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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Bill Maher on the Presidential Election

Aired October 16, 2008 - 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 on fallout from the final debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What you want to do to "Joe the Plumber".

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: The conversation I had with "Joe the Plumber".

MCCAIN: I want Joe, you, to do the job.

OBAMA: I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there.

MCCAIN: It's completely out of control.

OBAMA: The plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: I'm talking to America. You know what I'm talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And they'll do it again in a couple of minutes -- without a moderator. McCain and Obama face-to-face, trying to be politically funny on purpose.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Of course, we can take a hatchet and a scalpel.

OBAMA: It is a hatchet and we do need a scalpel.

MCCAIN: Some people say that's a hatchet. That's a hatchet and then I would get out a scalpel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a roast.

Is somebody going to get burned?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Senator McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bill Maher is watching it with us.

MAHER: This stuff is scary, Larry.

KING: Hear what he thinks right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have an unusual show tonight. Bill Maher is here as our guest in the studios. We've got a lot to talk about.

And any minute now, we're going to go live to New York City, where we'll hear Barack Obama and John McCain speak at an event for charity. It's the Al Smith Dinner. It supports the Catholic Diocese of New York. I've been to that dinner. And everyone is expected to be funny. They'll be in the same room together. If they take any jabs, they may be poking fun at themselves. We'll see who's got the best material and Bill might be the judge to give us immediate reaction.

As soon as the first one gets up to speak -- I believe it will be Senator McCain -- we'll go right to that dinner -- a very famous dinner every year in New York saluting the former governor of New York. He's quite a story.

MAHER: You mean I could be like the Simon for this dinner?

KING: That's right.

MAHER: I could judge?

KING: Judge.

MAHER: I could...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: And you'll be fair.

MAHER: I can tell them how awful they are?

Oh, great.

KING: Let's get a quick shot from the debate. The incumbent, highly unpopular president was invoked by name in one of the zingiest exchanges.

Let's watch and get your thoughts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.

OBAMA: But the fact of the matter is, is that if I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people -- on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities -- you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK, Bill, is George Bush -- by the way, Bill Maher hosts "Real Time with Bill Maher" Friday nights on HBO, a terrific show. His film "Religilous" is now out in theaters everywhere.

Did -- is George Bush still relevant?

MAHER: Not to the country. And, you know, I think we saw in this economic crisis -- you have to give it to those European leaders, who put this plan together that finally might have a chance of working, letting him get up there when they were at the White House the other day and, you know, pretending this guy is still relevant. That shows the respect they have still for America, for the office, certainly not for the man.

This is probably something McCain should have said months ago, I'm not George Bush. But come on, you can't unhitch your wagon to the party that, you know, as Obama pointed out, he's been voting with and supporting. And, of course, during the campaign, he threw his lot ever more in with the Republican base or else he couldn't have gotten the nomination.

KING: What was your overview of the debate?

MAHER: Well, I think Obama always wins when he does what he did there -- calm, cool, boring, you know?

KING: He bores you to death.

MAHER: He's got to be -- you know, when he plays the part of the most boring black man you've ever seen in America, he wins. And it's funny because, you know, all the liberals say, you know, why don't you go after McCain more, why don't you fight him and get him and how can you take that?

He's smarter than all of us. He knows what he has to do is just what he did there -- don't take the bait. You know, he -- I keep calling him the Jackie Robinson of American politics. Now, you, Larry, as the ultimate Brooklyn Dodger fan, know what I'm talking about.

KING: I knew Jackie.

MAHER: You knew Jackie?

Oh, you did? You knew him personally?

KING: I interviewed him a couple of times. I saw his first game.

MAHER: Well, as you well know, he had to be perfect.

KING: He did.

MAHER: As the first black guy in baseball, he could not react.

KING: He couldn't get mad.

MAHER: He couldn't get mad. If he wasn't perfect, they would have said no, black people don't belong in baseball.

And it's the same with Obama. He cannot make one mistake and he never does. Imagine if he showed up somewhere five minutes late or played into any stereotype that racists think about black people?

They would say oh, well, we can't have a president who's going to be on colored people's time. Come on.

KING: All right. What do you make of this whole "Joe the Plumber?"

An Ohio plumber had an off-the-cuff chat with Obama about tax policies. "Joe the Plumber" got mentioned -- in fact, we have -- this will give us a kick out of this -- we got a blog from Michelle, who blogs: "Bill, isn't it funny that "Joe the Plumber" has already done more interviews than Sarah Palin?"

