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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Discussion of North Korea Situation and China; Interview with Bill Maher. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 13, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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TAPPER: Thank you for watching. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
We will begin with the shocking events of this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, the racist rallies that ended in what appears to be murder. We'll explore the alt-right's newfound power and prestige in Donald Trump's America.
ZAKARIA: The North Korea crisis. Tough words from Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury.
ZAKARIA: And also from Pyongyang. What will cool this crisis down?
And Bill Maher. The satirist much of America like
BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Jeff Session is still hiding under his desk. And Rex Tillerson will now be reporting directly to Putin.
ZAKARIA: We'll talk about President Trump, of course, D.C. dysfunction, and how the world views America today.
ZAKARIA: But first here's "My Take." How did we get here? Why does it appear that we're on the brink of a war in Asia, one that could involve nuclear weapons?
North Korea has had nuclear weapons capacity for at least 10 years now. Have its recent advances been so dramatic and significant to force the United States to wage a preventive war?
No. The crisis we now find ourselves in has been exaggerated and mishandled by the Trump administration to a degree that is deeply worrying and dangerous. From the start, the White House has wanted to look tough on North Korea. In the early months of Trump's presidency before there could possibly have been a serious policy review, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the era of strategic patience with North Korea was over.
Trump, of course, went much further this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Trump has made clear that the United States would respond to North Korean nuclear threats, rhetoric with a massive military strike possibly involving nuclear weapons.
Is this credible? No. The United States is not going to launch a preventive nuclear war in Asia. Empty threats and loose rhetoric only cheapen American prestige and power boxing in the administration for the future.
So why do it? Because it's Trump's basic mode of action. For his entire life, Donald Trump has made grandiose promises and ominous threats and never delivered on either. When he was in business, he frequently threatened to sue news organization, but the last time he apparently followed through was in 1984, over 30 years ago.
In his political life, he has followed the same strategy. In 2011 he claimed he had investigators who cannot believe what they're finding about Barack Obama's birth certificate and that he would soon be revealing some interesting things. He had nothing.
During the campaign, he vowed that he would label China a currency manipulator, move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, make Mexico pay for a border war, initiate an investigation into Hillary Clinton. So far nada.
After being elected he signaled to China that he might recognize Taiwan. Within weeks of taking office, he folded.
When the United States watched a Stalin Soviet Union develop nuclear weapons, it was careful in its rhetoric. When it saw a far more threatening leader, Mao Zedong, pursuing nuclear weapons, it was even more cautious. Mao insisted he had no fear of nuclear war because China would still have more than enough survivors to defeat Western imperialists, and yet successive U.S. administrations kept their cool. The world is already living with a nuclear North Korea. It has for a
decade. If that reality cannot be reversed through negotiations and diplomacy and sanctions, the task will be to develop a robust system of deterrence, the kind that kept the peace with Stalin's Russia and Mao's China. Bluster from the president can increase the dangers of miscalculation.
"I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days," said Rex Tillerson on Wednesday.
This was an unusual, perhaps unprecedented statement. The secretary of State seems to have been telling Americans and the world to ignore the rhetoric, not of the North Korean dictator but of his own boss, the president of the United States.
It is probably what Donald Trump's associates have done for him all his life.
[10:05:05] They know that the guiding mantra for Donald Trump has been not the art of the deal but the art of the bluff.
For more, go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
We'll get back to North Korea, but first we must begin with the horrifying events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. It all began with a gathering of people who are anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-black, what some might call anti-American.
These racist protesters were there to oppose the removal of a Confederate monument. The events ended with a terrifying scene as a car drove into a crowd of counter protesters injuring many and killing one.
The president responded but disturbingly didn't single out the racists, instead condemning, quote, "hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides," unquote.
Let's bring in a panel. Melody Barnes was director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama. She is now a visiting professor at the University of Virginia. Rick Perlstein is a historian of American conservatism. Also a historian, Tim Naftali was director of the Nixon Presidential Library, and before that also taught at the University of Virginia.
