: You know, the only reason -- Larry, honestly, the only reason that was brought up, because these are such weak charges. I don't see any reason for bringing it up other than it's a cheap shot to villainize him. Because when people look at the video they're saying, you know what, that's not criminal. People in our community are calling the radio stations left and right. My cousin lives in Chicago. He's telling me people in Chicago are behind John. And it's just -- it's unbelievable the support we've seen in the last couple -- over the last couple of days.

So the prosecutor comes out and starts talking, oh, he's got a record a mile long. They're exaggerating the record. They're exaggerating his prison time. They're exaggerating all these things because if you just look at it objectively there's no reason for Artest to jump over fans and go up and pick on the littlest guy up there in the stands as a -- because some cup hit him with some ice in it. It's just ridiculous.

KING: John, are they trying to take your tickets away for the next game?

SMITH: I've heard that they're going to ban him from the stadium. I haven't heard any official news from that. But John told me tonight over -- we were having some dinner. And he said, you know, I think they're trying to ban me for life. This guy's one of the biggest Pistons guys they have. He's wearing a Pistons jersey.

KING: Would you fight that legally, Shawn, if they banned him for life from going to the Palace?

SMITH: He's such a fan, I'll do whatever I can to keep him in the game. I agree with him that some of the sanctions against the players were a little tough. We all love the game. We're the world champions here in Detroit, with the best fans. And this guy right here next to me, John Green, is the best fan. And...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Well, we haven't seen the end of this.

SMITH: No, we haven't seen the end of it.

KING: Thank you both, thank you both very much.

SMITH: Thank you, Larry.

KING: John Green and Shawn Patrick Smith from Birmingham, Michigan.

Bill Maher is next. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Artest has jumped over the scorer's table and is trying to get down to the bench.

Artest is in the stands. Oh, this is awful. Fans are getting involved. Stephen Jackson's in it.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: We must redefine the boundaries of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I've said it to him personally, I'll say it publicly. He hosts one of the three best shows on television, along with "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO. He's Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher." It returns in February. He's on a hiatus now. Included in that hiatus is a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall one week from tomorrow night, December 3rd.

Before we get into all the news and everything that's happening, let's talk about your personal thing. What's with this woman and a lawsuit and you promised marriage?

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: You know, so many of my friends called me up when they heard this.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Well, they said, you know, Bill, of all the people in America to accuse of wanting marriage and babies, I mean, I don't know if they tell you. I mean, you know, what can I say? As my friend Chris said, you're nobody until somebody sues you.

KING: Were you shocked?

MAHER: Yeah. I was. I mean, you know, surprised. Although actually, I wasn't surprised that this had come to this, because she had tried other things over the last few months, you know, other than the fact that, you know, yes, we dated. And I say dated, period. Just dated. Everything else is lies that are too ridiculous to even dignify with comment, other than to say that it is pretty amazing that in America now, you know, just that people think that matters of absolutely nothing but personal -- of a personal nature should and could be resolved in a court of law. I mean, other generations just didn't go there.

KING: Why do you think that is? We are at that -- we are at that stage, if we can call it that?

MAHER: Partly it's the dilapidation of the educational process. They don't teach people what they used to teach people. And I think you saw that partly in our politics. I think, you know, we just had an election where people talked about morals and values. This was supposedly the election that was won by morals and values. But a lot of what the morals and values folks call morals and values I don't think are morals and values. I was taught morals and values were things like fairness, honesty, generosity, tolerance, humility...

KING: Do unto others.

MAHER: Humility. Things like that. Actual things that come up in conduct.

It seems like to me, believing that the Earth is 5,000 years old or it was created in six days or you don't eat meat on Friday or you don't turn on a light on Saturday, things that people -- are very important to people's lives, those are rituals, superstitions, traditions. And to confuse them with morals and values and then blame it on me because I'm not getting the moral value picture seems backwards.

KING: Do you think, therefore, that this kind of instance makes you a victim of this?

MAHER: Well, I've had a good life. I would not call myself a victim. But, again...

KING: But it's tough for anyone to see your personal life in a newspaper.

MAHER: Yes, it's tough for your mother. That's what it is.

KING: Yeah, for the mother, yes.

MAHER: But you know what, it's so ridiculous that nobody believes it. This broke a couple of weeks ago, and I've been on the road a lot since in a lot of different cities. And I thought people are going to ask me about this at the show...

KING: They don't?