MAHER: I did that joke today.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: We do our -- the bloggers are beating me to my monologue. Oh, that's not a good sign. We do a rehearsal on Thursday for our show tomorrow. I just did that joke.

KING: (INAUDIBLE).

MAHER: I think it worked better for her.

I think it's great that McCain has chosen this guy to be the exemplar of middle America, because, to me, "Joe the Plumber" proves exactly what I've been saying -- and many people have been saying for so long about the Republican Party in the modern era -- they take advantage. They prey on people like "Joe the Plumber," who don't really understand the issues. He finally admitted, I think, today that, yes, Obama's plan -- tax plan would actually benefit him more.

But you see "Joe the Plumber," who, by the way, isn't really a plumber...

KING: He's not a plumber?

MAHER: He's kind of Joe the liar. Well, he doesn't have a plumbing license. You know...

KING: So how does he plumb?

MAHER: Exactly. And he's -- see, he's like so many -- this is what the Republicans do. They prey on people who have a dream -- and we're all for dreams. I'm not against dreams. The American dream, terrific. But sometimes it's just a fantasy.

And Joe thinks, apparently, he's going to take over his boss' business and make more than $250,000 a year. So really what we're talking about is someone who would benefit from the plan that Obama has on the table, but doesn't want to vote for Obama, for whatever reason. He might think he may be an Arab or a communist or, you know, maybe he's black. "Joe the Plumber" did compare him to Sammy Davis, Jr. tap dancing today.

KING: He did?

MAHER: Yes. He said he tap danced on the answer to taxes like Sammy Davis, Jr. -- you're kind of tipping your Mitt there, "Joe the Plumber".

But, you know, Obama is for people who live in reality, who actually need money and a tax break now. He's living in the Republican fantasy world, where he's going to become rich and he's going to have over $250,000 and then he might have to pay some more taxes, Larry. And we can't have that in America, because we only two have two wars going, the economy is melting, we're $11 trillion in debt.

You know, at some point, somebody is going to have to pay the taxes. Neither one of the candidates was very forthcoming about that last night.

KING: You end the -- you -- did you call Sarah Palin a category five moron?

MAHER: I believe I did. I also called her a stewardess and I apologized -- to stewardesses.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Crew laugh. I love a crew laugh.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Well, Christopher Buckley this week announced his support for Barack Obama...

MAHER: Right.

KING: ...and called her nomination, I think he -- ridiculous. That may not be the term. But in that kind of (INAUDIBLE).

MAHER: He's not the only conservative to have done that because you see there's a sort of false argument going on with Sarah Palin, which is that she's not experienced. She's certainly not that. But they want that argument because Obama doesn't have a wealth of experience at the national level, either. But he was a college professor and he knows constitutional law. He's a very bright guy who's done a lot of things in this realm.

But it's not that. It's that she doesn't know anything, Larry. You have to know things to be in government. We used to know this. We used to assume this. People used to take civics as a course where they learned about how government works.

This is what was great about the Clintons. You know, they were boring policy wonks, but they knew how government worked and they believed that government could work.

The people who have taken over since don't believe government works and then they get into office and prove that it doesn't work from the way they run it.

KING: Why do you think McCain chose her?

MAHER: Because he needed to shore up the base which...

KING: And there aren't other shore-ups that might have had more experience?

MAHER: No, not the wing nuts. I think you might...

KING: The wing nuts?

MAHER: The wing nuts. The right-wing nuts.

KING: Oh, the wing nuts.

MAHER: We call them the wing nuts.

KING: OK.

MAHER: And they live in an echo chamber that McCain has bought into. You heard him last night talk about William Ayers, ACORN, you know, all this stuff that the American public, the Independent voter is going, huh?

ACORN, what's that?

He mentioned FARC, you know, in Columbia?

I think they thought he said fart. I don't -- they don't know what he's talking about. To the wing nuts, this all makes sense. Oh, yes, ACORN. They're the ones who caused this economic meltdown and voter fraud, which is a completely bogus issue.

KING: So she's the appeal to that group, is that what...

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: Is that group going to elect him? MAHER: No, because I don't think there's enough of them anymore and because Obama has excited enough rational people who are finally getting out to vote -- young people. If all the people that Obama has excited to get out to the polls had done it, we wouldn't have had George Bush to begin with.

KING: If you just joined us, we're waiting for Senator McCain and then Senator Obama to speak at the Alfred Smith Dinner. They're both the keynoters. I don't know if they want me to go to that dinner now or take a break for a commercial or -- OK, so we won't break for a commercial.

