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CNN Larry King Live

Rumsfeld Resigns; Bill Maher Interview

Aired November 08, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is out.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I have benefited greatly from criticism and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.


L. KING: The day after the Republicans lose the House, what does it mean for America's role in Iraq?

And then Bill Maher, always outspoken, always outrageous. His take on Rumsfeld and on yesterday's winners and losers, Washington's new power couple Bush and Pelosi, and more. Plus, his answers to your calls and e-mails. Yes, it's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin tonight with Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat of Delaware, he's in Wilmington right now. He's the ranking member of the foreign relations committee. He could be its chairman. And in New York, John King, CNN chief national correspondent.

What's the Rumsfeld story? When did this happen John, really?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Larry, the Rumsfeld story happened a bit over the weekend, but really happened today. The president knew this was coming. The decision was made last week.

I want to bring you up to another quick point though we want to make tonight, I think at the top of the show. You just said Mr. Biden might be Mr. Chairman quite soon. That's looking more and more likely.

The "Associated Press" has now called the Virginia Senate race. CNN is not prepared to do that just yet, but the "Associated Press" is saying that Jim Webb, the Democrat, will win that seat in Virginia. And here's the reason why, Larry. We do know from CNN sources that the canvassing is under way. They're looking back to see if they've had any problems with the count last night. And they are a little more than halfway through, we are told, and there have been no significant changes made at all.

So because of that, the "A.P." now feels comfortable calling Democrat Jim Webb the winner. That would tip the balance of power in the Senate, assuming the Montana race stays as well. And this reporting from Dana Bash just a few moments ago, speaking to a source close to Senator Allen, who said, quote, "The senator is not prepared to make an official statement," not quoting. "The senator is not prepared to make an official statement just yet, wants to wait until they finish the canvassing tomorrow." But also, the senator, quote, "has no intention of dragging this out."

So Larry by this time tomorrow, unless there is a dramatic change in Virginia, I think you will be telling Mr. Biden he will soon be Mr. Chairman.

L. KING: Mr. Biden, Mr. Senator, your reaction?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I'm looking forward to that. I have a great relationship with Dick Lugar, who is the chairman now and we may be able to set the standard for what a bipartisan committee should look like.

L. KING: What happened do you think, Senator Biden, last night?

BIDEN: What happened Larry, was what you and talked about a couple of weeks ago on your show. I think there is an overwhelming, overwhelming displeasure with the way the president has conducted his foreign policy and also, Larry, I think there is a cumulative effect of 26 years of conservative leadership in the country.

I think they've closed the book on that, closed the chapter in that book of the sort of hard-right conservative movement that started with Ronald Reagan, just as the Carter election -- and I'm a big supporter of Carter, and was his national campaign chair, titular head of his campaign, we in 1980, the American people decided that the Democratic philosophy that reigned from '32 to '80 didn't work anymore.

And I think that's exactly what has happened -- I know no one else is saying that. I could be wrong. But I think that's what happened in '06, last night and it's going to be up to the Democrats to see if they can step up to the ball and offer a clear alternative.

KING: Senator John McCain was with us last night. He weighed in on the Rumsfeld resignation shortly after it was announced. Listen to his reaction.


L. KING: I'm sorry. We don't have the clip. John King, what has been...

BIDEN: I think I know John...

L. KING: .. All right, John King, what has been the reaction on Capitol Hill?

J. KING: Well, the reaction is a great sigh of relief, and the reaction mostly has been that the president seems to have bought himself some time here, and least a temporary gesture of goodwill. The significant thing though Larry, is you have a change of personnel at the Pentagon now. Bob Gates will be coming in and will be interested in Senator Biden's view. He opposed Mr. Gates when he was up for a CIA post quite some time ago. But I think Mr. Gates will be quickly confirmed here, perhaps even before the end of the year.

The president did not, though, Larry, say there would be any change in policy. In fact, he said he's the commander-in-chief and we need to keep the troops there until the job is done. And the president is under -- he's in a very tough political box now. The Democrats, it appear, will run both chambers of the Congress. Many will say this president is a lame duck. But he still has powers as the commander-in-chief. He's still in the middle of an unpopular war.

And on the one hand John McCain is saying you need to send in more troops to make this right and you have Senator Biden and others saying it's time to start thinking about bringing the troops home, in an orderly way, not immediately, not right away, but start reducing the levels over time. So the president is in a very difficult box. He bought himself some time today. He did what both senior Republicans and Democrats say he should have done a long time ago, in saying it's time for a new defense secretary. But what will the policy shift be? Will there be a policy shift? We may get more on that next week when we get this report when the president sits down with former secretary of state Jim Baker.