MAHER: Not one person. Even the tabloids sort of have treated it like it's kind of crazy.

KING: All right, you'll go to court, though, right? It's going to go end up being judiciously taken care of.

MAHER: Yeah, I guess it has to at some point.

KING: What did you make of the Friday night melee in Detroit?

MAHER: I just wish I was there.

KING: That would have been ripe.

MAHER: No, you know, I understand the commissioner having to deal out a tough punishment. I also understand why the guy did what he did. You know, if someone threw a beer at me, I'd go after him. How's he going to face his friends if he didn't do something about that?

KING: Macho.

MAHER: Well, it's not -- I mean, come on. It's sort of the opposite of macho.

KING: You can have the rule, but it's tough to follow. The rule says you can't go in the stands.

MAHER: Yeah, but if somebody throws a beer on you, I mean, that's...

KING: I'd go in the stands.

MAHER: That's what's so -- I'm sure you would.

KING: I would.

MAHER: Yeah, you're from Brooklyn. It's so cowardly for someone in the stands to think, I can do this and they can't get back at me, because I'm on base, I'm in the stands, I'm a fan. I can do anything I want, and then nothing will happen to me.

Well, I think it's good that these fans were put on notice, you know what, you throw a beer on a guy, these big guys, they're going to come after you. I don't think that's so awful.

KING: Going to miss Dan Rather?

MAHER: Yes and no. I mean, I defended him on my show when he got into trouble with those memos, and I said it was -- you know, sounded kind of crazy, but on the other hand, those old school guys, you know, we need them. On the other hand, he infuriates me constantly, Dan Rather.

KING: Why?

MAHER: Because he's very conformist. He assumes that we all agree with a certain point of view, and that's not what a newsman should do. He did it last night. There was that story about this admittedly horrible videogame that came out of the Kennedy assassination.

Let the viewer decide if it's horrible. Don't introduce the story, as he did, by saying "a new low in bad taste." He's giving an opinion there. Just present the facts. Let the viewer decide. The viewer can see whether it's a new low in bad taste.

He does it all the time. Why are gas prices unreasonably high? I don't agree that they're unreasonably high. I think we should have gas prices like they do in most of the world, $4 or $5 a gallon. I think the world would be a much better place. We would use less gas, have less pollution, be sending less money to the people who wind up financing terrorism...

KING: So you think he is an opinionated newscaster?

MAHER: Very much so. Even that thing he does at the end of the first segment, which is -- but first, and he gives tribute to some fallen heroes. I agree these people who fight for us in Iraq are our heroes. And I agree they deserve tribute. But not on a newscast. I'm watching that for news. That is not news.

KING: Bill Maher is our guest. We'll try to draw him -- I always say this -- in the next segment, we'll try to draw him out and see if we get some opinions. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: I'm crazy Ahmed here at Sadr City Surplus, where we do the looting so you don't have to. We've got 380 metric tons of high explosives (UNINTELLIGIBLE). All priced to move. I've got HMX, RDX, C-4, RPGs, IEDs, detonators, fuses, shoulder-fired, roadside, black screens and Ipods. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And if we don't say death to America, your order is free!

We've declared a fatwah on high prices. Bad credit? Missing a head? We'll work with you.

Come on down. We're at the heart of the Sunni triangle, where the Tigris meets the Euphrates. We're off Exit 9.

Here at Sadr City, we're not just evil, we're insane!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: The election is over, and all I can say is, praise Jesus!

Hi, I'm Bill Maher, and I'm blessed to be your host for the next hour of faith-based humor and Christian conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Before we get into the election and other things and into the phone calls, I'm watching the show one night, and an extraordinary thing happened. You've got Alan Simpson on. He's been on this show many times, good guy, former senator from Wyoming, always speaks his mind. You and he -- you admire him, he admires you. Watch what happened.

MAHER: Yeah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Senator, are you yourself gay? Because I mean, I have not heard -- I have not heard anybody be this sensitive about a gay joke since Harvey Fierstein.

ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, keep telling them. You keep telling them. I think they're offensive.

MAHER: I will keep telling them.

SIMPSON: You keep telling them.

MAHER: All right. It's a good job.

SIMPSON: To me they're offensive. Yeah. So have a go at it, make fun of people. Wonder why you're...

MAHER: All right. Well, I apologize to the two gay people in Wyoming.