And you're seeing Cardinal Egan there. He's a good friend.

MAHER: It's a good thing I didn't leave there.

KING: Cardinal Egan is the cardinal of New York. I spent a lot of moments with him and he served well helping the foundation that I'm involved with. And, of course, he's the chairperson of this dinner.

It's held annually. It's a celebrated event, emphasis on political. And every -- every president has been since 19 -- since Al Smith died, every president has been to this dinner. So we'll continue...

MAHER: And the Catholic Church, by the way, must be thrilled that as we're cutting to their dinner, the guest on your show is me...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: ...because we know how much the Catholic Church loves me.

KING: I'm sure they'll close that dinner tonight with a showing of "Religilous".

(LAUGHTER)

KING: It will be a big hit.

Do you believe the polls?

Do you believe that he's this far ahead -- although, one Gallup poll today had it closer -- that Obama is this far ahead?

MAHER: Yes.

KING: Double digit ahead?

MAHER: Yes. But we should not become overconfident. I remember people who were talking about the landslide John Kerry was about to enjoy and that didn't come out.

Look, I think what's sad is that apparently in this country, the only way we can ever elect a Democrat is if there's an absolute and utter calamity that happens. And then people kind of get it through their heads, oh, you know what, maybe this time we don't elect a guy we want to have a beer with. Maybe we have to get serious. We might have to even, oh, heaven forbid, vote for the black guy.

But they're going to do it this time, because they understand, even the racists understand, yes, he's smarter.

You know, there's something called the reverse Bradley Effect.

Do you know what that is?

KING: That's people who vote for the black?

MAHER: Right. The Bradley Effect is people who tell the pollster oh, sure, I'll vote for the black guy. But then they get in the booth and they ah, no, nobody's watching, I'll vote for the white guy. The reverse Bradley Effect is the racists who get together with each other down by the moose lodge -- and, of course, they couldn't admit they're voting for Barack Obama, but they get in the voting booth and they go eww, you know what, my kid's teeth are falling out and it did sound like he had the better health care plan. I hope that curtain is closed all the way, because I'm going to vote for Barack Obama.

KING: You believe any -- I know you're kidding...

MAHER: I think there's...

KING: ...but do you believe (INAUDIBLE)?

MAHER: Well, there is -- I'm not making this up. The reverse Bradley Effect, they believe, is a phenomenon. I mean we'll never know, because that curtain is closed all the way. But I believe that's true. I believe there are people like that. They're so desperate that they actually have to vote for the smartest person for president.

What a level we've reached in this country, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Do you think Hillary is going to go all out in this last three weeks, and Bill?

MAHER: Bill, you know...

KING: What about Bill?

MAHER: Oh, come on. He has not been helpful with this. I mean he had a quote recently, something like you can't expect people -- I'm not getting this word for word, but the gist of it was, you know, you can't -- you can't ask people to vote rationally when they get into the voting booth.

You can't?

Really?

KING: Well, it was said in regard to what?

MAHER: Well, I'm not sure what the context was, but he's... KING: All right. Senator McCain is getting up to speak.

We'll cut there.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: This is the Al Smith Dinner, the address by Senator McCain, and then Senator Obama.

Here's Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Thank you.

Thank you very much, Your Excellency and Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Senators Schumer and Clinton, Senator Obama, Al and Nan Smith, thank you all for the warm welcome.

It's a privilege to be with all of you for the 63rd anniversary dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation.

And this is a very distinguished and influential audience and as good a place as any to make a major announcement.

Events are moving fast in my campaign. And, yes, it's true that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named "Joe the Plumber".

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Already -- and already, my friends, my opponents have been subjecting Joe to their vicious attack machines. His veracity has been questioned by Barack Obama's running mate Joe the six term senator.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: He claims that this honest, hardworking small businessman could not possibly have enough income to face a tax increase under the Obama plan. What they don't know -- what they don't know is "Joe the Plumber" recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as "The One." Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: And he -- my friends, he doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me -- George Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: It's been that kind of contest. And I come here tonight to the Al Smith Dinner knowing that I'm the underdog in these final weeks. But if you know where to look, there are signs of hope. There are signs of hope even in the most unexpected places -- even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can't -- I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Where's Bill, by the way?

