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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Larry Announces End of LKL; Conversation With Bill Maher

Aired July 3, 2010 - 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, he's here, on late notice, but he's here -- with all the news of the day and more. He's Bill Maher and he is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(MUSIC)

KING: Good evening.

Before I start the show tonight, I want to share some personal news with you. Twenty-five years ago, I sat across this table from New York Governor Mario Cuomo for the first broadcast ever of LARRY KING LIVE. And now, decades later, I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I'd like to end LARRY KING LIVE, the nightly show that -- this fall and CNN has graciously accepted to agree to, giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' little league games.

I still be a part of the CNN family, be hosting several LARRY KING specials on major national and international subjects and we'll be here until a replacement is found, will be here into the fall. Tomorrow night, in fact, Elizabeth Edwards will be our special guest.

I'm incredibly proud that we with recently made the "Guinness Book of World Records" for having the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot on the same network. With that chapter closing, I'm looking forward to the future, what my next chapter will bring.

But for now, for here, it's time to hang up the nightly suspenders. Until then, we've got more shows to do and who knows what the future's going to bring.

Bill Maher is the Emmy-nominated host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO, standup comic, best-selling author. We called him today in view of this announcement tonight and asked him if he'd come as an old friend. Bill will be performing at the Orleans showroom in Las Vegas on the 17th and 18th of July and at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City on July 30th.

Thank you, Bill.

BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I'm honored you would ask me to take over the desk, Larry. Thank you so much. I'm ready to step in at a moment's notice.

KING: What a -- what a -- so you're making an announcement tonight. MAHER: Do you want to finish the hour or would you like me to take over right now, Larry?

KING: Well, this was tough, Bill. I mean, it was -- it was time. I was ready to do it. CNN folks agreed to it. We sat down. We're going to do specials and more time with the family.

And I want to expand. I want to do other things that I haven't been able to do.

MAHER: I am -- I am reminded of what my father, who was a broadcaster said the day Mickey Mantle retired, say isn't so, he began the broadcast.

KING: You put me in that class?

MAHER: Mickey Mantle? You are the Mickey Mantle of broadcasters. Mickey Mantle played 18 seasons. You played more than that.

So, I know some people out there will say it is maybe inappropriate to say too soon for a man who is in his 70s, but it is too soon. I hope you're -- I hope you're doing this of your own volition and not because of what the media says.

KING: It has nothing to do with it. There was no pressure from CNN. I don't pay attention to that, I love what I do. But it was time, Bill. It was time. It was just time.

I will tell you --

MAHER: As long as it is coming from, and not dictated by "The New York Times" or anybody else.

KING: Not at all.

MAHER: OK.

KING: I was -- I did the 25th anniversary week. We had Lady Gaga. We had Bill Gates. We had President Obama, and LeBron James.

I'm flying home from that week, and I'm thinking to myself, I've done 50,000 interviews. I'm never going to top this. I want to go on, I want new horizons. I want to try other things.

MAHER: Right.

KING: I'd like to stay in some way with CNN. We contact -- this whole thing was put together in four or five days and I'm here, ready to carry on. I will be on tomorrow night and --

MAHER: Tonight, I did hear people say, you know, well, Larry didn't really understand Lady Gaga. Who understands Lady Gaga? Please.

(CROSSTALK) KING: I liked her.

MAHER: I was thinking, who else gets Lady Gaga to come on their show? I never saw Lady Gaga anywhere else. Talk.

KING: Well, we got a lot of people. We got you a lot.

MAHER: I saw her wearing an aquarium on her head. I never saw her actually speak to another human being. I have no idea what she was like before she talked to you.

KING: This is a mixed emotion night. We got a staff, I want to see them all, tell them good (ph) job, but more time with the wife, more time with the kids, more time to spend and more time to do other things. In other words, I can do things now that I wasn't able to do before. It's nice, there's a freedom. Everybody is talking at me. Remember that song, Bill?

MAHER: Oh, we were just singing it, Larry.

KING: Echoes in my mind.

MAHER: Well, I think I speak for a lot of people in America who say, I will miss you terribly at this hour. I mean, this -- there's nobody who does what you do because you -- you know, had a style, a minimalist style that is gone from television and you are taking it with you, Larry.

KING: Well, I bring it to the specials.

MAHER: When they called me today, I said, well, you know, I've been on vacation for the last two weeks. My show was down. I haven't really read the paper, I'm not that prepared. Larry-style was always that, you know, he wasn't over-prepared because he wanted with to be in the mind of the viewer who needed enlightenment. I said, well, if Larry is not prepared, I'm not prepared. That's just two schmucks sitting around staring at each other.