Melody, let me ask you, how much of this is an eruption of something that has been simmering underneath? And I mean particularly simmering ever since the election of an African-American as president. And what did you to notice in the White House? What information were you getting about these kinds of movements and these kinds of currents in America?
MELODY BARNES, FORMER DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL: Well, first of all, Fareed, thank you so much for having me this morning. And I actually want to go back further than this past election or my time in the White House. And I would say to the nation and to your viewers that we can't view what happened yesterday as a Charlottesville problem or a Virginia problem.
That this is the American problem, that the roots of what happened yesterday go back to the 1619, to the founding of our country. And we will not only do ourselves a great disservice, but we will inflict more harm on ourselves as a country if we don't contextualize what happened yesterday in the roots of white supremacy and entitlement that led to a young woman being killed yesterday, but it is a scene that we have seen over and over and over in our country from -- through slavery and through lynchings and through the civil rights movement that led us to yesterday.
And until we have a cold, hard, honest look at our American history and the DNA of America, we will not be able to deal with these issues. They were further inflamed, I believe, as people reacted and responded to President Obama's election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 and certainly President Trump has created an enabling environment through his statements over the last many years. But this is a history that belongs to the ages.
ZAKARIA: Rick Perlstein, you have studied and written a lot about the right in America. Is it fair to say that this has always been to take the modern version of what Melody Barnes was talking about there has always been this undercurrent within some elements of the conservative movement or is that unfair?
RICK PERLSTEIN, HISTORIAN OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM: I think that's very fair, and I endorse profoundly the substance of what Melody Barnes is saying. Think about this. What the people were marching in defense of in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a statute to a man who led troops into battle and treason against the United States in order defend slavery.
Starting in the early '60s, when the Civil Rights Movement was basically challenging white supremacy with the power of people's bodies and religious faith, that movement to basically celebrate the Confederacy enjoyed enormous resurgence in the early 1860s -- 1960s. That's when we began to see these statues being built and Confederate flags being waved.
And ever since then, that sort of lost-cause kind of wave the bloody shirt ideology and the ideology that whenever something goes wrong in your world you can blame a diabolical conspiracy, you know, this is kind of McCarthyism language. Then that's where Donald Trump comes in. His willingness to kind of blame this diabolical conspiracy of liberal media, the establishment in both parties, jihadists, and all the rest.
[10:10:07] And this is the kind of rhetoric you see in right-wing media, both kind of the bottom-feeding media and Breitbart, but also in places like FOX News and the National Rifle Association, whose basically model is to terrify people to believe that America is on fire, that liberals are out to get you, that both parties are out to get you, that Donald Trump is out to protect you, and that you need to march through the streets with guns, which is exactly what happened in Charlottesville, in order to protect their family, in order to protect your identity.
And when we see Donald Trump saying something like the problem that is revealed in Charlottesville is that children can't go out in front of their yards and play, this is a direct signal to the worst most corrosive white supremacists who by the way are calling their rally a rally to Unite the Right. They see this as a unifying issue.
So, yes, it's great that Marco Rubio has denounced the president, it's great that Ted Cruz has now denounced the president, but it would be great to hear Republicans who don't have presidential ambitions against Donald Trump denounce the president.
ZAKARIA: Tim Naftali, the extraordinary thing here is how this has really come out, and as Rick Perlstein says, they're being quite open and blatant about what it is they're talking about. It used to be quieter, right?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It used to be. But I want to make a point about that statue, OK, because one of the problems we have in America is we don't deal with our history very well. We have these moment where liberty expands and when a country undergoes real social change, and it's at those moments that you get this reaction.
That statue is from the '20s. They were for -- I still live in Charlottesville. The four Confederate statues from '20s, not from 1880. Why the '20s? Because this was after World War I and there had been enormous social change in the United States. This is the time when you had the second coming of the KKK.
The 1960s we saw the return of the Stars and Bars. Why? Because of a fear among white supremacists that they were losing their country, and we're getting it again. So the one thing to keep in mind is we have this cycle in this country of terrible reaction. And each time it's a test of moral courage on the part of our leaders.