Can't he take one night off from his tireless quest to make the man who defeated his wife the next president?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: A man who's a relentless advocate for the Obama campaign and he has this subtle approach to making the case. When a reporter asked him if Senator Obama was qualified to be president, Bill Clinton pointed out, sure, he's over 35 years of age and a U.S. citizen.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: He was pandering to the strict constructionist crowd.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: He's also been hammering away at me with epitaphs like American hero and great man. And with all the cameras running, he warmly embraced me at that Global Initiative of his. My friends, this is nothing but a brazen attempt to suppress turnout among anti-Clinton conservatives.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Finally, when Larry King asked President Clinton a couple weeks ago what was the delay and why wasn't he out there on the trail for Barack, Bill said his hands were tied until the end of the Jewish high holidays.

Now, you've got to admire that ecumenical spirit. I just know Bill would like to be out there now, stumping for Barack until the last hour of the last day. Unfortunately, he is constrained by his respect for any voters who might be observing the Zoroastrian new year.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: And some advocates for Senator Obama are less restrained in their enthusiasm, even in the media. All right, he usually is at table 228, for example, my old friend and Green Room pal Chris Matthews. He used to like me, but he found somebody new -- somebody who opened his eyes, somebody who gave him a thrill up his leg.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: And we've talked about it. I told him maverick I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: You know, it's going to be a long, long night at MSNBC if I manage to pull this thing off.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: For starters...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: ...I understand that Keith Olbermann has ordered up his very own "mission accomplished" banner. And they can hang that in whatever padded room has been reserved for him.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Seriously, Chris, if they need any decorating advice on that banner, ask Keith to call me so I can tell him right where to put it.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: So, you know, I had fun with the media and we all know the press is really an independent, civic-minded and nonpartisan group, like ACORN...

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: In case you haven't been following my opponent's get out the vote campaign, ACORN is helping to register groups previously excluded, overlooked and underserved -- second graders, the deceased, Disney characters. In Florida, they even turned up an ACORN registration form that bore the name of one Mickey Mouse. We're checking the paw prints.

Although, I might let that one go, I'm pretty sure the big rat's a Republican.

Anyway, we all know that Senator Obama is ready for any contingency -- even the possibility of a sudden and dramatic market rebound. I'm told that at the first sign of recovery, he will suspend his campaign and fly immediately to Washington to address this crisis.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: All this will be for the voters to decide very soon. And though I do trust we can keep the turnout amongst deceased and fictional voters to a minimum, I've come out on both sides of elections and I've never lost my confidence in the judgment of the American people. In the military, they work pretty hard to impress the chain of command on your way of thinking and one way or another, on the fourth of November, word will come down from the top of the chain and Senator Obama and I will both receive our orders.

I don't want it getting out of this room, but my opponent is an impressive fellow in many ways. Political opponents can have a little trouble seeing the best in each other. But I've had a few glimpses of this man at his best and I admire his great skill, energy and determination. It's not for nothing that he's inspired so many folks in his own party and beyond.

Senator Obama talks about making history. And he's made quite a bit of it already. There was a time when the mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today, it's a world away from the crude and prideful bigotry of that time. And good riddance. I can't wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Whatever the outcome next month, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country and I congratulate him.

In his own day, Governor Al Smith achieved great things, as well, and traveled a harder path than most any presidential candidate before or since. America will always remember the boy born in an old tenement on South Street in Brooklyn, who was four times elected governor of this state and the newsboy and fishmonger who went to St. James Parochial School and at his death received an apostolic benediction from the pope himself.

At the Al Smith Foundation and at the New York Archdiocese, you're carrying on the spirit and work of this good man with your service to the poor, your comfort for the sick and needy, your belief in the dignity of life, especially your gallant defense of the rights of the unborn.

I'm proud to count myself as your friend and ally.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: With that, with that, my friends, let me make way for my opponent, who tonight is making a comedy debut that I guess we could call the final test of this campaign.

Now, a copy of the senator's comedy routine was left on the table this evening. And I have to confess, Your Eminence, I looked at it.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Now, of course, it would be unfair -- and even a little unkind -- to put my opponent on the spot before he gets up here or to throw him off his game with unreasonably high expectations.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: But I do need to warn you, ladies and gentlemen, you all are about to witness the funniest performance in history.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: In the 63-year history of this event...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: ...let's not add to the mounting pressure he must be feeling.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Just prepare yourself for nonstop hilarity...

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: ...the funniest 15 minutes of your life or any other.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: I think he knows that anything short of that would mar the evening, insult our hosts...

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: ...and perhaps even cost him several swing states.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama, the microphone is all yours.

KING: That was Senator McCain.