KING: First time, Bill used to come on my nighttime radio show.

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: Those were the days back in Arlington, Virginia, boy.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: We go become a long, long way. I don't want to get moribund here. I'll be here every night for quite a while yet, and then I'll be free aged be doing the great specials, which we will be telling the public about.

MAHER: Oh, good.

KING: And with this great staff, too.

MAHER: I'm glad you're not being fired about your comments about 9/11.

Oh, no, that was me. I'm sorry --

KING: Wrong host. OK. All right. Let's get into the news of the day, which you in ever leave, right? Petraeus -- Petraeus is, what, the new Eisenhower, right?

MAHER: Well, he has that kind of reputation, yes. I mean, you know, he's a very impressive guy. So is McChrystal, by the way, you know? I mean, I know that his comments, I guess in "Rolling Stone" were inappropriate or whatever.

And, look, I'm not a fan of our policy in Afghanistan. It's just kind of bothered me that a guy, like McChrystal, who literally does more before 9:00 than I do all day. You know, that's just -- when they say that thing, that slogan, that actually pertains to me. He probably does more before 9 a.m. than I do all month, you know, that he has to go because he was just, I guess he thought off the record.

You know, maybe he doesn't have time to follow, as we do, what goes on in the culture, in the civilian culture that when you talk to a reporter. And what I read was that part of the reason why they got so much access was because the volcano and they were stuck in the airport and they couldn't leave. So, they had nothing to do but talk to each other for a week.

KING: They knew a reporter was there, I mean.

MAHER: Yes, OK. But, you know what, here's a guy, and as I say, I don't really agree with the policy, but that's not his job, he's soldier -- he's doing incredible things before 9 a.m. and he has to leave that job because of, really, some bitchy, gossipy, TMZ-level, "Us" magazine B.S.

KING: The amazing thing is, he and the president agree on the policy you disagree with.

MAHER: Right.

KING: He and the president agree on them.

MAHER: And everybody off-the-record talks about everybody else, you know? When --

KING: Yes. It was just you're not doing it in front of the "Rolling Stone" guy.

MAHER: Right. I mean, when we get off the air, you know, we'll probably gossip.

KING: Yes.

MAHER: But, you know, there's not a reporter around and you're already leaving. KING: And we'll take a break on that note. With Bill Maher, lots more to talk about. Why he thinks Afghanistan is wrong -- after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we come back from break, here's our control room here in Los Angeles. There are the folks that get me on the air every night. And I am indebted to them, always will be.

OK. What do you see our job in Afghanistan as being?

MAHER: That could have been any control room, Larry. I mean, let's be honest. It could have been "American Idol." They all look the same.

I'm sorry. The question, Afghanistan -- what about it? We are -- I don't -- I don't think we should be there. There, I've said it.

KING: But, OK. But Obama said in the campaign, he favored it, right? He favored it.

MAHER: Well, that's -- you know --

KING: Getting the Taliban out.

MAHER: You know, this is part of the problem that I keep saying. I've said it probably many times on your show is that it's funny, people talk a lot about how polarized this country is. No, actually, the problem is the opposite. We're not polarized, we're homogenized. We have two parties, but one policy. We don't have enough difference between the two parties.

KING: But we had a fight over health care. We were fighting over -- fighting over the Supreme Court nominee. We will get to that.

MAHER: Well, both parties were for drilling, oil drilling, right? Obama came out for that, right? OK, both parties don't fight gun control, don't fight for gun control. I could name a number of issues.

And Afghanistan, both parties believe that terrorism has a solution from our military. We don't have a party who stands up for the other point of view.

KING: Which is? What is the other?

MAHER: Well, I mean, I would think at this point they would be saying to themselves: are we creating more terrorists than we are killing, you know, we just had the Times Square bomber -- what's his name? I call him fashizzle (ph), I know.

The guy -- the guy who locked himself out of his car bomb. I mean, al Qaeda is not exactly playing the A-team here. Remember the Christmas Day bomber? He couldn't blow up his pants. This guy couldn't make gasoline explode. You know, let's spend, you know, $1 trillion and two-thirds of our military fighting these people. I don't understand that view of it.

I think John Kerry said it well in the 2004 election when he ran on this idea that terrorism is best fought with law enforcement, with the spy agencies. That's how you fight this. You don't fight it with an army. And you know, they have been very disappointing that this president --

KING: Why do you think he does support it so much?

MAHER: Because I think he can't lose the right-wing that much, because I think he feels like he is pulling out of Iraq and the Democrats are already seen as a party that's soft on war, soft to on the macho stuff. So, he has to have some war going. He can't just pull out.