Senator Orrin Hatch is not running for president. He showed real courage. President Trump showed moral cowardice yesterday.
There are moments in our history when we need our president to stand up to the reaction and say that is not who we are.
In the 1960s, the Republican Party, and Rick knows more about this than I do, was better at policing the fringe -- they called it the John Birch society -- than they are today. They are not able to police the fringe. This fringe seems to be mainstream in the Republican Party. That's the fear for the country. That's the problem.
ZAKARIA: We will be back in a moment to talk about the big questions of the future. Where do we go from here? What is the way out of this deep polarization in America?
[10:17:20] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Melody Barnes, Rick Perlstein and Tim Naftali. Melody, I'm wondering where you see this going forward? How does one
begin to re-knit some of these kind of unraveling threads for America?
BARNES: I think that's the important question of the day, and I would say there are at least three things that have to happen. First of all, yesterday President Trump said that we need to study what happened in Charlottesville. And yes, we have to understand for legal purposes what happened in Charlottesville yesterday, but we don't need more studies, more commissions, or made-for-television conversations about race.
We know what has happened in this country and we have to have an honest contextualization, and understanding, fact-based of American history 1619 to 2017, and put what happened yesterday in context.
Secondly, we have to deconstruct issues around our economy and around our laws, and that deal with and perpetuate issues of inequity so that we can create opportunity for everyone, and that includes both people of color and Americans who are white, low-income white. Race has been used as a great wedge to divide insidiously and we have to, as you say, knit people back together.
And finally, we also have to deal with issues of culture in America and American identity and broaden American identity so that we actually address the founding ideals of our country, breathe life into them, and make this a country for everyone who lives here and deconstruct the issue of -- and the myth of American supremacy and entitlement that led to what happened yesterday.
What makes America great is also something that's quite fragile. It is the American idea of individual rights and liberties, and we have to today go forward to protect that but also to breathe life into it.
ZAKARIA: Rick Perlstein, is there a way you think to get these groups to stop feeling so scared that their world is being overwhelmed? I mean, you know, because it does seem to me this comes from a kind of insecurity and paranoia that they're --
ZAKARIA: That they're being overrun in a country in which, you know, still 75 percent white, dominated in almost every -- you know, in every respect. I think of the Republicans who control the White House, both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and almost two- thirds of the state legislature acting as if they are in some way kind of a besieged minority.
PERLSTEIN: Right. Well, there will always be an extremist reactionary fringe in America. You're never going to get rid of that. What you need to do is disempower them.
[10:20:03] And I'm afraid to say, you know, it's fashionable to say we need to knit the country together by ratcheting down polarization, but I think prior to that we have to defeat the anti-American thugs who have taken over operational control of one of our one major political parties. So basically these people are kind of barking in the wilderness instead of being amplified by the president of the United States.
ZAKARIA: Tim Naftali, is this domestic terrorism?
NAFTALI: Absolutely. This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. Let's talk about domestic terrorism. Let's talk about our concern about foreign terrorism, ISIS, and domestic terrorism. Let's not make it seem that we take one seriously as a problem and the other one we treat only as a law enforcement issue.
The FBI has a good record on going against the KKK. What we don't have a good record of as a people is using our soft power, our rhetorical power to say that this is unacceptable to be a white supremacist and a neo-Nazi in America. It may be legal to express those repugnant views, but it is unacceptable.
It is time to ostracize those groups and also to use counter terrorism methods to penetrate them where it is clear they are considering the use of violence. By the way, I'm willing to say the same about antifa. If they're going to consider violence, they should be penetrated, too, but right now the big problem is the alt-right.
ZAKARIA: Tim Naftali, Rick Perlstein, Melody Barnes, fascinating conversation. Thank you, all.
Next on GPS, the Korea crisis. Is all the back and forth between Trump and Kim Jong-un bluster or is a war in Asia really possible? I've got a great panel when we come back.