SIMPSON: Why don't you make fun of -- oh, come on, pal. That's just bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I don't have to come on this program. I don't have to come on this program when Matthew Sheppard was killed in this state, and the people of this state were offended. So put that one in your pipe!

MAHER: You know what? Excuse me, but I have been a much bigger defender of gay rights than anybody in the state of Wyoming.

SIMPSON: Well, so have I, pal. So have I. MAHER: I don't know why you're going all Zell Miller on me.

SIMPSON: Because you're making fun -- you're making fun of Wyoming and you're making fun as if we only had two gay people now. We have plenty of gay and lesbian people in Wyoming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What started that was a simple line that Bill Maher used, if you didn't see it. When someone mentioned that the gays are very activist, they're an activist group politically, and Bill said yes, they are active. And then he took -- what happened?

MAHER: I don't know. I don't understand. Because, as you say...

KING: It was a simple little throwaway line.

MAHER: I like Alan Simpson. I guess he heard the monologue, that joke you played on the tape when I started the show by saying praise Jesus. I think that's what it was. You know, welcome to an evening of faith-based conversation and Christian humor.

KING: But he's not big in that area, is he? I mean...

MAHER: No. But he was taking umbrage, I think, at me making fun of the red states. And you know, I understand being a sore loser. I don't understand the sore winner. And I'm not saying this mostly about him, but since the election I have heard so many of the Republicans on shows like this, and they're not gracious. They talk about morals and values. How about graciousness in victory as a moral? As a value? Because I've seen very little of that. I've seen a lot of...

KING: You don't think Bush has been pretty gracious at the Clinton library?

MAHER: Bush can afford to be. He's the winner. Of course, he also talks about a mandate and so forth, when 55 million people voted to fire his ass. But -- OK. But I've heard just an awful lot of right-wingers saying to liberals, you know, you get it now, you know? See? You get it? No. We don't get it. It's not that we now are going to crawl away with our tails between our legs and say, oh, yeah, that's right, I see, the world should be run by faith-based thinking.

KING: Why did John Kerry lose?

MAHER: Partly because of the genius architect, as Bush calls him, Karl Rove, and the -- I think, you know, it's been spun both ways, but I really do think the moral value crowd was...

KING: So the faith-based crowd made the difference?

MAHER: I really do think they did, yes. I think those -- gay marriage in the spring when it became a big issue, we talked about it here on this show, that was a little ticking time bomb that went off on November 2nd.

That's very important. That's Karl Rove's genius. It's to take something that is very personal in your life, like my sister's a lesbian, or I don't like abortion, or I really love Jesus, and let you vote on that. That's new in American politics, and obviously it works.

But I also think John Kerry could have won if he had just been more of a brawler. In those debates, he never called Bush out...

KING: Everyone said he won the debates, though.

MAHER: Well, I guess he didn't. Right? Maybe he looked -- he looked presidential. That's what they meant. As opposed to what they were painting him as. But he never said the word "incompetence" about the conduct of the war. He never mentioned Abu Ghraib prison. I mean, how can you conduct yourself in an election against an opponent who has messed up a war this badly and not really call him on that kind of stuff?

I'm not surprised that people did not vote for him. He ran the same kind of campaign that Al Gore did in 2000, which was, you know, let's not offend the swing voters by going after George Bush, poor little George Bush. People will feel bad for him.

KING: How did the Republicans overcome, despite this -- the feelings of the evangelical right, the fact that Dick Cheney had a lesbian daughter?

MAHER: Well, unfortunately, that's the only clear message Kerry got out. Dick Cheney's daughter is gay. That's the one thing people will bring away from this election.

KING: Well, why didn't that hurt on the Republican -- why didn't that hurt the Republican vote?

MAHER: Because I don't think people...

KING: Either they care about it or they don't.

MAHER: Yeah, but how can you blame Dick Cheney for having a gay daughter? First of all, people don't blame the person who's the vice president. The bottom of the ticket really never matters. John Edwards, they said, was going to make a big difference. Made no difference at all. Didn't win his home state.

KING: So it don't matter?

MAHER: It don't matter. And also, Dick Cheney came aboard on the side of the president and his policy, which was a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. So obviously, Dick Cheney was saying to his...

KING: I think he opposed to.

MAHER: No, he said everyone deserves to be free, in a very general sense.

KING: And it's a state business, he said previously, right? It's up to the states.

MAHER: Right. Which is ridiculous also. I mean, either people are free or they're not. I mean, what is this nonsense about they're free in some states but not free in other states?