But I think it's kind of cynical to say, OK, we're going to double-down on this, but we're pulling out in a year -- because these people over there in Afghanistan, I mean, they have outlasted invaders for hundreds of years, thousands of years. They kicked Alexander the Great's ass out of there. They defeated the British.

You think the idea that we're staying there just one more year is instilling fear in them?

KING: (INAUDIBLE) told me it was Russia's biggest mistake --

MAHER: Yes, of course.

KING: -- to ever get involved there.

MAHER: Yes, I mean --

KING: You're fighting rocks, right? Caves.

MAHER: A lot of it.

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Bob Herbert had a great line here that he said, you know, the people who stormed the beaches at Normandy weren't trying to win anybody's hearts and minds, you know? I mean, either we are in it to win it or we're not.

KING: So, longer than Vietnam now.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: Where does it go, do you think? What does happen?

MAHER: Well, we've already said what happens. We're pulling out in a year.

KING: Yes. MAHER: So what is the point of the people who are going to die between now and a year later? That's, I think, the question. . That's sort of the John Kerry question: how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

KING: What -- was the president right to fire McChrystal?

MAHER: As I said, you know, I think here's a guy who's trying his hardest to implement a policy that may not be his. I hate to see a guy taken down for gossip. You know, I think the way to fight this is not the way they're doing it. I mean, you know, I look at all these terrorists that we've -- these terrorist plots that we've stopped in recent years. They're kind of homegrown.

You know, Obama's policy is really not that different than Bush's policy. Bush used to say, we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. And then we go, OK, redneck idiot.

But really, I mean, Obama is just the tanner of two evils. It's the same -- it's the same policy. He may enunciate it better, but it's the same thing.

But memo to you guys, they're already here. We don't have to fight them over there, they're already here. The Times Square bomber, he was an accountant who lived in --

KING: You think something else big is going to happen? Are you saying you can't beat terrorism?

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Well, I'm just saying they're already here and they're incited to violence.

KING: Are you giving up?

MAHER: On what?

KING: How do you defeat terrorism then in New York (ph)?

MAHER: You don't ever defeat it. That's part of the problem, that we couch it in terms of it's a war. We think a war has an end. It doesn't have an end -- anymore than a police problem has an end, murder doesn't ever end, robbery doesn't ever end, you just contain it and fight it as best you can.

KING: There is no victory day?

MAHER: No. I mean, once -- once -- you know, you listen to what these terrorists who have tried to attack us say, they're pissed off that we're in Afghanistan, that we're in Iraq, that Israel -- you know, it's American foreign policy. We've let -- I mean, to make an analogy to the oil, which is the only thing I can ever think of these days, is, you know, the terrorist genie is out of the bottle, the oil is gushing already. Now, the problem is, how do we stop it from getting to the shore? How do we stop the terrorists from launching their attacks, because they are trying to? Luckily, they are idiots.

KING: Luckily. But they can't all be idiots.

MAHER: That's right.

KING: We'll talk about the Supreme Court nominee and we get Bill's opinions about BP. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, you've got until July 7th to bid on some great auction items. Proceeds will help people and wildlife in the Gulf. Drew Brees, Brett Michaels, "American Idol" and others have donated some terrific stuff. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing and click on the charity buzz auction link.

Bill Maher, our special guest on, what, I guess is our special night.

OK, the confirmation hearing. Last night, the panel, when they weren't over-talking on top of each other, all said, it's still baloney. I mean, they go through the motions, the senators make speeches and she's going to be confirmed. Do you share that view?

MAHER: Yes, I think she will. I mean, it's especially baloney with this nominee because she's such a blank slate. It's not like she has a long history of controversial decisions.

KING: Well, she has supported a president, she was solicitor general. You got to make a stand.

MAHER: But compared to other nominees in the past who had, you know, something to go off of, I mean, how could anyone be against this person? She's completely qualified and she's done nothing controversial. It just shows that we are at a state -- and I guess I'm contradicting myself here -- where there is a level of partisanship that is just ridiculous, that whatever the blue team does, the red team will be against, you know?

KING: So, a conservative was nominated, the blue team was mad. (INAUDIBLE). It's all the same?

MAHER: Yes. Right. But this was started by the Democrats, by the way. They were -- before they opposed, I think it was -- was it Bork who was the --

KING: Bork.

MAHER: Yes. I mean, that was like the first one where -- before that, Supreme Court nominees, it was like, hey, the president, he won the election, it's his --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominees. It was approved. MAHER: I mean, you see it like in the BP thing. Again, with the BP, it all gets on my head.

KING: We will get to that.

MAHER: But, you know, when that Republican congressman, was it Barton, came out defending BP?

KING: Barton of Texas.