L. KING: Senator Biden, what about Mr. Gates?

BIDEN: Well, I'm inclined to vote for him. I voted against, remember Larry, that was back in the days of the Iran/Contra affair and then the whole question of politicizing the intelligence community.

I said at the time it's a tough call. I'm going to err on the side of voting against him. I'm inclined to err on the side of voting for him. But I think John King's got it just right. I think his reporting has been on the ball here, he is exactly right. It doesn't matter much unless the president is going to change his policy. If he's not going to do that, I think we're in real trouble. And I think he's going to be in real trouble with Republicans in the Senate, not just Democrats.

L. KING: John, we only have a minute. When does he leave? When does Mr. Rumsfeld go, go?

J. KING: Well Senator Biden will get that vote, but I suspect Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat in Armed Services, is already talking to John Warner, the current chairman of Armed Services, and it looks like unless there's some sort of a hiccup, they will have hearings, Larry, during the lame duck session of Congress and it looks to me like Mr. Gates will be confirmed by the end of the year and Mr. Rumsfeld will leave.

L. KING: So, Rumsfeld will stay until then?

J. KING: That's right. You don't want a vacancy in that position. President Bush made that clear today, while we're at war, you need a defense secretary.

L. KING: Thank you both, very much. We'll be calling, of course on John King frequently and Senator Biden as well. And if things turn out of the way the "Associated Press" is saying, and if it holds in Montana, he will be Chairman Biden. When we come back, Arianna Huffington and Amy Holmes return. They were with us last night. We'll get their read on all this. And then Bill Maher. Don't go away.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the president probably did the right thing by not making this announcement before, because then it would have been a -- been viewed, perhaps, as a political move. This important change offers the administration and Congress a fresh opportunity to examine all aspects of our strategy and tactics in Iraq and make whatever changes are necessary to succeed there. I believe this change today also provides an opportunity for greater bipartisan on the Iraq policy. The Republicans and Democrats, a good will to work together towards securing victory.




RUMSFELD: I mean, the fact is Larry, I submitted my resignation to President Bush twice during that period. Before I could even think about it, the president came out and said you're not going to resign.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider. And I decide what's best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.

Now after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.


L. KING: All right, joining us now, they were with us last night in our election coverage, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor of "," nationally syndicated columnist, author of the book "On Becoming Fearless." And Amy Holmes, the GOP strategist, former speechwriter for outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Now we only have a limited amount of time before Mr. Maher appears. Ms. Huffington, what's your read on Rumsfeld going?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I'm delighted that Rumsfeld is gone. But Larry, the problem with our policies in Iraq are our policies in Iraq, not just the guy implementing them.

You could bring a combination of Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur and Norman Schwarzkopf and they could not make Iraq work for America. And so really, this is the beginning. When is this going to end? I mean, it's clear from today's press conference that the president had misled the American public when before the election, he told them that Rumsfeld was going to stay until the end,

L. KING: You didn't buy his explanation, he couldn't say it then?

HUFFINGTON: Of course he could say that. Nobody stopped him. He chose to mislead the American people and he admitted at the press conference, which is amazing.

L. KING: Amy?

AMY HOLMES, GOP STRATEGIST: I think this does two things. No. 1, it shows that the president is responsive to the voters. The voters were looking for new strategies to win Iraq. And No. 2, it does something very important moving forward with the Democratically- controlled House. It removes a major Democratic target, a major Democratic obsession. So you're not going to be seeing Don Rumsfeld being hauled before hearing after hearing after hearing. It's a fresh start and Democrats are going to have to move forward.

HUFFINGTON: But it wasn't just Democrats, you know. It was a lot of military men. It was a lot of Republicans. I think everybody, except Mrs. Rumsfeld, wanted him gone.

L. KING: What happens if Allen loses?

HOLMES: Well, the control goes to the Democrats in the Senate. And with the Senate, as we all know here, it's a slow-moving institution. So, it's not clear that there's going to be huge policy shifts or huge changes in the Senate. One single senator can put a hold on a bill.

HUFFINGTON: But already in the press conference today, the president downgraded Iraq from Ground Zero in the war on terror, which is what it had been until today, to a part of the war on terror. That was a really quick downgrading, which shows that he is really reading the tea leaves. It's now up to the Democrats to make clear what the policy is going to be.