[10:26:19] ZAKARIA: I want to bring in two people who know the Korean situation very well. Kevin Rudd was prime minister of Australia twice and he served as Foreign minister in between his two terms as PM. He's now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.
And Victor Cha is the Korea chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was director of Asian Affairs at the NSC during the George W. Bush administration.
Kevin, let me start with you. How do you think people in the region are reacting -- countries in the region are reacting to this ratcheting up of rhetoric that has taken place over the last few weeks by North Korea certainly but also by the Trump administration in a fairly unusual way?
KEVIN RUDD, PRESIDENT, ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE: I think there are probably two things going on in the minds of the region at the moment. One is that general perception of the United States which they see as more uncertain in its general strategic behavior than has been the case in the past. Secondly, on the question of the North Korean scenario in particular, obviously, people are objectively anxious about what's changing and that's all because of what the North Koreas have done. But recently, they begin to see the language which starts to build a problem into a crisis. And then you start to enter into discussions about crisis management, and that's when I think people become particularly anxious. That's the mood I pick up. ZAKARIA: Victor, do you think that this kind of rhetoric can spiral
out of control?
VICTOR CHA, FORMER ASIA DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, Fareed, I certainly hope not. On the one hand, I do think that rhetoric has gone up, but at the same time, I'm not certain how much comments by the U.S. president would actually change North Korean behavior.
We've had past presidents that have been very calm and quiet when it comes to North Korea, ones who've been more vocal, and North Korean behavior seems to be the same in either case. So to me the most important thing now is to avert miscalculation and in that sense some of the very strong statements by the U.S. this past week may actually help to reinforce deterrence.
We have to remember, in 1993 Bill Clinton once said that if North Korea used the nuclear weapon it would be the end of a country as they knew it, and that was a pretty strong statement of deterrence.
ZAKARIA: But, Kevin, as Victor Cha points out, nothing has really changed North Korea's behavior. You could be -- act tough on them and threaten, you can be less threatening. You know, there are many who say, look, this is country that is buying insurance against what appeared to be an array of world powers that want to get rid of it. Maybe we should be trying another tactic, trying to see if there's a way to talk to them, try to see if there's a way to negotiate with them.
Certainly the Trump administration keeps saying it's changing policy. What strikes me, this is the same policy. It's been threats, threats, threats, sanctions, sanctions, sanctions, for 30 years.
RUDD: This is a regime, as Victor, who's an expert in the field, has correctly said as been through it all before. But they're also dealing with a president who in my judgment is unique in many respects compared with his predecessors since the period of 1993, which Victor referred to before.
ZAKARIA: Unique in what sense?
RUDD: Well, unique in the sense that he sees a virtue in his own strategic unpredictability. He's actually said that, not specifically in relation to North Korea but more generally. And secondly, with President Trump, there is this whole notion that his is a muscular presidency when it comes to international action, and that I think creates a fresh set of new uncertainties.
The key thing that worries me, though -- and I've just come back from China yesterday, Fareed -- is, when people discuss the possibility of unilateral U.S. military action against the North, the Chinese baseline conclusion is this is just one huge bluff.
And as a consequence, that results in a Chinese view that, "Yeah, we'll do a few things to try and talk the North Koreans into coming around to a more reasonable posture, at least freezing what they're currently doing, but at the end of the day, the North Koreans evolve into a fully replete nuclear weapons state with ICBMs with miniaturized warheads on top, then, well, the Chinese view is the U.S. will then just have to accept that reality.
And what none of us know is whether President Trump will ultimately accept a position in history which says "I'm the guy and it was on my watch that this state finally crossed the threshold of constituting a threat to the U.S. mainland."
ZAKARIA: U.S. policy toward China on this issue, it seems to me, should be far more strategic, sustained and less about angry tweets, you know, kind of braggadocio bravado, the kind of rhetoric. You've dealt with China all your life. You speak Mandarin fluently. What is your sense?
How should Donald Trump be dealing with China?
RUDD: Look, with anyone dealing with Xi Jinping -- this guy is a serious hard-head. He's a serious hard-ass. I mean, this guy has been around for a while. And if there's going to be a serious conversation here about the future of the Korean Peninsula, it has to be conducted in clear, bottom-line but quiet terms between one administration and the other.