MAHER: I was, this is astounding. It just shows that they are so insane about Barack Obama and whatever he is for, they will be against, even if it matters -- if it means their own political destruction. I mean, who would defend BP?

If Obama came out tomorrow and said, I have the cure for cancer, I swear they would call a press conference and say: Hold on, we're not sure this is the right thing to do. We got a lot of money from the cancer people. And we're not sure this -- but this could affect jobs, this could affect growth, what about the people who cure cancer? What about the people who operate on the people who have cancer?

What -- I mean, they would find some argument to be pro-cancer.

KING: If she is confirmed, all nine Supreme Court justices will be graduates of Ivy League law schools. Any concern over that? There's like they're all supposedly brilliant?

MAHER: Right. What, they should all be from Pace College? You know --

KING: Remember that guy who said maybe we should have mediocrity?

MAHER: Yes, I mean -- that doesn't bother me. I mean, we want people from our -- you know, elite institutions of higher learning. I know elite is a bad word in America, but I happen to like elite people who are elite in their fields. If I -- you know, have heart trouble, I want an elite doctor. There you go.

What worries me, of course, is that there are now -- as always have in the past -- no atheists on the court. If you want --

KING: No Protestants, no Buddhists, no agnostics, no atheists. The justices will either be Catholic or Jewish.

MAHER: Right. Well, it doesn't really matter to me that they're Catholic, Jew, Protestant, they were all believers. When the issue of separation of church and state comes up, you know, the issue is slightly loaded for them.

KING: Most of the country is believers.

MAHER: So what? Fifteen percent is not.

KING: So, you're calling for an atheist on the court? MAHER: Yes, somebody, a rationalist. Let's call them that, someone who doesn't believe in magic. Someone who doesn't believe in --

KING: Tom Paine-type?

MAHER: Tom Paine. That's right. When Glenn Beck dresses up as Tom Paine, he obviously has never read Tom Paine's book.

KING: I don't think Tom Paine would agree with Glenn Beck.

MAHER: No, not even a little bit. It's funny they think the Founding Fathers -- the Founding Fathers were elitists. They were intellectuals.

KING: Property owners.

MAHER: They were Europe (INAUDIBLE) thinking. They were everything the teabaggers were not. The Founding Fathers wouldn't have lunch with Glenn Beck.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: We'll try to draw Bill out again in the next segment. Every time, it's so hard with this, riding the easy road.

You are watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, we are getting a lot of great messages on Twitter. I thank you all for your kind words.

You'll see some of them on your screen. I don't want to toot my own horn -- tote my -- what is it toot or tote?

MAHER: It's tweet. You don't want to tweet your own, Larry.

KING: Is that the term?

MAHER: Yes. And I just checked my tweet, Larry, and they are asking me to ask you some questions.

KING: What are they saying?

MAHER: They're saying this is your night. We were just talking in the break there about your love -- I had no idea, I knew you loved sports, but tell them what you just told me about why it's great too get up in the morning because --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You know, if you're not a sports fan, most of your day is predictable. Most of your day, you know what you're going to do. But to the sports fan, if you're a baseball fan, when I got up this morning, my God, this 14 games and UCLA -- MAHER: To me that is predictable.

KING: No, it's not. Who's going to win?

MAHER: Fifty guys got out on a grass field and did something boring. See, that's predictable to me. I know that --

KING: It's not boring.

MAHER: I had a writer who once said, if baseball was any slower, it would be farming.

KING: But baseball is athletic chess. No one has ever hit .500. It's the most difficult game to play. But when you're into baseball, my God, those pauses are part of it.

MAHER: I can't imagine you being happy. You know, when it's -- when it's the diversion from the work, then it's great. But without the steady thing, I know you, Larry. You are a creature of routine. You have breakfast at the same place every day. You get up, you come here. I mean, without that --

KING: Well, I got to get other things to do. I got -- I need diversity.

MAHER: What's the first thing you want to do? I mean, professionally? What that you can't --

KING: I'll see what comes along. I don't know. Now, I can do anything I want. I mean, I like making speeches. I like doing comedy. You saw me do comedy.

MAHER: You're very funny.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I like making people laugh.

MAHER: You're not going to be standing in the gulf with hip waders like Anderson Cooper, you're not going to be scrubbing off an egret.

KING: I like doing HBO comedy special like you do. By the way, I will do one. That would be terrific to do that.

MAHER: I will see what I can do.

KING: Let's get -- I will do it -- let's get to day 70 of the oil disaster.

MAHER: Is that what it is, 70? My Lord.

KING: What do you make of this?