L. KING: What, Amy, surprised you the most last night?

HOLMES: What surprised me the most, well that actually the Democrats were able to run the table, you know, the conventional.

L. KING: They didn't lose one incumbent?

HOLMES: They didn't lose one -- well there was one incumbent, but he lost in the Democratic primary and that was in Connecticut. But he was beaten by an Independent, that was Joe Lieberman.

But the Democrats were able to run the table last night. Conventional wisdom was race by race, you could see it happening. But in terms of happening across the board as it happened last night, that was a surprise.

L. KING: What surprised you, Arianna?

HUFFINGTON: Well if you actually look at it race by race, what was fascinating -- and we have their statements on the "Huffington Post" tonight, is that the least likely candidates to win among the Democrats, won because they were unequivocal on the war in Iraq.

There's a great example in Pennsylvania. There were two Murphys. One Murphy was supposed to be a shoe-in. Ran a very conventional campaign, did not make Iraq a central part of the campaign and lost. The other Murphy was an Iraq veteran and had very little chance, supposedly, to win and won.

L. KING: Is it going to be gridlock, Amy, for two years?

HOLMES: I think you're going to see gridlock and I think if Democrats overreach, you're going to be seeing a lot of hearings, investigations. Remember there's John Conyers, who's going to be the head of the judiciary committee, who has already written up his case for impeachment of the president. But if they overreach, I think the voters will punish them. We don't want to see Washington just devolving into yet more partisanship.

HUFFINGTON: I don't think it's about overreaching. I really think it's about the president recognizing that he no longer has the ball. If you're on the playground and you have the ball, then you can go home and take the ball. Right now, the Democrats have it.

L. KING: It's my ball, it's my game.

HUFFINGTON: Exactly. Not anymore.

L. KING: Arianna Huffington, Amy Holmes, we'll be seeing lots of both of you. They have become, suddenly, the dynamic duo. They will return frequently. Bill Maher is with us frequently. He's next, don't go away.


KING: We now welcome -- always pleasantly welcome Bill Maher, one of the truly terrific performers, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher". That's Friday nights at 11:00. He'll be performing at the comedy festival at the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas November 16th. That's Thursday, November 16th. He'll also part of "Comic Relief," which airs live on HBO on November 18th.

What happens on Friday, the 17th?

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I go back and do the last show of my season.

KING: So you go to Vegas though the 16th, that's stand up.

MAHER: Go right back, do HBO, and then go back on the 18th.

KING: With the way you work so carefully and change material, isn't that going to be a pretty tough three days?

MAHER: I work on the plane, Larry.

KING: That's a 35 minute flight, Bill.

MAHER: I know. That's how quick I am.

KING: OK. Rumsfeld going, what do you think?

MAHER: Well, I think everyone, as I heard Arianna say, and we all agree, I think it's about time. Even the Republicans were saying that.

But we'll see. I mean, you know, the Democrats still are not really saying what I would like to hear about Iraq, because they're still on this page of, OK, we redeploy to bases and we only come out, like when there's trouble. Is that the new plan?

But that is sort of what we're doing now. And I don't think...

KING: What do you want to do?

MAHER: Got to get out of there. Has anyone ever been in a bad relationship in this administration? Do they understand that when it goes this bad, there's nothing you can do?

We did an editorial a couple of weeks ago about think tanks, because, you know, it's the think tanks that got us into this war. That's who they listen to, the neocons, all these people who made all these predictions and every one of the predictions -- and I could go down the list from WMDs to we'll be greeted as liberators to the Iraqi oil will pay for the war. Every...

KING: The insurgency is over.

MAHER: It's his last throes. Every one of them, dead wrong. And these are the people who are now saying, well, if we pull out of Iraq, A, B and C will happen.

Isn't your prediction quota up? How about if we just leave Iraq and we'll see what happens?

Because I think what we've learned from the Muslim world is it's Allah's will. You know what? What's going to happen in Iraq is going to happen, whether we stay or whether we go.

These people, we started this cock fight between them. Saddam had a lid on it. We got back in there and retribalized these people, and now the cock fight has started. It's not going to end until they settle it between themselves.

And the middle, the people who we went in there to save, the people who are going to have a normal country, the ones they said were going to throw flowers at us, none of those are left. They've all been killed or they left. There's been a mass exodus, or they're ethnically dividing themselves. There's a lot of self-ethnic cleansing going on. We went in there to get rid of the snakes in the pit. The only people left in the pit are the snakes and us.