KING: We'll be back with more of Bill Maher. Your phone calls included.

Donald Trump tomorrow night.

MAHER: Oh.

KING: Oh. Humbleness prevails.

MAHER: Yeah.

KING: Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: That's funny, there was already speculation that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee for the Democrats in 2008.

Well, you have to admire the dedication of the Democratic Party. They just lost an election, and they're already hard at work planning to lose the next one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Maybe you can help me out with something. I've been thinking about this all day. Do you think it's too soon to hit on Mrs. Arafat?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Funny stuff happens at night, man. These guys are doing it, man, and they do it on a regular basis. And Bill Maher's at the top of the heap. He's just really super. Host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," on hiatus now, back in February.

We'll go to calls in a minute.

But you said something surprising to me. During the break I said -- told Bill how I went to Little Rock for the opening of the Clinton Library and I've been to all the presidential libraries and they're very well done usually, very tasteful, and interviewed Hillary and the like. And you said you don't like libraries.

MAHER: No. I mean, I'm a big fan of Bill Clinton, as you know. And by the way, if they let Schwarzenegger run, they have to let Clinton run. That is only fair. You know, if you let the one guy, you've got to let the other guy. You've got to stop disqualifying the best warriors we have in each tribe.

KING: That's right, you said we'd put it on pay per view.

MAHER: That's right, if they had a debate between the to of them.

KING: But what about libraries?

MAHER: But Libraries, you know, I got a million come-ons in the mail to contribute to the library, and I threw them all in the trash. Why do we need to spend $165 million on a presidential library? That is not charity, it's a monument to ego. It is a personality cult. Pavilions built about golf clubs and White house Pets and, you know, the Monica Lewinsky thing put in a very tasteful -- I love the right wing says he played down the impeachment. Yes, and the Nixon Library doesn't have a hall of anti-semitic remarks, either. The Carter Library doesn't have a malaise garden.

KING: You don't like all libraries. All presidential...

MAHER: Well, presidential libraries. You can find that material elsewhere. So much of charity walks along the path of we're doing something good for our fellow man. Giving to your alma mater to me should not be a write-off. I know where a lot of that money that goes to colleges goes. It goes to the entertainment budget, because I get paid a lot of money by colleges and it comes out of the entertainment budget. If you want to give to your college, that's your business. If you want to give to a presidential library. But don't parade it around as something that's noble or something that's educational.

KING: And therefore, you probably wouldn't want deductions for giving to your church.

MAHER: Well, that's a business. That is straight out of business and it should be taxed, not just a deduction.

KING: Oshawa, Ontario for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Bill, I think you're absolutely great. I just think that you lost one word there in reference to Mr. Kerry, and that was the word "coward" in regards to Cheney and Bush. But I wanted to just say they've played a milk-toast campaign for one simple reason. They wanted to leave room after the disastrous four years of -- that they've had that nobody could improve upon it, they wanted to improve on the fact that...

KING: What is your question, sir?

Sir, what is your question?

(CROSSTALK)

CALLER: ... for Obama and Hillary. KING: OK, I think I -- I don't think I understand that question.

MAHER: There was no question. But that's OK. That's OK, we love Canada.

KING: We love Canada.

St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Hello.

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. You're great.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: And I'd like to know what your opinion is as far as was the 2004 election hacked? I think it was.

MAHER: I don't know if it was hacked. You know. Computer hacked. But I will say this -- democracy and the way we run it in this country, we have got to stop congratulating ourselves that we have this open -- this truly open society. I'm sure there are warlords in the Sudan who are saying to themselves, they don't have a paper trail over there? I'm sure there are people in Uzbekistan who are saying, do you know what, 99 percent of their Congressional representatives gets re-elected. An astounding number of them ran unopposed. They gerrymander districts out of existence. We have an electoral college...

KING: Only six incumbents, and four were in Texas where they gerrymandered...

MAHER: Exactly. They said the politburo (ph), somebody said, would be proud of these statistics. We have an electoral college, which is really out of date at this point. Four times now, and how old our country, 230 something years old?

Four times now the guy who wan the popular vote didn't win the election. OK, that's not a fluke. That's happening every 50 years or so. We really need to get our election stuff straight. Because otherwise I don't see how we can pretend to be teaching the world a lesson in democracy. And as far as the voting machines go that this question was about, I think we should get the people who make the slot machines in Las Vegas to make the voting machines so that we could count votes as well as we count nickels. Because you know, Larry, they never miss the nickel count.

