On Tuesday's In the Arena on CNN, Bill Maher channeled the far left's frustration with President Obama: "This is one of my big problems with our president. He never blames the Republicans for anything. He's their best friend....There's an oil rig that blows up in the Gulf of Mexico, and the party of drill, baby, drill does not get blamed." Host Eliot Spitzer also joined Maher in bashing the Tea Party.
The two liberals vented about domestic politics during the second half of the segment, which began 18 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour. Spitzer mouthed off his regular talking points about how "the middle class has been squeezed and has suffered....[and] the top 2 or 3 percent has profited amazingly well. And then...we had this financial meltdown, caused primarily by Wall Street." He then lamented how this situation hasn't benefitted his fellow liberals as much as he'd like, which led to Maher bashing the apparent stupidity of the Tea Party:
SPITZER: ...Out of that combination of things, when you might have thought we'd get a turn politically towards a new vision of what government should do, it hasn't happened. We've gotten the Tea Party and we've gotten anti-government rhetoric and a push once again for less government, less regulation. How did that happen?
MAHER: Well, if you read Newsweek this week...there's a big story called- I think it's called, 'Why are We So Dumb?' They did surveys- this happens all the time- and they ask Americans very basic questions. I think they gave them the citizenship test that people who are trying to immigrate to this country have to take, and, of course, people just don't know very much.
The Tea Party is a party named after a tax revolt that does not know very much about taxes. It's very hard to get effective policy in place if the people are voting against their own economic interests. The Tea Party- it's supposed to be a party of the common man, a populist movement, and yet, somehow everything they want is also what Steve Forbes wants. I mean, if your agenda is the same as a billionaire, you're not really a populist movement, and if they're supposed to be all about taxes and deficits and debt, most of the money, most of the deficit money, the debt money, was from under Bush. These are facts that they don't care about.
This rant delighted Spitzer, who has also bashed the Tea Party, and set up the question which led to the HBO host venting his frustration about President Obama:
SPITZER: Let me ask this question. Where have been the elected officials educating the public, instead of creating the void into which you get the sort of empty rhetoric that fuels the Tea Party? In other words, where has the leadership been on the other side to explain as articulately as you just did what got us to this precipice?
MAHER: I couldn't agree more. This is one of my big problems with our president. He never blames the Republicans for anything. He's their best friend. He always helps them with their narrative. There's an oil rig that blows up in the Gulf of Mexico, and the party of drill, baby, drill does not get blamed. There's a financial meltdown, and the party of bank deregulation does not get blamed. There's an attack in Arizona with assault weapons, and the party that backs assault weapons doesn't get blamed.
Earth to Bill: it isn't very hard to find instances where either candidate Obama or President Obama blamed former President Bush or the GOP for something. Also, Jared Jee Loughner used a semi-automatic pistol with a 33-round magazine in Tucson, not an "assault weapon." Maher likely wants to ban those extended magazines as well, but it doesn't give him an excuse to spout off a false detail.
Earlier in the segment, Spitzer asked the HBO personality if the current revolts in the Muslim world was a defeat for al Qaeda. Though the atheist targeted Islam in his answer, one could easily see an implied attack on Christian conservatives as well:
MAHER: Yes, I do think it's a defeat for al Qaeda, but it's not a complete defeat. There was a million-woman march a couple of weeks ago in Cairo, and about 1,000 women showed up, greatly outnumbered by men jeering them to get back into the house, as women should be-
So, you know, I said this on our show a few weeks ago and people were very upset. I very often make my liberals in our audience mad at me when I talk about this subject, but I said, you know what? If there is not a sexual revolution that is going to accompany your revolution-revolution, just forget it because, you know, that's part of it, is becoming a somewhat secular society. I mean, al Qaeda draws its strength from religion, and we know this is a religious culture, much more than the West is a religious culture. At some point, they are going to have to make a break. You cannot have a sort of semi-theocracy, where you're getting laws from the Koran and so forth, and I worry about that. We saw the polls that were coming out of Egypt at the time of the revolution when Mubarak was still in power, and a majority of the people believe in things like Sharia law. It's very a religious conservative society, and I don't think it's- that is compatible with democracy. I know liberals don't like to hear that, that some people aren't ready for it, but you know what? If you're too religious, you can't also be a democracy.
SPITZER: Look, you are absolutely right. The tension between a secular democracy and the theocracies that still govern in many parts of that world is a tension that's going to have to see work itself through. We hope it works itself through in favor of secular democracy. We're going to have to wait and see.
At the end of the interview, Spitzer unsurprisingly heaped praise on his guest: "Thank you so much for joining us. Your show is brilliant. I love watching it." Maher is used to getting this kind of treatment from CNN hosts, such as during his regular appearances on Larry King's program. It might be interesting to see if King's successor in the 9 pm Eastern block, Piers Morgan, would follow this model, given his debate with atheist Ricky Gervais in January 2011.