KING: Therefore, it doesn't matter who replaces Rumsfeld, Gates or anyone?

MAHER: Well, I mean...

KING: Like she said, the policy is the same, no matter who.

MAHER: I'd like a smooth exit for our brave troops. But the important thing is to get the troops out of there. When Bush keeps talking about supporting the troops, it's like what world are we living in? The way to support the troops is to remove them from the pointless nightmare you put them in, not to stop the Dixie Chicks and John Kerry from telling a joke about them.

KING: Therefore, you do not expect, based on what the Democrats are saying, much change in the next two years?

MAHER: I do. I hope. But it's certainly not their call. They can't force the president to remove the troops. They can't force the defense...

KING: They could stop the funding.

MAHER: But they're not going to do that because they know they would never win another election, because they're afraid of a 30 second attack ad that says, they took money away from the troops.

See, it's all about supporting the troops.

KING: What about last night? What did you make of last night? No Democratic incumbent lost in any race.

MAHER: Yes. Well, I mean, first of all, it was nice to win one. I felt like black people at the O.J. Simpson trial. Finally, whether it was just or not, we won one.

And when I say we, I'm not even a Democrat. I just mean people of common sense. And that's who this was a victory for. And I think it was great, you know, it's hopeful to see that America can change course, all that stuff about gerrymandering, and, you know, the Republican advantage in money and get out the vote.

Well, it just shows -- I would never accuse the American people of being quick, but they do catch on eventually, and they can self- correct and they're not as conservative -- I always say this, as people think they are.

That was Karl Rove's great genius. He convinced the Democrats that America was really so far to the right that even they had to run so far to the right that people would -- of course, people were never going to vote for these so-called Hillary centrist, you know, the Republican-like Democrats, John Kerry in his goose hunting outfit. Of course they always lost those elections. Now Democrats maybe have found their feet again.

KING: What surprised you?

MAHER: Very little, because I really did think it was going to be a big Democrat victory. I thought people had to have been fed up with what was going on.

What Democrats have to take away from this -- and I think they already have learned this lesson -- is that it wasn't really a victory for you. It reminded me of the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals didn't really win, the Detroit Tigers lost it. Every game I tuned in, the Tigers were throwing the ball over the infield, over people's heads. The Cardinals just stood on the field and won.

That's sort of where the Democrats are. Let's see if you can win an election against a party that hasn't disgraced itself so horribly in every single way a party could disgrace itself.

KING: What did you make of the press conference this morning?

MAHER: It's interesting. Bush, who normally sounds like he cannot string a sentence together, but when he's angry -- and you could tell he was angry -- and when he's talking about the one subject where he is smart on, hardball politics, he's actually quite articulate. He actually should be Karl Rove. He should never have been president. That's what he would do better.

You could see he was mad at Karl Rove. And he should be because Karl rove has led this Republican Party down a hole here, I think.

KING: He's led them to victories, though. Give him some credit.

MAHER: Yes, but look where they are now. They lost every part of the country except the South. Really, the Republican Party now is the old Confederacy. And this was Karl Rove's method. See, Karl Rove went against what everybody always did in politics, was to run toward the center.

Karl Rove said, no, let's go to the real far right base. And that's where he ran, and that's all he's got left now. Everybody else left him, all the independents are gone, even evangelicals voted in numbers for Democrats. Not the majority, but...

KING: Twenty-five percent, though, I think.

MAHER: That's a lot more than they used to.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Carol in Honolulu. "Do you think it's a coincidence that the Dow Jones reached record highs and gas prices went down right around election day?"

MAHER: Not really. I don't think anything is a coincidence. I'm always amused when President Bush talks about something on the other side that benefits the Democrats and he goes, you know, the timing of this is very interesting.

Yes, I think it was interesting timing that Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death two days before the election. But, you see, none of those old Republican tricks worked this time.

John Kerry's botched joke had no traction. The people shrugged when Saddam was going to be executed because they knew he was never a threat to us in the first place. All that stuff went away.

KING: What do you make of the Mark Foley scenario, that scenario, and the fact that with his name on the ballot, the candidate running in his place lost?

MAHER: Well, isn't that what we expected? I mean...

KING: It was pretty close. That's a big Republican district.

MAHER: Yes, but he was hitting on 16 year-old boys.