The question of China's historical paranoia about the Korean Peninsula is absolutely fundamental in this, and you've therefore got to deal with it in a comprehensive way and not just pick out the nuclear bit and say that's the only thing we're concerned about.
That's what my advice would be to the administration. And for all I know, they may be doing that through their own quiet diplomatic channels as well.
ZAKARIA: Victor, do you think that that's the kind of strategy -- and again, it seems to me, if that is the strategy, angry denunciations and tweets aren't really helping?
CHA: Well, I mean, I do agree with Kevin that, in the end, it appears that the only real solution to this problem is some sort of grand bargain with the United States and China, and along the lines that Kevin described. But the difficult part, of course, is that that sort of grand bargain requires, really, a deep level of trust among the leaders of the two countries, and that just doesn't exist today. And it's going to -- it's hard to create something like that. It has to happen over time.
ZAKARIA: On that sober note, thank you both, fascinating conversation.
Next on "GPS," a real treat, Bill Maher on how he sees America in the age of Trump.
ZAKARIA: On Friday night I was delighted to be a guest on Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time." When that taping was over, I turned the tables on him and I got to ask the questions.
For my money, he is America's sharpest political satirist, and I wanted to hear his thoughts on the president and the nation at this juncture in history. I should note that both CNN and HBO are owned by Time Warner.
ZAKARIA: Bill Maher, pleasure to have you on.
MAHER: Always good to see you.
ZAKARIA: So, six months into the Trump era...
MAHER: It seems like 60 years.
I've aged. I didn't have gray hair when we started, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: What's -- what has surprised you?
MAHER: I thought he would crash the stock market. And I still think he will. I'm hoping, actually, because that's one thing that would maybe lose him a lot of support in the Republican Party. But I thought and predicted, and I was wrong, that the stock market hates volatility and uncertainty, and who is more volatile than Donald Trump?
But I guess I underestimated their greed, because they still want their tax cut.
ZAKARIA: What I've been surprised by is the degree to which his supporters still support him, right? I mean, if you look at even Republican support, it's still even in the high 70s, some polls in the low 80s. And, you know, you get the feeling it's not so much about ideology, because he's not that conservative; it's not so much about competence. He hasn't gotten much done. What do you think is going on?
MAHER: Well, it's -- it's almost a protest vote, you know? I'm not surprised because there are -- now, there is a certain percentage of people who are, I think, racist, and that's part of his appeal. And, you know, his dog whistle was louder than any dog whistle we've heard, and the Republicans have been playing that game since Nixon and the Southern strategy, and Reagan opening his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. That's been going on a long time, but he just did it in a much more blatant way so.
So he can't deny that that's part of it. But there are many, many gettable voters, I mean, gettable by the Democrats, that put him over the top. And these are the people who I fight with, sometimes right here in this studio audience. These are -- this is that part of the Democratic Party that is plainly obnoxious. They are humorless. They're too politically correct. If you -- if you talk to Trump people, they're not unaware of his flaws. But what they always say, like the first thing, what they love about him, he's politically incorrect.
You know, all those years ago, when I called the show "Politically Incorrect," I wasn't exactly wrong.
I failed miserably at driving a stake through its heart, but that was a problem and it is a problem. And we've been joking on it, and he played that and he still plays that. And they love that. And they would -- even though they know that he's bad in a lot of ways, they would rather be on his team than those insufferable people on the left. That's how they think.
ZAKARIA: What do you think it is? It's a really interesting thing that I've grappled with in America. Is it -- there's almost a sort of Puritanism within the culture that says we're going to shame; we're going to censor, you know, you can't say these things. Because it's very different, as you know, in a place like Europe. You don't have -- there's a peculiarity to the way, in America, on the right and left, but particularly on the left, there is this Puritanism of, you know, there are things you can't say.
MAHER: And it's getting worse. I don't know how long I'm going to last...