KING: No, they do that right.

MAHER: In voting they always say, well, there's a recount, it comes out different every time, we can't tell you exactly how many votes. Nobody ever does that with money. They don't say in Las Vegas it's about $10,000, if it's a little more or less we don't care. Yes, when it comes to money they know how to count it. KING: Santa Barbara, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Yes. Hi. Bill.

MAHER: Yes.

CALLER: Yes, there was no paper trail, of course, in Ohio. But I want to ask you, do you think the elections will come off in Iraq in January, and do you think we'll hit Iran next?

KING: Two good questions.

MAHER: I don't think we'll hit Iran next because we don't have any troops left. It's not an option. We're not going to hit Korea, either. We don't have enough troops to attack Koreatown. So I don't think that's viable. As far as elections, you know, yes, I think they'll have them. What will they prove? Two months ago the Iraq National Council had elections, and four people, four vice chairs were elected. One guy was what Rumsfeld called a tool of Iran. He was a Shiite religious nut. Another guy was from the communist party. Another guy was from one of the Ba'athist groups that is sympathetic to the insurgents. So three out of the four people who were elected wanted to cut our heads off. One of them -- we got one out of four. You know, it's funny, Iraq. Things were going to get better first when we got Uday and Qusay. They didn't. Then they were going to get better, we got Saddam. They didn't. Then they were going to get better when we handed over sovereignty. They didn't.

Why do I think that elections are not going to make that big of a difference?

You know, this thing is not going to get better. And I didn't say that all along. You know, I was not for the war, but when we first went in I said, you know what, it was Bush's war, it's America's peace we've got to try to make it work it's a noble idea to try to implant democracy. But I had a lot of skepticism. And now that skepticism has been borne out. Excuse me. But you are never going to outlast insurgents in their own country.

KING: So in other words, if this -- if we could go back in time, they wouldn't start this?

MAHER: They shouldn't. And now that we have started, it we've got to get out quickly. It's not going to get any better. And these guys will fight us for two years, five years, 10 years, 100 years. If we were still in Vietnam today, they would still be fighting us. Insurgents in their own country are not going to give up.

KING: Chantilly, Virginia for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Bill.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I like both of you guys so much. I think that you are entertaining the masses.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: And my question for Bill, actually, two short ones, is while you're on your hiatus is you're going to be anywhere near the D.C. Metro area that I could come see you at a show.

KING: Washington.

CALLER: Because you make me laugh a lot. And the other question was it seems to me, and I think it seems to you that the two political parties really have broken down, so to speak, so that in my opinion there needs to be a third political party that speaks more to, let's say, conservative people who aren't the Jerry Falwells of the world and...

KING: Do you think we need a third party?

MAHER: That is the Democratic Party. That's the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party isn't a liberal party anymore. It's a party of, you know, I'll try to be a little bit Republican, which the Democrats have to learn, you cannot do that. It's not going to work. You can't be a little Republican. It's like being a little pregnant. It's like positioning yourself as a moderate fanatic. OK?

If people are more scared about boys kissing than they are about Osama bin Laden -- and that is the way this election came down -- then you've got to let them go and try to make more Democrats. I do not understand so many people in this country who are out there thinking, OK, you know what, my air is poisoned and my job is gone and my son is scattered all over a desert I can't even find on a map, but all those problems will take care of itself once we set some stern constitutional limits on Rosie O'Donnell's sex life. That's what's important to me. You've got to let those people go. Let them go.

KING: Are you going to work Washington at all?

MAHER: I did earlier this year. So I won't be back this year.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Bill Maher and more of your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Now, I know I've been kind of tough on the president over the years, but you know, I'm a cynic. I'm the lovable curmudgeon. That's the character I play. It's a character. And due to a back injury, I was on pain pills. Half the time, I had no idea what I was saying. Hey. Hey. Hey, what happened? Who turned the lights out? People! Hey! I think it's time for the healing. The healing. You know? And tax reform. We need more cuts. Tax cuts. I've always said. And faith-based initiatives. Tort reform is good. And -- hey, people! I'll work for Fox News. I'll do a sitcom. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Get my agent!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW": In fact, Schwarzenegger's political ambition has been with him since his bodybuilding days.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: One day I stood there on the stage, and I said, why am I standing here with my little posing trunks, oiled up, trying to be the most muscular man? Why?