You know, when you go to your base -- and one of your big calling cards at the base is that kissing boys is one of the worst things that could ever happen to America -- and then lots of people in your party turn out to be gay, you know, I'm sure a lot of the base wanted to vote a straight Republican ticket, they couldn't find a straight Republican, ladies and germs.

KING: Speaking of that, what do you make of Ted Haggard?

MAHER: I'm doing a bit of an editorial on him this week. So, I've been thinking about him a lot -- not in that way.

And if folks don't know who Ted Haggard is, he is the president of the American Evangelical Council. He is a pretty big fish in the evangelical movement, in charge of 45,000 churches and 39...

KING: Talks to the White House every Monday.

MAHER: Talks to the White House every -- usually about gay bashing. Well, I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but I do think that when a party is so divided against itself, eventually that comes to the fore.

It's so ironic. Republicans, the anti-abortion party, always trying to kill something inside of themselves. And Frank Rich (ph) wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. He said, yes, we've heard about Mark Foley, and then every week, it seemed another Congressman was outed. But he said, that's just the beginning of it. A lot of the chiefs of staff, the people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party are gay. I don't want to mention names, but I will on Friday night.

KING: You will Friday night?

MAHER: Well, there's a couple of big people who I think everyone in Washington knows who run the Republican...

KING: You will name them?

MAHER: Well, I wouldn't be the first. I'd get sued if I was the first. (A PORTION OF THIS TRANSCRIPT HAS BEEN REMOVED)

KING: ... why would someone who is gay take public anti-gay positions? Why would you do that?

MAHER: Because, Larry, hating yourself is the greatest love of all. Self-loathing.

KING: Great way to close out this segment. It's poignant.

We'll be right back.



JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Give us a little bit more of that Dan Rather, you know what I'm saying? A little bit more of that homespun kind of...


STEWART: What do you think about Hillary Clinton?

RATHER: We knew she was going to win in a landslide, but, I mean...

STEWART: How would you, Dan Rather, you know, describe the largeness of her victory.

RATHER: It was a healthy margin.


STEWART: How about she ran away with it like a hobo with a sweet potato pie?



KING: That was cute last night.

Bill Maher is our guest.

Don't forget the night of November 16th at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Bill Maher will be performing. You can get tickets through Ticketron and, of course, though...

MAHER: My full act, my stand up, where I bring it. Talk about bringing it on.

KING: You've never seen him... he's one of the great stand-up artists. You will have a great time.

MAHER: Bring a splint for your side. KING: Where does this poise the Democrats now in their race for the presidency? Who forges ahead?

MAHER: I don't know who. But I do think they're well positioned, because I think this was a reevaluation on the part of the country about conservatism in general.

I think people made the decision that it has failed them. I mean, if you look at what happened first under Reagan, what did they really accomplish? The fall of the Soviet Union, which they take credit for, but which we all know was a bipartisan endeavor that took 50 years. Reagan played his part, played it well in the third act.

KING: Sure did.

MAHER: OK. But it wasn't just him. And it wasn't just the '80s. The Soviet Union was going to fall. Maybe he precipitated it by a few years, but that was something that was inevitable.

He ran up the debt. And so did George Bush. Somehow the people, these conservatives who say that they're adults, this is the CEO administrations, well, they didn't act very much like efficient CEOs in Iraq or Katrina. They ran up the debt.

They don't seem to be who they say they are. And I think when people look back at what has been accomplished in America, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, it has been under Democratic progressive administrations.

KING: So if the Democrats are primed for a victory, who might lead them?

MAHER: I don't think this -- I don't think Bush's presidency is good for Barack Obama because I think people are going to say, well, we want someone with some experience. We've learned our lesson about putting people in office who are a little too young and a little too green for the job.

Not that I'm saying Obama is, but, you know, I think that worked against Harold Ford in Tennessee. He was -- that's the one that the Democrats didn't win last night. And of course, it also is the one that had a really dirty ad. That was the "Call me, Harold" ad. And I think the message from the Republicans is that dirty works. But that's the message they like anyway...

KING: So are we leading to Hillary?

MAHER: Well, I certainly think she's going to run. I certainly think she's going to be a formidable presence to beat. I've said to you before on this show, I don't think she's the right candidate because I think she's always trying to tack toward the center and, as I keep saying, I think America is a lot more liberal than people realize.

What is liberal, by the way? Nancy Pelosi, another Republican trick that didn't work. Nancy Pelosi, they tried to scare people, she's from, ah, San Francisco!