MAHER: Well, you know, I was at a BP station today and when I finished filling my tank, I left the pump running. And I think everyone should do that until this ends. After you fill up, leave the pump running.

KING: That's your call.

MAHER: It's poetic justice, Larry. I don't know. I mean, honestly, I have never been as depressed about a story. I haven't been at this quite as long as you.

KING: Animal lover.

MAHER: I've had a television show for 18 years. I've covered a lot of stories. Yes, I'm an animal lover and I'm an Earth lover. I know lot of people, like Senator Inhofe, think the Earth is a hoax, but I happen to think it's real and I would like to keep it.

It just depresses the hell out of me. I think what depresses me more than anything else is that, as of yet, it doesn't look like, even with this level of catastrophe, it's changing anybody's behavior. They are still calling for more drilling. People like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana said if the president stops drilling, this could potentially be devastating for Louisiana.

KING: It could, couldn't it?

MAHER: As opposed to what it is, which is actually devastating for Louisiana? Are you kidding? I mean, what -- what has to happen before people change?

KING: -- gobbles up oil.

MAHER: We should stop.

KING: Stop?

MAHER: We --

KING: Get people to stop driving?

MAHER: No, but they can drive -- I have an electric car. I'm getting a Tesla. I have been driving hybrids for years. We could change. If we had started to change when we should have, in the '70s, we would all be driving electric cars.

KING: Now BP didn't do this deliberately.

MAHER: No, of course not.

KING: This was a major accident.

MAHER: Well --

KING: So would you stop airplane flying in if a plane crashed?

MAHER: No. First of all, they should have had a contingency plan if it did happen. You can't excuse them for that, can you?

KING: No. MAHER: They should have spent as much money --

KING: You can criticize the president on the moratorium. You can say because something bad happens one place, you stop it everywhere?

MAHER: We shouldn't be drilling offshore at all. And certainly the president I voted for shouldn't be for that. I mean, even before the well gushed, I thought that that was a horrible decision he made.

KING: When he increased it?

MAHER: When he said, you know what, we should be drilling. Again, where is the other party? Where is the person who represents me and the millions of people like me? If he is for drilling and he is for Afghanistan, where do I go? I don't have a Tea Party on the left.

KING: You were surprised that he wasn't angry at them. When I interviewed him, he said he was very angry. Of course, it was a little later in the game. But he said -- what do you want him to do? You want him to jump up and down?

MAHER: No, I'm not one of those people who complains that he is not being emotional about it. I don't want to see him cradling an egret going why, why? That's silly. People, they don't want the law professor. They want Mr. T. They want him to -- I pity the fool who's soiled this beach. I like it that he's calm. That's a good thing. I can't fault him terribly on how he handled this. But the fact that he came out for drilling before this --

I mean, you do have to look at the big picture. The environment as an issue consistently ranks dead last in polls when they ask the American people what's important to you.

KING: You know like --

MAHER: How old are your kids?

KING: Eleven and 10, the little ones.

MAHER: What do you think the world is going to be like in 30 years, when they are only middle aged? They are a part of the cleanup committee.

KING: Phillip Wylie, the great author, wrote "Generation of Vipers." He invented the term momism. I had the honor of interviewing him years ago. He said when you talk to man about generations not yet born, it don't mean a thing.

MAHER: Right. Except those generations are born. They say in 50 years there will be no fish in the ocean, that we will have completely fished it out. I don't know if you saw there was a magazine -- "Times Magazine" story this Sunday about the end of the bluefin --

KING: Bluefin.

MAHER: Yeah, bluefin tuna. And you know, we were talking about this today on this show. I was telling you about I'm producing this science pilot, that, you know, it's in mankind's nature not to change to forestall disaster, but to just let it happen and then adapt. I think that's what people will do.

KING: We are reacting.

MAHER: Well, in 50 years, if there is no fish and we killed all the animals, the only thing that will be left are cockroaches and jelly fish. And people will eat that. We'll be like, yeah, not really as good as the hamburgers and chicken I used to have, and the tuna was delicious. But bring it on. I'll have the jellyfish and the cockroach, and we shot it up with MSG, and now I'm eating it. It's how people adapt in prison, you know?

Somehow -- I think if I went to prison, I'd kill myself, but people don't. You know, they are like, well, I'm not homosexual, but I'm here. I'm queer now, let's get used to it.

KING: For someone not prepared tonight, you are on a roll. Our guest is Bill Maher. Jerry Weintraub is here Friday night. We pretaped this. It's a riot, Jerry. It's a riot. He's got a great book out. And this is his -- what stories. Weintraub, Friday night.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: And the whaling guys, you are going to like them Thursday.

MAHER: Who?

KING: They stop the people who kill whales.