STEWART: It's the very same question that drove me into comedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Calgary, Alberta, Canada for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'm a transplanted American. And I have in the past been a loyal Republican until now. And do you believe that the current George Bush has pushed the Republican Party into what it is today?

KING: Is he the -- in your opinion, the villain of the piece?

MAHER: No, but he came along at a good time. I mean, I truly believe, and I've said this before, that the Christian right is a parasite that took over the Republican Party as the host. And I think George Bush was just the culmination of that.

But you saw this back in the '80s. Pat Robertson ran for president. Reagan courted that group. Ralph Reed. The Republican Party used to be quite the opposite. The Barry Goldwater, early Reagan party was about getting government out of people's lives. They respected the wall between church and state.

That slowly broke down. And this is what we have today. And you know, it's not a coincidence that people of faith like President Bush. Because Bush does work in mysterious ways. He does. I mean, it really helps not to tie your opinions to facts or logic when you're voting for this man.

KING: Ormond Beach, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Bill, it could be a blessing in disguise that Kerry didn't win. He would have inherited the huge mess that Bush has made of our country. So isn't it better for Democrats to now sit back and watch Bush and the Republicans self-destruct on their own policies?

KING: You want the country to do badly, ma'am?

MAHER: Yeah. That's not -- no.

KING: Don't you want them to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) win in Iraq and...

MAHER: We kind of had that idea in 2000 when a lot of us voted for Ralph Nader, and we said, well, let them see how bad he is. And then -- no, no, no, because you know, just on the environment alone, just on that one issue, that stuff -- I guess people think if I don't talk about it, it'll go away. Yeah, it will go away. The oceans will go away. The land will go away. The air will go away. That stuff is not coming back. That stuff is getting really dangerous. Even Republicans like John McCain are all over that issue.

And you know, Bush comes out with things like we're going to reduce carbon dioxide by two-thirds by the year 2018. Can you imagine if he said that about al Qaeda? By 2018, we're going to reduce them by two-thirds. I mean, this is stuff that is killing people now. I know there are no flag-draped coffins that come back from people who die of asthma and mercury and all the pollutants in the air and the water and the food. But that is really what more people are dying from than terrorism.

KING: Boston. Boston for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill and Larry. Why does God influence the election so much when we're supposed to separate church and state? And if politics belong in church, why are they not taxed?

MAHER: You're preaching to the converted over here, my friend. I mean, there are so many ways that religion is dangerous. In Iraq, for example, one of the great fallacies of Iraq, I think, is when Bush says, you know, freedom can work anywhere, and nobody dares to oppose that. Who would stand up and say no, I don't think so?

Well, excuse me, but maybe it can't. Maybe when you keep half the population in those beekeeper suits, you know, Bush bragged about the voting in Afghanistan, and I said, the great thing is that the women were already wearing the voting booth.

You know, maybe it can't work. Maybe it's not going to work because freedom is not important -- as important to them as religion. And these two things are diametrically opposed. They bump heads in a way that you very often can't have both of them at the same time.

KING: We'll be back with more moments with Bill Maher, right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now here's Sunny Day with tonight's Acuterror forecast.

MAHER: Tom Ridge says there's an al Qaeda cell coming down from Canada into here, the Great Lakes region. So folks in the Detroit and Saginaw, as far away as Kalamazoo, you might want to put on that extra layer of kevlar.

OK, here's your five-day. Yellow, bluish yellow, yellow again, yellow gradually becoming orange, and orange back into yellow. And we've got an orangeish-red weekend on tap, so be sure to have plenty of bottled water and canned goods on hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the LATE SHOW. You folks are here on a great night, and I'll tell you why. Tonight here in the Ed Sullivan Theater, the entire balcony is filled with jurors kicked off the Scott Peterson trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Topeca, Kansas. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Thanks for having Bill on. We adore him.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Bill, you need to be on TV every day. We need you.

MAHER: Oh, thank you.

CALLER: When are you coming to Kansas? And do you have a Web site that we can e-mail you on?

MAHER: I'm sure I do.

KING: Do you have a Web site?

MAHER: Oh, I absolutely.

KING: What is it?

MAHER: It's -- it's web dot-dot-bill-com-maher...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you know yours? Www...

MAHER: I think it's just billmaher.com.

KING: Billmaher.com.

MAHER: Or go to HBO or -- you know, it's either HBO or Bill Maher.