You know, like San Francisco is Devil's Island. Hello, it's part of America. It's actually a rich city. They make a lot of money. It's part of Silicon Valley. Are the Republicans against money now? I don't think so.

But you know, we don't really have a left wing in America anymore. Nancy Pelosi isn't to the left. She's left middle. She's not for socialized medicine or, you know, legalizing drugs. She was the first person to criticize Hugo Chavez when he made that speech against Bush.

The only people who are really on the left are like Ralph Nader and the new senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich. But we really don't have a left wing.

KING: Let's take a call for Bill Maher.

Miami, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi.

Bill, I'm enjoying your comments.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is, now that the election is over, and the Democrats have a mandate, who do you think actually has the courage in the Democratic Party to step up and articulate exactly what they stand for, what they're going to do, what they want to see, because there's a rift in that person doing that. But you know, we're sick of all of this demonizing terminology. Now is the time, now that the Democrats have won.

KING: You mean, who's going to take the mantle?

CALLER: Who's going to step up and actually say what they're going to do?

MAHER: I don't know. But I would correct the nice lady, to begin with, in saying that they don't have a mandate. Once again, they didn't win this election, the Republicans lost this election.

KING: And when you're the party that's not in power, you're not supposed to have someone who's the head, are you? Unless you have a failed Democratic candidate, and it ain't going to be Kerry.

MAHER: No. I don't know. but that's a healthy problem to have to see who has the guts to step forward.

What I would like to see the Democrats do is what the Republicans did in the late '60s, '70s, when Reagan was first running and so forth, Barry Goldwater, when they had the guts to say, here's where I stand, and I will just stay by my principles and the people will eventually come to me. And they did.

And I think if the Democrats would do that, it would be an easier journey for the people because I think they're already closer.

KING: Was the Allen-Webb race the most interesting to you?

MAHER: Absolutely. Because I think George Allen, who looks like he is going to go down, and I really hope he does because he's not a bright man.

He's very much like President Bush, and if he goes down, I think it's symbolic to me, anyway, that that type of politics may have seen its better days, the politics of an empty suit who we get to run, because he's the son of somebody famous, and he's a guy we would like to have a beer with, and he's from the South, and he's got crap on his shoes, and he wears a cowboy hat.

You know, all that stuff that was charming about George Bush is not so charming anymore. And George Allen, to me, represented that sort of politics. He thought he was going to be the next George Bush.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more, more e-mails and more phone calls for Bill Maher. Don't go away.


MAHER: And you heard about the Michael J. Fox situation. He's been doing ads in support of candidates who are for stem cell research. And Rush Limbaugh attacked him and said that Michael J. Fox was off his medication when he filmed the ad so that he'd look shakier. And he said if he's not going to take his prescription drugs, he knows a fat drug addict who will.




BUSH: Say, why all the glum faces? Actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday. Are you bringing this up so everybody gets kind of jealous? If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping. This isn't my first rodeo. You think I'm nuts? The elections were close. The cumulative effect...


BUSH: Thumping.


KING: Is he funny?

MAHER: No, but at least he doesn't try to be too funny, which is John Kerry's problem. And, you know, I think it's a shame that somebody who I feel would be a good president, John Kerry, now a lot of people are saying that he's toast because Alec Baldwin said it on my show the other night. He said part of the entry fee to get into this race to be president is you've got to be able to stay away from the verbal land mines.

KING: Why would anyone, though, think that he would be against the troops, since he went twice himself?

MAHER: Why did they vote in 2004 on that basis? Why was Karl Rove and his swift vote proxies able to convince America, at least some of America, enough of America, that the true war hero was actually a coward or a denegrader of the troops and the draft dodger.

Yes, as I've said on this show before, Bush is a draft dodger. Anyone in the Vietnam era figured out a way not to go to Vietnam draft dodged the war. How come he was the hero? Well, you know, you can fool some of the people some of the time. You can't do it forever.

KING: But John Kerry should have -- that was...

MAHER: ... He should have called him out. Exactly. David Mamet wrote a great article about that. He said you know, it's like poker. You've got to raise the bet because if you sit at the table and just slowly ante without ever raising, you will ante away your pot until you have nothing left. And that's what the Democrats did.

If John Kerry had called him out -- and, you know, when I talk to people who are not political junkies like us, who just follow it briefly, that's what I hear basically is hey, if John Kerry couldn't have stood up to Bush, how is he going to stand up to the terrorists? It's real basic. But that's the kind of stuff that wins elections, or loses it.

