Bill Maher: Obama's 'Not Even a Liberal;' Blames Media For Lack of Left Wing

[Update, 9:00 pm EDT: Audio and video clips added.]

President Obama isn't nearly liberal enough for HBO's Bill Maher. On Tuesday’s Situation Room on CNN, Maher repeated the focus of his rant on his show last Friday night about how Obama hasn't been adequately aggressive. When Wolf Blitzer asked what he was most disappointed about with President Obama, the HBO host went into full denial mode: “Barack Obama is not a socialist -- he’s not even a liberal....this country needs a left wing. It doesn’t have it, and part of the reason is the media.”

After Maher gave a bit of a criticism of the Democratic President, the CNN anchor asked: “So where are you most disappointed, because...a lot of liberals are disappointed he hasn’t done more to advance gay rights, for example- but where- where are you most disappointed in this president?” The HBO host first joked about his sexual identity, and continued by expressing his bewilderment with Obama: “I don’t know if this administration has really caught up to the idea that Americans are a lot more liberal, perhaps, than we think they are- or they think they are....I think part of the problem is that we don’t really have a progressive party in this country. We have the Democrats, who are what the Republicans used to be when I was a kid. They’re a pro-business party, a corporate-friendly, pro-business party. And then we have the Republicans, which are just a club for angry white people and Jesus freaks” [audio clips from interview available here].

Blitzer interrupted at this point and interjected with some of the GOP’s rhetoric about the president: “But if you listen to a lot of Republicans, they think that this president is moving the country towards socialism.” This is where he made his denial about Obama not being a socialist, or even a liberal: "This country needs a left wing. It doesn’t have it, and part of the reason is the media.....where’s the left wing? You know, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich- these are left-wing people, although their ideas are not really that radical.  But they’re presented as radical in the media....So really what we have is a debate between the center-right- the Democratic Party, and the far, far, far right -- the Republican Party.”

Bill Maher, HBO host; & President Barack Obama | NewsBusters.orgLater, after a discussion on foreign policy, where Maher, at one point, compared President Obama to a famous rock guitarist (“We know he’s a fantastic speechmaker. He’s Jimi Hendrix and that Teleprompter is his guitar.”), the anchor concluded by asking the HBO host about the controversy between David Letterman and Sarah Palin and her family. Maher thought the CBS host didn’t need to apologize to the Alaska governor, and sympathized: “I think it’s a real shame. David Letterman should not have had to apologize....and it just bothers me- the way some lie gets into the media- and then, it becomes the truth....It was not offensive in any way, and they made it sound like he said something completely different. So he’s apologizing for something he never meant, never thought, and never said. I ‘ve been through this, Wolf. It stinks.” Of course, Maher signed off with another crack at Sarah Palin, using Blitzer's first name as a prop: “Don’t let Sarah Palin shoot you from a helicopter, Wolf.”

The transcript of the relevant portion of the Blitzer/Maher interview, which began 14 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour of Tuesday’s Situation Room:

Wolf Bltizer, CNN Anchor; Bill Maher, HBO host; & President Barack Obama | NewsBusters.orgWOLF BLITZER: So where are you most disappointed, because I know a lot of people on the Left- a lot of liberals are disappointed he [President Obama] hasn’t done more to advance gay rights, for example- but where- where are you most disappointed in this president?

BILL MAHER: Why do you bring up that with me, Wolf? What have you heard?

BLITZER: Nothing.

MAHER: No- (laughs) no, I mean, that’s certainly something that I know gay people are upset about. It doesn’t affect my life personally, because I never understand marriage and I’ve never understood being gay, so- (laughs) I don’t really have a dog in that fight. And I understand why an issue like that can be place on the back burner, except America has changed. I don’t know if this administration has really caught up to the idea that Americans are a lot more liberal, perhaps, than we think they are- or they think they are. They’ve changed on that issue. They’ve changed on a lot of issues. And I think part of the problem is that we don’t really have a progressive party in this country. We have the Democrats, who are what the Republicans used to be when I was a kid. They’re a pro-business party- a corporate-friendly, pro-business party. And then we have the Republicans, which are just a club for angry white people and Jesus freaks- I don’t know what they are. What we need-

BLITZER: But if you listen to a lot of Republicans, they think that this president is moving the country towards socialism.