... really. I mean, it's -- it's worse every year. The things that they go after people for now. I mean, your colleague -- I don't agree with him -- Jeffrey Lord -- I mean, CNN got rid of him because he said "Sig heil" on a tweet. It was a joke. This has got to stop, this idea of people have to go away if they've offended me even for one moment.
How about just move on, turn the page, go to the next thing in your life?
This idea that you cannot suffer one moment of pain, this comes, I think, from bad parenting. You know, these are the kids; these are the millennials -- sorry, millennials, but, you know, these are the kids who, you know, grew up yelling at their parents, something that never even crossed my mind that I could do, and parents negotiating everything, and this sense of entitlement that I should never feel any pain, even the pain of someone disagreeing with me.
There's an alarming number of millennials who really don't even believe in free speech, because, you know what, free speech could lead to hurt feelings. Who gave these kids these priorities?
ZAKARIA: The Google guy who was fired for posting a memo in which he tried to discuss -- you know, he may have been right or wrong, but to be fired for expressing your views...
MAHER: There's 10 examples every week. And colleges are completely out of control. I mean, the good side of it is that people are on the case now. I mean, like, I remember when I was pretty much alone, screaming about this -- this goes back to the '90s -- and I think a lot of people, the mainstream people get this now, that, you know, colleges are not doing what colleges are supposed to do, which is broadening people's minds. They're doing the opposite.
ZAKARIA: So you think it could change? You think that...
MAHER: It has to. And I also have heard encouraging things from people about the generation that's coming up behind the millennials. You know, every generation usually rebels against the one that came before them, and I think part of it is a rebellion against political correctness that I hope happens, and also against social media.
Social media is not benign, people attached to their phones like that, getting all their news from just what someone shares on their Facebook page. This is not the way you get news if you really care about what's going on. And I think there is a generation that I hope is going to rebel against that. Because, you know, I don't take pictures. People always are asking me to take pictures and I say, "Handshake, hug, eye contact?" And usually they get it. Sometimes they don't even hear me and they lift the phone anyway.
I'm like, "Hello, I just said I don't do it."
"Oh, yeah, I'm sorry."
It's just so automatic that life...
ZAKARIA: Is through...
MAHER: ... has to come through a screen. It's -- it's killing us.
ZAKARIA: Don't go away. We have much more with Bill Maher when we return.
ZAKARIA: Back now with much more of my interview with Bill Maher. We recorded at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, where he does his HBO show "Real Time." The program is now in its 15th season.
ZAKARIA: You've spent a lot of time talking about what the Democrats should do.
ZAKARIA: So where do you -- when you look at this issue of should they move more left; should they move more right, what's the answer?
MAHER: I think that's not the question. There is and of course there always is going to be, in a big party, a difference between the center left and the far left. It's more how you fight the battle. They're just not good at politics.
The Russia story is a great example. How can they not make that stick?
I mean, these people were colluding with the country who, for my whole life, was the enemy. Even after Communism fell, we found out, oh, OK, there were things that were deeper than Communism that separated us. And Vladimir Putin certainly has ties back to those days, and he is not our friend.
For Donald Trump this week to be thanking him for kicking out 750 Americans? These are State Department people, people doing valuable work. Some of them were spies and we should have spies there. Now we have nobody there to keep an eye on what Putin is doing. And the president of the United States thanks Putin?
That's -- you know, last week we had an Obama impersonator here, my friend Reggie Brown, who brilliantly, like, just said the things Trump has said. I said, "What would it look like if Obama had said John McCain is not a war hero and so forth?"
I wish he was back here this week to do the one where Trump thanks Putin for kicking our people out. I don't know what it takes for the Democrats to seize on this, you know. They're saying it's not a winner for them, this issue. Make it a winner. It can't be that hard.
ZAKARIA: What about the idea of having this gut connection, that, you know, that Democrats find it more difficult to have with particularly, kind of, the white working class?
You know, I see the difference between Bill and Hillary so clearly, the same policies, right? I mean, they had the same advisers in many -- people felt like Bill Clinton got them, just at the gut, and they felt like Hillary was aloof, distant.