KING: We have another e-mail from Terry in Smyrna, Tennessee. "How do we get the costs of running for office back to manageable levels so you don't have to be rich to run?"

MAHER: The cost of running for office? Oh, stop TV ads. That's the only way.

KING: How are you going to do that?

MAHER: Well, you could. England does it. Lots of countries do it. Make it publicly financed. Just say this is too important to sell a candidate like we do, soap and dog food, and have it -- that would solve so many problems.

And the people who would like that the most are the people in office. They're the ones who will tell you, they have to spend all their time raising money. That's why nothing gets done in Washington. That's one of the reasons. They only work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Monday and Friday they have to raise money. They go to fundraisers all the time and can't get anything done.

KING: Media, people run the media wouldn't like that.

MAHER: No. But that's also why you don't see a lot of local coverage, because they want you to pay for those ads, the local media. If they give the coverage for free, then there's no reason -- no motivation for you to buy air time and say your piece.

So, the situation works against everything that is good and Democratic the way we have it. And it's ironic that, you know, in television, in advertising, you can lie about nothing but a candidate. Listerine cannot say it kills the germ that is cause bad breath when it really doesn't. That's false advertising. You get sued for that. But you can say Harold Ford wants to jump on white women at the Playboy mansion and that's OK.

KING: Well put. Bill Maher is our guest. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He will host "A.C. 360" at top of the hour -- Anderson, what's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, breaking news tonight from Virginia. The "Associated Press" reporting that Democratic candidate for Senate, Jim Webb, has won the election there, defeating George Allen. That outcome, according to the AP, would officially give control of the Senate to the Democrats, meaning they would now control both the House and the Senate. Again, according to the AP. It is a fast-moving story. We're going to bring you all the developments at the top of the hour. And the latest on Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, including reports from Iraq on what U.S. troops fighting this war think of this change at the Pentagon. All that and more Larry, in about 15 minutes.

KING: Anderson, by that standard, by the AP story, does that mean there's no need for a recount?

COOPER: What the AP is saying is that their sources indicate that Allen may be ready to concede tomorrow. But again, it is still developing and there would be no recount if, in fact, he did concede.

KING: Thanks a lot, Anderson Cooper. He'll be with us with "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. And we'll be back with more of Bill Maher right after this.


STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: I am America. This is the mouth of the people. In fact, I embody our great nation, Jon. Tonight, the eastern part of our great nation has already made up its mind. Basically, everything this side of my left nipple up here into Maine, but my western half, still up for grabs.

JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: I hesitate to ask this. What's happening in the south tonight?

COLBERT: Well, John, I think we both know how that swings.

STEWART: To the right.



MAHER: These activist judges, they're at it again. The New Jersey Supreme Court says homosexuals actually have the same civil rights as straight people, which mean they can marry. See this is the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats want gays to get married. Republicans know that congressmen need to be free to play the field.


KING: Ft. Campbell, Kentucky for Bill Maher, you'll see him on the 16th at Caesars Palace in Vegas.

MAHER: If you're lucky.

KING: Hello? Ft. Campbell, are you there? Ft. Campbell is not there.

MAHER: Yes, Ft. Campbell.

KING: We will try Kauai, Hawaii, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. I have a quick question for you about '08. It seems to me the Democrats have someone who's actually experienced, intelligent and has a plan, and that would be Joe Biden. So, if he could get enough funds I'm wondering what you think of his chances in '08.

KING: He was just on the show tonight.

MAHER: Yes, I like Joe Biden. He can speak his mind. He doesn't always come off like a politician who's straddling, and waffling and listening to the polls. He's got experience, you know, and he strikes people as somebody who's not some left-wing nut.

And I think what Democrats learned in this election is stay away from taking away people's guns and stay away from gay marriage.

And you know what? I am willing to give the opposition those two things. I think there should be more gun control, but not if it's going to lose the whole country to a bunch of right-wing nuts who are going to take the country way down into a ditch. You know what? People want their guns. We're never getting rid of them.

That was a big issue in a lot of states, and Al Gore probably lost the 2000 election over that. And gay marriage. You know what? People don't -- I used to think people hated gays in this country. I don't think they do. I think they're smarter than that.

But they -- for some reason they want marriage. They want to own that word. They really do. They don't want it to be about Bruce and Steve. They just want to own marriage and they want to have their guns. And if you give them that, apparently the Democrats can get into office.

KING: Are you saying give a marrying couple a pair of Red Ryder rifles and let them vote?