KING: Are you coming to Kansas, Dorothy?

MAHER: You know, I actually get more love when I'm in the red states. I was in Texas this past weekend, had a great time. Because...

KING: They love you in the red states.

MAHER: Well, the people who come to my show do. Because I think they're very happy to have someone in their state who is saying things that they never hear in their state. They probably don't hear around the Pigly-Wiggly.

KING: Your Web site is billmaher.com.

MAHER: See?

KING: OK. Now, they told me 3 Studio City, but 3 is not holding. So I'll...

MAHER: See, I don't know the Web, and you don't know the...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Come on, Larry, we're dinosaurs.

KING: Maybe it's 2. Hello. Hello? Are you there?

CALLER: Yes. Hello?

MAHER: Hey. I heard somebody.

KING: OK, I heard someone too, but we'll drop that. Huntington somewhere. Hello. Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Go ahead. Speak.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Go ahead. Go ahead, Huntington.

CALLER: Hi. Sorry, Larry. You didn't say Huntington. I didn't know you were talking to me.

KING: I said Huntington twice. Go ahead.

CALLER: Bill, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really like you and I agree with most of what you're saying. You make me laugh. I have a quick question for you. Do you think the election results reflect a swing to the right in cultural terms for the country as a whole, and can the Democrats win under those conditions?

KING: Have we culturally changed?

MAHER: No. I think we're as big hypocrites as we ever were. I mean, look at the uproar again about this towel dropping on "Monday Night Football." Right? First we had Janet Jackson. The country was permanently traumatized, because they saw a black nipple for one second. Now the country is -- you know, the same week when we made the ultimate recruiting tape in Iraq, I mean that tape of the Marine shooting an unarmed Muslim and cursing in a mosque. That is the Great Satan trifecta. I'm telling you, every Muslim man -- see, this is what bin Laden wants more than anything else. We are so playing into it. He's like, please stay in Iraq, please make more Abu Ghraibs, please make more tapes like that. And trust me, there's going to be a tape where they're going to do something to a woman, and then every Muslim man in the world is going to say to himself, I've got to kill me an American yesterday.

So if you think Bush made you safer, he didn't.

Now, anyway, the same week that that went on, Americans were outraged that Nicole Sheridan's towel fell down. Oh, gosh. And Petula Clark kissed a Negro. Did you hear, Larry? It was on the cheek, but still.

You know, people say to me, you say this, you're anti-American. I love America, but I am embarrassed by the yahoos who run the country now. I don't dislike America. I love my country. I want it back from these morons.

Good to see you.

KING: You'll be back soon. Bill Maher. He'll be at Carnegie Hall in December, returns to HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" come February.

Before we go tonight, a final word about Dan Rather announcing today that he'll leave his "CBS Evening News" anchor chair next march. Rather took over that chair from Walter Cronkite, one of the all-time greats, and Dan became a giant in his own right. During a 24-year career, he's been one of our favorite guests. In one of many appearances on this program, he discussed once the idea of no longer anchoring "The CBS Evening News."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How long do you intend to keep on keeping on as anchor?

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: Well, two. One, as long as my health holds, which is one of those things you never can predict. As long as I feel good about doing it. As long as they want me to do it. You know, I've said many times, and I've said it because it's true, that I can be dumb as a fence post about any number of things, but I'm at least smart enough to know how lucky and blessed I am to be able to make a living at what I always dreamed of wanting to do.

Now, I didn't dream of wanting to be an anchor. I wanted to be a journalist. And every day's a treasure.

KING: We'll repeat a recent interview with Dan Rather on Saturday night.

We thank Bill Maher. And I'll come back in a couple of minutes and tell you what's coming up tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Donald Trump will be our special guest on Thanksgiving Eve tomorrow night. "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown is next. Aaron, I know you're going to talk about him tonight, your thoughts on the retirement of Dan Rather?

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": You know what, I -- this is the truth, Larry -- I have been blessed in this period of my life to know the two most gracious people in my business, ever. You're one and Dan is the other. Dan is one of those guys who when he got nothing out of it, would pick up the phone and call and just say, how are you doing? Are you holding up OK? You know, in a business that can be a little strange sometimes, Dan is a champ. And whatever -- and however this all plays out, I hope he's happy, and I hope people look at all he's done for all those years, 41 years, and consider it.

KING: Well said. Take it away, my friend.

BROWN: Thanks, buddy.

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