Bill Maher on Hardball: I Wish Obama Was More Like Jimmy Carter

Bill Maher was invited on Chris Matthews' Hardball show, on Tuesday night, to discuss his old guest panelist Christine O'Donnell's controversial statements about practicing witchcraft in high school, but it was the HBO host's take on Jimmy Carter's recent round of interviews that was particularly jarring as he told Matthews that he wished Barack Obama was a little more like that failed president. Prompted by the one-time Carter speechwriter to comment on his former boss, Maher professed: "I love Jimmy Carter! Jimmy Carter is so honest and out there. You know sometimes, I hear people say, 'Oh, Obama, his term could become like Jimmy Carter's.' Yeah, I wish. You know Jimmy Carter did some real bold things, like returning the Panama Canal. Can you see a president trying to do that today? Or, or getting on national television and telling the American people that they're lazy and they're using too much energy?...I think this country needs a lot more of that sort of forthright honesty." [audio available here]

As for O'Donnell, Maher initially claimed she was "a liar" but, in a blatant booking plea, quickly amended, "But I like her." And after Matthews played a clip of O'Donnell commenting on scientific experiments Maher, along with Matthews, took the opportunity to take a shot at all those science-hating Republicans:

MAHER: You know there are 37 Republican candidates for the Senate. Not one of them believes global warming is real and manmade, except for one, Mike Castle, the guy she defeated in Delaware. So that to me is a real issue.

MATTHEWS: Yeah well that is serious. Yeah I look at them, they don't believe in evolution, they don't believe in science. They don't, all the evidence of science they hold up as somehow elitist thinking. Right?

The following exchanges were aired on the September 21 edition of Hardball: 

(Clip of O'Donnell explaining away her admission she once dabbled in witchcraft in high school.)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Bill wanted ratings, I gave him ratings. I was in high school. Who didn't have interesting friends in high school. There's no secret here.

(End clip)

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Bill she said she was there to boost your ratings.

BILL MAHER: My turn?

MATTHEWS: Yes you're turn. 

BILL MAHER: Well, it's funny to me, Chris, because this is the woman who claimed on another one of our Politically Incorrect episodes from the '90s that she would not lie even in the case of hiding Anne Frank in her attic. Eddie Izzard confronted her and said, "Really, if Hitler was at the door, and you had Anne Frank in the attic, you wouldn't lie?" She said, "No, God would find a way." So it's funny to me that she wouldn't lie in that instance, but she'd lie to get me ratings? That, itself is a lie. So I guess she's a liar. But I like her. I don't think she's a meaningful liar. I like Christine a lot and I hope she comes on our show. I will be kind to her as I always was.

MATTHEWS: Why do you, why do you, why do you think she did bring up the whole fact of Satanism and, and having gone to some altar of a Satanic altar with a date one night? What other motive, besides boosting your ratings, could she had have? I'm trying to delve into her thinking her.

MAHER: Well I think she was always a very forthright person. There's one thing I will say about Christine is that she's very sincere. You know there are some people who you feel like they're just saying it because that's what the people want to hear. Not Christine, I think she really believes everything she says and I also think that devout people love the story of redemption. They love it when you're with the devil and then you throw him off for Jesus. Remember Bush? He was drunk until he was 40, and then he walked on the beach with Billy Graham or something and then became a, you know, a guy who went on to other things.

MATTHEWS: Well I like redemption too. Let's take a look at her in saying something she may have a problem defending. Here she is on Fox back in 2007. I think it was on Bill O'Reilly. Let's listen.

(Begin clip)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: American scientific companies are cross breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice, with fully functioning human brains.

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: I don't know what to make of that. Are there mice, I know elephants are afraid of mice, but they must really be afraid of mice with people brains in them. What is she talking about? I never heard of these mice with human brains in them.

MAHER: Yeah. It was a little unfortunate. I guess she read the article wrong. I don't know, but you know, when I saw all this coverage of the witch stuff, I was laughing yesterday because that's not really important to the election. It's just a sideshow, as you would say. And it was funny. I don't think it should hurt her. It was something she was doing in high school. But when you think this about scientific issues that are facing this nation, I mean people really could be helped by stem cell research. That's a real issue. You know there are 37 Republican candidates for the Senate. Not one of them believes global warming is real and manmade, except for one, Mike Castle, the guy she defeated in Delaware. So that to me is a real issue.

MATTHEWS: Yeah well that is serious. Yeah I look at them, they don't believe in evolution, they don't believe in science. They don't, all the evidence of science they hold up as somehow elitist thinking. Right?

MAHER: Right. Yes, absolutely. I mean, there's lots of people who I like personally, who I don't think should be in Congress. Unfortunately, many of them are already in Congress. But there's a difference between being a nice person and being fit for office.

...

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about President Carter, you got all the time in the world. I worked for him once, as you know. He's an interesting guy.

MAHER: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of his latest statements about being different than the former presidents?

MAHER: I love Jimmy Carter! Jimmy Carter is so honest and out there. You know sometimes, I hear people say, "Oh, Obama, his term could become like Jimmy Carter's." Yeah, I wish. You know Jimmy Carter did some real bold things, like returning the Panama Canal. Can you see a president trying to do that today? Or, or getting on national television and telling the American people that they're lazy and they're using too much energy? Remember that speech? I like Jimmy Carter. I think this country needs a lot more of that sort of forthright honesty. Go Jimmy! Keep, keep talking. That's the great thing about being old. You don't give a rat's ass anymore.

MATTHEWS: You are so honest. Bill Maher, thank you for coming on this program. You're the best. Thank you. I love getting on your show once in a while.

MAHER: Always a pleasure.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.