MAHER: Give married people guns and let them kill each other. That's what I'm saying. That's my platform, Larry.

KING: Question from Fran in Wilkesbury (ph), Pennsylvania, e- mail, if you could offer advice to the new Congress, what would it be?

MAHER: Work together, which is what the Democrats are saying now. And I think they will. Democrats are not vindictive like Republicans. And I know the Republicans -- oh, Bill, how can you say that? Both parties are bad.

No, they're both bad in a lot of ways. But there are differences. When Clinton got into office, there was no effort at all made to work with him. The idea from the get-go was he's illegitimate and we must destroy him in any way possible. And they found a way, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. Nonsense. But that was the idea, destroy.

I don't think the Democrats are that way. I think they will work together or try to work together. You know, Bush -- Bush was asked the other day on Fox News when he was giving interviews, and they said, what do you like least about your job? And he said, the tone in Washington, very ugly, you know, the tone.

Well, who did more to create that tone than you and your pit bull, Karl Rove? The guy who just finished running by telling people that the terrorists want the Democrats to win. But the tone in Washington is ugly. Well, I hope the Democrats improve that.

KING: Back with some more moment with his Bill Maher. It's always great having him. Don't go away.


MAHER: He had a press conference about Iraq, and he said, I know a lot of the American people are not satisfied with our progress in Iraq. I'm not satisfied with our progress in Iraq. And then a reporter said, are you dissatisfied? He said no.


It's almost like he's an idiot.



KING: Bill wanted to mention something, a guy who deserved some credit that he hasn't gotten, Howard Dean.

MAHER: Yes. We were just talking on the break about that, and you know, Howard Dean was the guy who said, run a 50 state campaign. There was a big fight within the party about that. And he said, we can't do it the way we have been doing it with just the coasts and Chicago, basically. We avenue got to win, we've got to play in the whole country. And he turned out to be right. He turned out to be right about a lot of things, you know.

I know he's an insane person, because he once spoke three octaves above the normal level of where we speak. So, of course, he's an insane, crazy man who can't run for president. But maybe they had the right guy to begin with.

He was certainly right about Saddam Hussein. Remember, he said capturing Saddam doesn't make us safer and they all jumped all over him like, please, how unpatriotic of you to say that. Well, you know, 80 percent of our troops have been killed after we got Saddam. Now we're going to kill Saddam.

KING: He was opposed to it from the beginning, wasn't he?

MAHER: And he was supposed to it from the beginning.

KING: Atlanta, hello.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Yes, you're on.

CALLER: Hi, Bill.


CALLER: I just wanted to say, your show is awesome.

MAHER: Thank you.


And I have a question for you.


CALLER: OK. What would you do if Hillary Clinton won at office, a first woman?

MAHER: What would I do if she won?

KING: He would like it from a humor standpoint. It would keep comics going, right? A Hillary presidency.

MAHER: Yes. Well, you, know, every president keeps comics going. Nobody -- I don't care if it's George Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, we'll always find the things that are humorous. Nobody can be that much in the public eye, have a big Klieg light on you 24 hours a day and not have comedians pick you apart. So, you know, comedically, they're all good.

And as far as being a president, I think Hillary would make a fine president. I just don't think she could ever win.

KING: Why? MAHER: Because she tries to be all things to all people. She is -- she alienates the real base of the Democratic Party by coming out against things like flag burning and, you know, video games and trying to be that Republican right.

And, of course, she never is going to convince the real Republicans, the real goose hunters, the real Nascar beer drinkers, that she's one of them. So I think you've got the worst of both worlds.

KING: OK, Bill, let's go over it. On the 16th, you will be in Las Vegas?

MAHER: Doing my stand-up show. Yes. If you want to split your sides for an hour and a half, come out to see me then.

And then on the 18th, I'll be part of the cavalcade of comedy of stars on "Comic Relief," which is televised on HBO that night.

KING: And even though that's a Thursday and a Saturday, you'll still be doing...

MAHER: In between, I'll be back here to do my season finale.

KING: And who's on this week?

MAHER: Who's on this week? Salman Rushdie, I know is on this week and...

KING: And some surprise guests.

MAHER: I never can remember who is on the show.

KING: Thank you.

MAHER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Bill Maher, always great having him with us. Makes you think.

And we'll be back tomorrow night. Part of our show tomorrow night, we'll deal with that amnesia victim. What happened to him, what happened when he came out of it?

Right now, let's go to New York. Anderson Cooper stands by for "AC 360".