MAHER: I do like them.

KING: "Whale Wars," they go out and stop the Japanese killing whales. They are Thursday. And we will be right back with Bill Maher. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Catching up on things with Bill Maher. He will be at the Orleans Show Room in Las Vegas July 17th and 18th, and then at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City on the 30th. And of course, he is the host of "Real Time" on HBO. And he's got a new science show we hope HBO picks up. What's the title? It's a great title.

MAHER: "Talk Nerdy To Me."

KING: "Talk Nerdy To Me."

MAHER: No, HBO is going to think I put you up to that.

KING: No.

MAHER: We were talking in the break.

KING: They are our sister network. Before we get to the ruling of the court on gun control, your reaction to the new "Vanity Fair"/"60 Minutes" poll; 24 percent of Americans don't believe Obama was born in the United States, 24 percent.

MAHER: Well, I've read higher. But 24 percent, that number resonates with me, because I have seen that statistic other times before; 24 percent is also the number I saw of people who think Jesus will return in their lifetime, in their lifetime. Before they cancel "Gossip Girl", Jesus will come back, which I find very egotistical. He is going to want to come back while I'm around.

KING: Just for me.

MAHER: Yes, just for me. It is also the number, 24 percent, that I saw in a poll recently about Obama who said he might be the anti-Christ. Might be. So I think that 24 percent, I think -- I think one with out of four Americans is just a total nut case, Larry. I mean, I just think no hope for these people. But when you look at some of these numbers, especially within the Republican party, like I think 67 percent, in the poll I saw recently, of Republicans think he is a socialist, even though his top tax rate is 51 points below what Eisenhower's was. Eisenhower, that commie.

KING: John Birch thought Eisenhower was an agent of the Communist Party.

MAHER: But see, there's the interesting thing. You mentioned John Birchers. John Birchers were sort of the equivalent of --

KING: Tea Party, in a sense.

MAHER: A little bit, very far right. But back in the day, they got thrown out of the party. William F. Buckley said, John Birchers, we don't have a place for them in the Republican party. Now it is the reverse. Now it is the Tea Baggers who take over the Republican party. And if you don't agree with the Tea Baggers and the Rush Limbaughs of the world, you get purged. For a party that talks a lot about how the opposition resembles fascists, they do a lot of purging.

KING: Is rush a Tea Bagger, I haven't heard him?

MAHER: Well, he's certainly sympathetic. I would think he and Sarah Palin would the leaders of the Tea Bagger party. Rush is the guy who said, about the spill, the oil spill, the ocean will take care of this.

KING: You are kidding.

MAHER: No, he did. That is what he said. He thinks it is natural. Oil is natural. So is mercury. You don't put it on your Cheerios.

KING: OK. What about the ruling of the court the other day throwing out the Chicago law about guns? You can hold -- you can have a gun in Chicago.

MAHER: Well, I mean, again, the Republican party -- sometimes it seems they he do nothing but think of new places where you can have a gun, churches, bars. In Arizona -- Arizona, my favorite state, should rename itself whitey-ville. In Arizona, you know, guns in a bar, I can't even begin to formulate a comedic routine. It's too easy.

KING: The second amendment, the right to bear --

MAHER: Actually, the Second Amendment talks about militias. It doesn't say anything about individuals. But OK, we have sort of lost that battle a long time ago. And ever since Al Gore they say lost the 2000 election because of his stance on gun control, lost his home state of Tennessee, no Democrat has had the guts to come out.

Again, another issue, Larry, where we do not have two policies. We have two parties and one policy. We love guns. We can't get enough guns.

KING: The question is why do we love guns?

MAHER: Yes, having said that, I have a gun and I'm not going to give up my gun.

KING: Why do we love guns?

MAHER: Because there is too many other nuts out there with guns, Larry. That is the thing. People -- that's very understandable. It's sort of a case of no going back. We are such a gun culture and so many people already have guns that you don't want to be in your home if somebody breaks in and they have guns.

KING: I interviewed an inspector from Scotland Yard once, and he couldn't believe that anybody could have a gun.

MAHER: Right.

KING: It was beyond his sense of belief.

MAHER: But England, which used to be completely a non-gun culture, is becoming more Americanized in every way.

KING: People feel the need. This guy in Chicago, who is a street guy, who -- he did stuff that Obama used to do. He raised interest in various subjects. He wanted a gun because he lives in a neighborhood where he is scared. That is the case that won.

MAHER: I can see it in the house. This idea that you can take it in public, this seems insane to me, that we should have it wherever we go, because in case there's a criminal who has a gun and he starts firing, you want to have a gun to protect yourself or maybe your children, because what protects children better than crossfire? When you think about it? Remember "Crossfire"?