MAHER: And that's how Trump voters and lots of Americans feel about Trump. I mean...
ZAKARIA: So you've got to find the right person?
MAHER: Well, you know, there's a funny part in your special about why people went for Trump where the guy says, "This guy craps in a gold toilet."
"And he got the working people to vote for him."
But, you know, a great point is made that, you know, the problems that we had a generation ago in urban America are not (ph) the problems you see in, you know, white, middle America, you know, drug overdoses, families breaking up and joblessness. And, you know, the center of town looks blighted and -- I mean, I've traveled this country doing stand-up all the time. I've seen it.
That's why, one reason I thought, oh, Trump could get elected. You know, you drive through a lot of these cities just from the airport to the hotel to the gig and you're like, "Ooh, wow, this place looks like crap. Somebody could win an election here, yeah." ZAKARIA: Do you think -- is the circus of Trump, sort of -- is it entertaining people?
I mean, how -- it's great for you, obviously, but what...
MAHER: He's good for business. I can't deny.
ZAKARIA: But is there a danger that the circus becomes the new norm?
MAHER: Well, there's definitely a danger. I mean, I have gone through some very dark moments right before the election, right after it, because, look, he's besieged now by the Russia investigation and he can't get his legislation through Congress and so forth, but it's only six months in.
Say the Russia card is played out. It doesn't necessarily mean it's going work. He could survive the whole Russia thing. And, usually, you know, when you go after the leader and you don't get him, he becomes stronger. He totally wants to be a dictator. It's so obvious. The people he admires in the world, Putin -- even Kim Jong Un, he said, is a smart cookie.
It wasn't that long ago he was "I would be honored" -- "I'd be honored to rain fire and fury on you."
You know, Sisi in Egypt and Duerte and that nut in Turkey. These are the people he likes. He so wants to be that guy who can do whatever he wants. I asked the panel last week, "Do you think" -- Ralph Reed was there -- "Do you think Putin has ordered killed?"
He said "Absolutely."
I said, "Do you think Trump would do that if he could?
I do. I think, if Trump could do that, he would do all the things dictators do. So, yes, that's very frightening.
ZAKARIA: And if -- and if he were -- let's say, if Mueller came up with something substantial, a lot of people wonder, Trump may just go to the mattresses. You know, he may fight back. He may do -- Richard Nixon accepted the verdict, in a sense, of the American judicial system. Would Trump?
MAHER: I don't know if he was going to accept losing this last election. I mean, right up until the moment he lost, it was all about "It's rigged; the whole thing was rigged; it's unfair." Now he's talking about how, "Oh, you know, it's just an excuse, this Russia thing. "Just an excuse," he tells his people, "to take the election away from you."
Yeah, once somebody like that gets power, I don't know if you're going to get them to give it up, nor do I trust the voting next time. This is an ongoing problem. This isn't just something that happened once, the meddling in the election. They're going to do it again. Comey said so when he testified before Congress. He said, "They're going to come back."
This is -- this is crows who have found something to kill and they like that nest and they're not going to just go away quietly until we stop them. But the president, who's supposed to be our commander in chief in this war, and it is a war, is AWOL in the battle. To me, that's impeachable.
ZAKARIA: So here you are, this -- I mean, you do comedy and you -- this sounds -- you sound like you're having some dark thoughts?
MAHER: I -- I am. I mean, he sued me once. I can only imagine, if he had dictatorial powers, what he would do to people he doesn't like. I mean, it's obvious that, if you're not on the side of just completely kissing his behind, then you're an enemy. I mean, he goes after Mitch McConnell and his own attorney general. What do you think he would do to somebody like me if he ever heard the things -- thank God he doesn't watch the show.
People say, "Do you think Trump watches the show?" I hope not.
Please, I hope he does not watch this show.
ZAKARIA: Otherwise, you'd be in jail?
MAHER: Yeah. I could be.
ZAKARIA: Bill Maher, pleasure to have you, alive and free.
For as long as it lasts. Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.