We're with Bill Maher.

He'll be analyzing both of these pieces.

And coming up momentarily will be Senator Obama.

McCain, what did you make, quick?

MAHER: Funny. Good, good material. I've never seen him funnier and it's a shame.

KING: Meaning?

MAHER: Meaning I wish he had been funnier the rest of his life.

KING: Yes, he's...

MAHER: No, I thought that was pretty good for McCain. KING: Have you ever written material for politicians?

MAHER: No. I've been asked to many times. But I do not want to encourage them to get into my business.

KING: What did you make of his delivery?

MAHER: Well, you know, one thing I have to say about McCain, he does not try to compete with Obama, normally. That's one thing I think is great, that he doesn't try to be this charismatic, great orator. He rambles on like an old man until everyone falls asleep and then America decides.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: So I think he stayed within the bounds of who he is.

KING: Was it smart -- well, obviously, it was smart to praise Obama that way.

MAHER: Yes. Well, it was also self-serving. I mean, you know, he is trying to get Independent voters. And what's been going on at his rallies has not exactly been appealing to the Independent voters. It's a hate fest at the McCain-Palin rallies (INAUDIBLE).

KING: We have a blog from Maria. What do you think -- what does Bill think of McCain's temperament?

MAHER: I don't mind angry an politician. I've often wondered why American people aren't angrier. So I think we need a guy who's angry in there. That doesn't bother me at all.

But it bothers Americans. I've never understood that, considering how much we're poisoned, lied to and ripped off, especially with what's going on now. I don't understand why they're not in the streets with pitch forks. I really don't.

KING: Doesn't it make you feel good about the country, though, to see here these two opponents...

MAHER: Yes.

KING: ...they're waging this terrible fight and here they are sitting at this prominent dinner where all the major officials there are Democrats?

MAHER: Right. And, also, I mean, Al Smith, the dinner who this is for, ran in 1928 -- the first Catholic. The hatred that was hurled at Al Smith for being a Catholic, I think, was more than what is being hurled at Obama in 2008 as a black man. So, you know, I criticize this country a lot. I'm not asking for the check. We do come a long way in a relatively short period of time -- relatively. I wish we could move faster, but that's me. I'm a crazy liberal.

KING: And then Smith was defeated and Franklin Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1928. MAHER: Right.

KING: Smith ran for the presidency and four years later...

MAHER: What happened?

KING: ...the governor of New York got to be president. But Smith, he lost the whole South...

MAHER: Right.

KING: ...which was the Democratic stronghold.

MAHER: And they complained so much about FDR bringing in socialism. This was going to be socialism. And now here we have President Bush, who, because of his ineptitude and his always resisting any sort of regulation, now has to actually socialize the government.

KING: Now here comes Senator Barack Obama of Illinois to address the Alfred E. Smith Annual Dinner in New York.

OBAMA: Thank you.

Thank you so much.

Thank you so much.

I thank you to Al and to Ann, to Your Eminence, to Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Senator and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleagues, Senators Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests. There is no other crowd in America that I'd rather be palling around with right now.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I'm sorry he couldn't be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or as Senator McCain noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator. I was thrilled to get this invitation and I feel right at home here because it's often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neumann.

But I have to say tonight's venue isn't really what I'm used to. I was originally told we'd be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium, and -- can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek Columns that I requested?

I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian tea room. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great grandfather, but from everything that Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition. So -- wonderful stories.

The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news -- made some news by announcing he's going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, you can do that?

The president's better half, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is here. Glad to see you made it, Hillary. I'm glad to see that you made it because I heard Chuck Schumer actually tried to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium.

But I'll tell you all from personal experience, Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She's broken barriers. She's inspired millions. She is the -- she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now. I am also glad to see that Senator Schumer is here, and I see that he's brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the folks with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.

Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Senator John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions.

Recently, one of John's top advisers told the "Daily News" that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain's going to lose. So, tonight I'd like to talk about the economy. Given all that's happened these past few weeks on Wall Street, it feels like an odd time to be dressed up in white tie, but I must say I got a great deal, rented the whole outfit from the treasury department at a very good price.

Looking around tonight at all the gourmet food and champagne, it's clear that no expenses were spared. It's like an executive sale meeting at AIG. But I don't need to tell any of you that it's been a scary time on the stock market, with people losing their investments, their entire fortunes. It's gotten so bad Bloomberg now has to take the subway. And while the collapse of the housing market's been tough on every single home owner, I think we all need to recognize that this crisis has been eight times harder on John McCain.