KING: You talking about the show?

MAHER: Yes, I'm talk become the show.

KING: You miss "Crossfire"?

MAHER: No, but I miss you already.

KING: First of all, I will be here for a while.

MAHER: How long?

KING: Well, maximum November. But then I will be doing specials and you will see me in other places. Remember, I'm free.

MAHER: Who do you -- who do you want to sit there after you go, if you had your druthers?

KING: I'm a -- can't be objective.

MAHER: I have a job. I'm just kidding.

KING: I can't be objective. I can't be objective because I don't know his feelings, his interest in politics. But Ryan Seacrest, who is on his way to Paris right now.

MAHER: I like Ryan.

KING: He is curious. He is interesting. He is likable.

MAHER: But I never knew -- maybe he is interested in politics.

KING: See that I don't know.

MAHER: Isn't that a key part of the job?

KING: That's what I mean. If he has a great interest in politics, I would recommend him.

MAHER: That seems like it would be --

KING: I'm sure there's a ton of people who could do it. Come on, it's Q & A.

MAHER: It is deceptively easy. If I may make another baseball analogy, Joe Dimaggio made it look easy, but it's not easy. That's the trick.

KING: We will be right back with Bill Maher. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have a very, very thankfully surprise phone visitor in a moment. But first, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He'll host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. What's up tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, I will get to what's up tonight in a moment. I got to say, I just heard the news that you are scaling back at CNN, and hanging up the suspenders, as you said. I'm stunned and I'm sad.

KING: Well, we will be around a while, and we want to do other things and move on. There will always be -- your question for Anderson? What?

COOPER: I said I know your kids and your wife are going to be happy to have you around more and go to ball games a lot more.

KING: That's true. Do you have a question, Bill, for Anderson Cooper?

MAHER: Anderson, did you engineer this coup?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Listen, I'm here in the Gulf. I've been here six weeks. I don't even know what's going on beyond here.

KING: What's your lead -- thanks for the comments, Anderson. What's your lead?

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Joining us on the phone, maybe the most beloved lady in America, the former First Lady, Nancy Reagan. Thank you for calling in, dear.

NANCY REAGAN, FMR. FIRST LADY (via telephone): Oh, how nice of you, Larry. Well, I couldn't let you do this without my calling you. You didn't call me and ask my permission.

KING: You know, that's the way she was. If she had been in office, I wouldn't have been allowed to do this. Nancy said, bang, and you don't do it. You check with Nancy, don't you?

MAHER: I asked her to read the charts.

KING: Nancy, you're awfully sweet. We'll get the whole gang together, the wife and everybody, and we'll do lunch.

REAGAN: OK.

KING: Nothing is forever. But it's -- there's new things ahead.

MAHER: Yeah. You're -- you haven't planned anything else, have you? Or if you did, you wouldn't tell me.

KING: What did you say?

MAHER: She said you haven't planned anything else.

KING: No, I haven't planned, but I'm looking forward. I feel open to so many things.

REAGAN: Yeah.

KING: Life will be better.

REAGAN: Well, good. As long as it's better, that's fine.

KING: Thank you, Nancy.

REAGAN: Lots of luck, Larry.

KING: Thank you. You're a doll.

REAGAN: I'll miss you.

KING: I'll miss you, too. Well, I'll see you. Nancy, she's a super lady. Thanks, Nancy.

MAHER: I think it's great that you're so forward-looking. I think this country is so youth oriented, and we forget that people over even 30 have lives and can continue to have lives, and that you don't get stuck in one thing.

KING: Speaking of older, you know who's on the phone?

MAHER: Who?

KING: Regis Philbin is on the phone.

MAHER: What an intro for Regis. Speaking of senility, Regis Philbin is on the phone.

REGIS PHILBIN, ENTERTAINER (via telephone): Larry, I'm totally surprised by this. For some reason, I feel very badly about it.

KING: No, don't.

PHILBIN: There's always been a Larry King. All of a sudden, I can't believe that we're not going to see you on during the week at night in the fall.

KING: Well, it will be some time in the fall. I'm going to be doing specials. I'll pop up elsewhere. When are you going to leave the daily grind?

PHILBIN: Well, I feel like leaving the same time you do at this point. But I think the -- I think Bill Maher is totally responsible for this.

MAHER: No, no. Not at all.

KING: In what way, Regis?

PHILBIN: Just by being there. Bill Maher has cast his spell on you.

MAHER: No. I -- I would do anything to keep Larry in this chair.

PHILBIN: So would I, Bill. I'm only kidding. MAHER: I know.