MAHER: Yes- which is so ridiculous, because Barack Obama is not a socialist- he’s not even a liberal. That’s the point I’m trying to make, is that this country needs a left wing. It doesn’t have it- and part of the reason is the media. Part of the reason is because Newt Gingrich- I have to look at his fat face on television every day- he represents- I don’t know what- that far-right of kooky-town. And yet, where’s the left wing? You know, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich- these are left-wing people, although their ideas are not really that radical.  But they’re presented as radical in the media. They’re seen as buffoons. So really what we have is a debate between the center-right- the Democratic Party, and the far, far, far right- the Republican Party. There really isn’t a balance in this country, and it really doesn’t represent the people.

BLITZER: So- but I- but bottom line is you think this president is more interested in trying to stay popular, or in getting the people’s work done?

MAHER: Well, look, first of all- he’s doing a really hard job, and I’m really glad he’s president- let’s not lose perspective. But yeah- I mean, when you read the paper every day, you are a little disheartened that they can’t push through some- some very progressive legislation- pretty much in full measure. It seems like very little nibbling- environmental issues- you know, a four percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020- you know, why don’t we just have a bill that says- screw it, we’re toast. Just enjoy everything you do and don’t even try.

BLITZER: How do you like the way- how do you like the way he’s handling national security, specifically, for example, what’s happening in Iran right now.

MAHER: Oh, I think he’s terrific on- on foreign affairs, but that’s the easy part, because you don’t need to negotiate with insurance companies and credit card companies and the people who are lobbying- the people who make campaign contributions, and the corporations that have such a stranglehold on our government, making, you know- we- we know he’s a fantastic speechmaker. He’s Jimi Hendrix and that Teleprompter is his guitar. So when he goes and makes that speech in Cairo- you saw, there are people in the street in Tehran who are saying- oh, I hope Obama is backing us. Well, that’s a big difference to go from an American president who- not only is getting Muslim people to like him, but saying that they want him to support them. So yeah, I think he’s doing a terrific job in that area, and- you know, what can- what can he really do to affect what’s going on in Iran right now except use that kind of bully pulpit. I just wish he would bring that sort of influence to- to some of the issues we have here at home.

BLITZER: Some of these domestic issues- we’re almost out of time, but a quick question. On David Letterman’s apology to Sarah Palin and her daughters- what do you think?

MAHER: (Laughs) I think it’s a real shame. David Letterman should not have had to apologize. You know, I ‘ve known David Letterman a long time. We’ve all watched him a very long time. He’s a very fundamentally decent Midwesterner. It’s just not in his DNA to have said something that they’re accusing him of saying, and it just bothers me- the way some lie gets into the media- and then, it becomes the truth. Somehow, it became conventional wisdom now that David Letterman made a rape joke about a 14-year-old. I promise you, the 14-year-old was not in their minds. They made a joke about Alex Rodriguez, because he has a certain reputation as a player. Sarah Palin was at Yankee Stadium, where Alex Rodriguez plays. Her family is very fertile- her daughter did get impregnated before she was married. It was an easy and obvious joke to make. It was funny. It was not offensive in any way, and they made it sound like he said something completely different. So he’s apologizing for something he never meant, never thought, and never said. I ‘ve been through this, Wolf. It stinks.

BLITZER: I know you’ve been through it- and we’re going to continue to watch your show every week on our sister network- HBO, ‘Real Time’ with Bill Maher. Airs Friday nights, as I recall- is that right, Bill?

MAHER: Yes, it is- don’t let Sarah Palin shoot you from a helicopter, Wolf.

BLITZER: (Laughs).

MAHER: You see.

BLITZER:  I’ll try. Bill Maher, thanks very much.

MAHER: Okay.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center