You know, we've been debating a lot these economic issues over the course of the campaign, but lately things have been getting a bit tougher. In the last few weeks, John's been out on the campaign trail and asked the question, who is Barack Obama? I have to admit I was a little surprised by this question. The answer is right there on my Facebook page.

But, look, I don't want to be coy about this. We're a couple weeks from an important election. Americans have a big choice to make, and if anybody feels like they don't know me by now, let me try to give you some answers. Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jorel to save the Planet Earth.

Many of you -- many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for that one. And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president.

If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome. One other thing, I have never, not once, put lipstick on a pig or a pit bull or myself. Rudy Giuliani, that's one for you. I mean, who would have thought that a cross-dressing mayor from New York City would have a tough time running the Republican nomination? It's shocking.

That was a tough primary you had there, John. Anyway. Anyway, that's who I really am. But in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a few October surprises you'll be finding out about in the coming weeks. First of all, my middle name is not what you think. It's actually Steve. That's right. Barack Steve Obama.

Here's another revelation, John McCain is on to something. There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd. I've got to be honest, these guys were serious dead beats. They were low lifes, unrepentant, no-good punks. That's right. I've been a member of the United States Senate. Come to think of it, John, I swear I saw you at one of our meetings.

But I know Senator McCain agrees that some of the rumors out there are getting a bit crazy. I mean, Rupert the other day, Fox News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock. By the way, John, I'm just curious, is Fox News included in the media? Because I'm always hearing about this love, just curious.

Then at one of these campaign rallies, someone in the crowd started yelling, No-Bama, announcing to everyone in the room that I shouldn't be the Democratic nominee because there were far more qualified candidates. I really wish Joe Biden hadn't done that. But at least we've moved past the days when the main criticism coming from the McCain campaign was that I'm some celebrity. I have to admit that really hurt. I got so angry about it I punched the paparazzi in the face on my way out of Spago's. I'm serious. I even spilled my Soy Chai Latte all over my shih tzu. It was really embarrassing.

But in all seriousness, I'm so glad that I could make it tonight, and I'm honored to be among such wonderful public servants. I want to especially say a word of thanks to Senator McCain. We are in the midst of a tough battle right now, and American politics at the presidential level is always tough. But I've said before, and I think it bears repeating, that there are very few of us who have served this country with the same dedication and honor and distinction as Senator McCain. And I'm glad to be sharing this space with him tonight, as I am during the course of this nomination.

And before I close, I'd like to recognize one such servant who is not with us tonight, but who was mentioned earlier, and that's our good friend, Tim Russert. I know that Luke and Maureen are here. And I know Tim enjoyed these dinners very much. And I also know how much he would have enjoyed covering this election. And I know that John and I would have been quaking in our boots preparing for our appearances on "Meet the Press." And his absence is not just a personal loss for so many who knew him and loved him, but a profound loss for the country, and we continue to miss him very much.

You know, the fact that each October, in the closing weeks of a hard-fought campaign, people of all political persuasions can come to this dinner and share a meal and honor the work of this foundation underscores the reality that no matter what differences or divisions or arguments we're having right now, we ultimately belong to something bigger and more lasting than a political party. We belong to a community. We share a country. We are all children of God.

And in this country, there are millions of fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters, who need us very much, especially now. We are being battered by a very serious economic storm, and for many Americans it's only deepened the quiet storms they've been struggling through for years. Beyond the walls of this hotel, on the streets of one of the greatest cities in the wealthiest nation on earth, there are men and women and children who have fallen on hard times and hard luck, who can't find work, or even a job that pays enough to keep a roof over their heads. Some are hanging on just by a thread.

Scripture says God creates us for works of service. We are blessed to have so many organizations like this one and the Catholic Diocese that perform these acts of God every day. But each of us also has that responsibility. Each of us has that obligation, especially now. No matter who we are or what we do, what I believe each of us in this room asks for and hopes for and prays for enough strength and wisdom to do good and to seek justice and play our small part in building a more hopeful and compassionate worlds for the generations that will follow.

Before Al Smith was a candidate who made history, he was a man who made a difference, a man who fought for many years to give Americans nothing more than a fair shake and a chance to succeed. And he touched the lives of hundreds of thousands -- of millions as a result. Simply put, he helped people. That's a distinction we can all aspire to, that we can all achieve, young or old, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican or independent. And I have no doubt that if we come together at this moment of crisis with this goal in mind, America will meet this challenge and weather this storm, and, in the words of Al Smith, "walk once more in eternal sunshine."

Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you.

KING: That's Barack Obama concluding his remarks. The opinions of Bill Maher.

MAHER: As we were saying while he was doing it, I don't know why he wrecked a nice, funny speech with that boilerplate at the end.

KING: Too serious?

MAHER: Weren't you saying that it's not what they expect --

KING: At this dinner, it's supposed to be a comedic dinner.

MAHER: And McCain didn't do it. It's kind of unfair if one guy does it, and the other guy doesn't. He didn't get his nice, kind of --

KING: Up until there, how did he do?

MAHER: Funny. They both took shots at themselves, at what other people have been making fun of them about. I just think what they're making fun of McCain about is something I wouldn't bring up if I was McCain. I wouldn't bring up anywhere, even in a comedic sense, that I have 11 houses.

KING: Or George Bush.

MAHER: That, too.

KING: Affect on the campaign, minimal?

MAHER: I think it's over. I mean, did you see the pictures of people voting today, the long lines? And by the way, that stuff that McCain was bringing up about ACORN is completely bogus. You know, it's another example of people don't really get the true information and it's a shame, because, you know, what ACORN does is they just register people to vote. And, yes, some people write Mickey Mouse on the registration sheets. ACORN is obligated by law to turn in every single form they get.

What they do is they put it into three piles, good -- they get the name. They call people up, and if they get the same name at the address, that goes in the good pile. Then there's the incomplete pile, people who didn't answer the phone. And then there's a pile they mark suspicious. That's Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader. So, they're not trying to fool anybody.

KING: What do you think of the speeches? What do you think of what Bill is saying? Weigh in now at our blog, CNN.com/LarryKing. We're waiting to here from you. More with Bill Maher after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Last month, John McCain made promises to me and to David Letterman. He agreed to be on our shows, abruptly canceled on both of us, said he'd be back to re-book. Earlier today, the senator came through for Letterman. Here's a look at his late-night appearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": Now, what exactly happened? See, here I thought I was doing my part to save economy, and then later I get to thinking, well, maybe I'm just not important enough.

MCCAIN: Can I give you an answer?

LETTERMAN: Please.

MCCAIN: I screwed up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Nice to see Dave and the senator have made up. We are still waiting for John McCain to keep his word to us and come back as a guest on LARRY KING LIVE before the election. What effect do you think, Bill Maher these shows, yours, John Stewart, "Saturday Night Live," Leno, Letterman, have on the campaign?

MAHER: I think people, unfortunately, get a lot of their news from comedy shows, which is not really the way you should do it.

KING: Do you think you affect an election?

MAHER: Not terribly much. I think mostly the people who watch those shows and are affected by it are liberal, but -- and most of those shows are liberal. But I do get an awful lot of people who come up to me these days and say, you know, I'm conservative, but I watch your show, because you're funny. Or I have even heard people say, yes, you turned me around. So I don't know if I should be quite as humble about it as I --

KING: Don't.

MAHER: -- have when gave that answer. I don't think it sways an election. Yes, any time you have the microphone, people listen to you. They can be swayed.

KING: "Religiousless" is now out in all theaters, a documentary.

MAHER: An even better title, Religiousless.

KING: "Religulous." And it's doing well at the box office. You spare no one, not even your own family. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Never occurred to me to say, why didn't you go to church?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, what church do we belong to?

MAHER: I don't remember this coming up. Of course, you didn't go to church with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never had a family discussion about it?

MAHER: We never had a family discussion about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every family is a dysfunctional.

MAHER: So you thought, even this, which wasn't your religion, was better than no religion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even this only told you good things, I thought.

MAHER: But it's just so shamelessly invented as we go along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can say that now. MAHER: Was anyone --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: She was terrific.

MAHER: My mother did me such a solid by doing that. She didn't want to do that. She was -- she was 88 years old at the time. She -- you know, old ladies don't want to be on camera.

KING: How do you make -- there are people saying they were duped or cornered by you into this, that they didn't want to go on and now they find themselves in the movie.

MAHER: This is so funny, religion accusing me of deception, religion, the greatest scam in the history of the world, selling the invisible product for thousands of years, accusing us of deception. That takes the cake, Larry.

Now, I've always been up front about how we did this movie. First of all, they're saying, it had a fake title. It'd didn't have a fake title, it didn't have any title. We didn't know what the title was going to be. But other than that, some of them, they just lie. They say that we said it was a PBS documentary. That's just a flat out lie. We never told people this.