PHILBIN: It's like I said, Larry King has always been there, always been there. I'm going to miss you terribly, Larry, because, frankly, you're one of a kind.

KING: Well, so are you, Reg.

PHILBIN: I'll miss you. I'll miss your suspenders. I'll miss your voice. I'll miss everything.

KING: I'm not going away.

MAHER: OK. That's what I want to hear. That's why I called. I want to make sure you're not going away.

KING: You're a doll, Regis. I'll see you in New York.

PHILBIN: Good night, Bill.

MAHER: Good night.

PHILBIN: Take care, guys.

MAHER: That plainly was not Regis. That was impressionist Frank Gore. But he did a fantastic Regis.

KING: Frank?

MAHER: I don't know who the impressionists are anymore. Rich Little.

KING: Did you see the guy at the Mirage in Vegas?

MAHER: What guy?

KING: What's his name?

MAHER: Fred Ganz?

KING: No, no, he passed away. The impressionist. Not the -- the ventriloquist.

MAHER: Fred Dravalino (ph)?

KING: No, the ventriloquist. I'm going to -- never mind.

MAHER: Edgar Bergen. That's the last ventriloquist I can remember. Is anyone in the age of the Internet and iPhones still doing ventriloquism?

KING: The guy at the Mirage in Vegas.

(CROSS TALK)

KING: Terry Fator, have you seen him? MAHER: I've never heard of him.

KING: He has a ten-year contract at 10 million a year from the Mirage. I saw him once at this cancer event they do that I MC every year. Jay Leno was the comic and Jay brought him on. He appears in the room that Danny Ganz used to work in. He's the greatest ventriloquist ever. He has 132 puppets.

MAHER: Sort of like saying he's the tallest midget. But OK, I'm not a big fan of ventriloquism, but OK. I'll go, Larry. Let's get tickets. We'll get Nancy Reagan and we'll go out there together. You, me, Anderson Cooper and Nancy Reagan will all be out there to see the tallest midget. I mean the best ventriloquist. Whatever. We have time to do it now.

KING: I'll be back. We're losing control. We're losing control. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In our final moments, don't forget, Elizabeth Edwards tomorrow night. On the phone, one of my favorite people, Diane Sawyer.

DIANE SAWYER, JOURNALIST (via telephone): Hello, hello. I cannot believe you and Bill and Nancy Reagan would go out and hear ventriloquists without me. No way.

MAHER: Absolutely. She'll be our -- she'll be our Shirley MacLaine in our Rat Pack.

SAWYER: Nancy and I will be out the door with you two.

KING: Bring Mr. Nichols.

SAWYER: Definitely will. I just want to say, Larry, what a monument of vitality you have built for all of us. And I cannot wait to see your specials, because everybody in the world wants to talk to you, and to see you do them in a concentrated way. When you choose to do them, it's going to be a thrill.

KING: Thank you, Diane. When we do -- I asked you off the air, when we do the last week of LARRY KING LIVE, we hope you'll come on as one of the guests that week.

SAWYER: I will definitely be there. Put me down in ink.

KING: Congratulations on the anchoring. That's a great gig for you.

SAWYER: Thank you. Thank you. And, again, we -- we love and honor you.

KING: Thank you. Nice lady.

MAHER: Yeah. She does a great job anchoring the news. KING: Terrific talent.

MAHER: She's really easy to take. That's a lot of what that job is, someone who is really smart, credible, easy on the eyes, like you, Larry.

KING: OK, Bill. We've got about a minute left.

MAHER: Apparently a minute too much.

KING: Give me a forecast on the mid -- on the elections.

MAHER: You know what?

KING: How many Republicans pick up how many House seats?

MAHER: I don't know. You know, it looks tough for Obama right now. But when you look at -- of course they haven't really made their case yet. But he probably did stave off a depression. You know, when he came into office, the economy was heading right over a cliff. They'll make that case. He got health care, which no president has been able to accomplish and all have tried in the last 60 years. He got this financial reform package. I mean, it's not perfect. None of it is perfect, but politics is the art of the possible.

Look, I climb up on his ass every time I can, because that's my job, to keep him honest and push him more to the left. But you know what? Objectively, it's a pretty successful first term. And it's only half over. I think they could run on that. If the Democrats do what they don't usually do, which is make their case, I think they can do a lot better than people think.

KING: Thanks, bill. Thanks for doing this.

MAHER: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Stop. I'll be here. The last night, do this. Bill, I'm here.

MAHER: Larry. Don't go, Larry.

KING: Elizabeth Edwards tomorrow night. We'll talk about the "Whale Wars" Thursday. And Jerry Weintraub on Friday. Right now, it's back to New Orleans, where he now lives, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?