What we didn't tell people was that it was me doing the interview. They didn't ask. We didn't feel an obligation to tell them. I mean, "60 Minutes" does the same kind of thing. Nobody makes anything like that.

KING: The film is "Religulous."

MAHER: They could have gotten up and left. What they hate is that people love this movie and it's doing well.

KING: The film is "Religulous." Back with Bill Maher after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What impact do you think the movie will have?

MAHER: It's not going to destroy religion in our lifetime, which is amazing. You'd think the people who are so viciously attacking this movie at this point, why are you so insecure if you're so faithful, is what I wanted to ask them. I mean, what's it going to achieve? First of all, it's making people laugh. And it's making people debate. Every e-mail I've gotten from people say -- who've gone to the movie, they say, I went to see your movie today. One, people were laughing throughout. Two, they applaud at the end of it. When was the last time you saw that in the movie.

Three, they say, when they're leaving the theater, they're all talking. They're all talking about it. What might it achieve? Starting the debate. How about just talking about this ultimate taboo subject. This is the one subject people were never supposed to talk about. What did they tell you as a kid, in polite conversation, don't bring up religion. That would be enough for me.

KING: Are you now a film maker?

MAHER: No. I mean, if you're asking me if I'm starting a new career, no.

KING: Yes, like Michael Moore.

MAHER: No, I don't. I had one subject. It was my Moby Dick, was this subject of religion. I wanted to harpoon this whale so badly. It took me like ten years to get this movie.

KING: From the blog, robin writes: "the speech that John McCain did tonight at the dinner, at the end, sounded like a concession speech. What did you think?"

MAHER: No, I didn't. He certainly should get someone to start writing one.

KING: This last-minute pull up, you think, can't happen?

MAHER: Look, anything can happen. Yes, I do. And who knows what people are going to do when they get into the voting booth. But I definitely think the more they see Barack Obama, the more comfortable they are with him. I think last night in the debate, McCain was killed by the reaction shots. Did you watch it on the split screen?

KING: I saw the replay.

MAHER: Anytime McCain would say something whack, they would cut to Obama and he would just flash that movie star smile and he'd come out a winner. Any time Obama would say something McCain didn't like, he look like the guy in inspector Clouseau, the boss who Clouseau was always driving mad. He's like, Clouseau.

KING: Herbert Long.

MAHER: Herbert Long, exactly. That's what he looked like.

KING: We just confirmed that Sarah Palin will appear on "Saturday Night Live" this Saturday.

MAHER: Wow.

KING: She has to make fun of herself. You're not going on that show.

MAHER: Or else we will. She still has not had a press conference. Again, because she doesn't know anything. Yes, she can ably read zingers off of a teleprompter or she can read her lines at "Saturday Night Live" off of a cue card. But it's a different story when you're actually trying to run the world and you have to know things. That's what she's hiding from. Now, a lot of the American people don't care because they relate to her. But, you know, maybe you shouldn't vote for somebody who you relate to like that. Maybe you should vote for someone who is, God forbid, an elitist at the toughest job in the world.

KING: Has John McCain run a poor campaign, as objective as you could be?

MAHER: I think he ran the best campaign he could. He hit on the only theme he could, which is I'm a maverick. I'm not like the last guy who nobody likes anymore. He was dealt an impossible hand. I don't think any Republican would do better. By the way, of the whole Republican field, I'm glad it was McCain. I'd be more nervous if Mitt Romney was about to become president or had a chance, or Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson, or any of those other clowns in that pack.

At least McCain is a genuine war hero. He's brave, you know? I love that, a brave guy. We need smart. They are two different things. Just because you're experienced, it doesn't count if you're always wrong.

KING: Who's on tomorrow night on "Real Time?"

MAHER: We've got a good one. Ben Affleck, Martin Short, and Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, the only man in the Senate who used the word socialist.

KING: He is a socialist.

MAHER: I guess. We'll find out. What a perfect timing, now that the country is becoming socialist. He's been ahead of the pack, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Bill.

MAHER: Thank you.

KING: Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" Friday nights on HBO. That's our sister channel. His film "Religiousless" in 500 -- Why are you laughing.

MAHER: "Religulous."

KING: "Religulous." It's hard to -- picked a weird title. And he's a supporter, shockingly enough, of Barack Obama. Share your thoughts with us now or as our show airs. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing and click on to our blog and tell us what you think. Tell us who you think won the debate. That's tonight's quick vote, also on our show page.

It's time now for my man Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" in New York. Anderson?

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