Is Bill Maher Becoming the Rosie O’Donnell of Cable Television?

Lately it seems that HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” has become the place for left-wing politicians and media members to go on Friday evenings to say whatever disgraceful thing they want about the Bush administration without regard for accuracy or prudence.

Does that make it HBO’s answer to ABC’s farcical morning coffee klatch “The View,” and Bill Maher is suddenly just an intelligent version of Rosie O’Donnell with a Y-chromosome and better clothing?

The March 23 installment certainly suggested so, with the unabashed and unashamed host leading a herd of disgruntled liberals to slaughter conservatives much as Rosie now despicably does on almost a daily basis. In fact, Maher began this most recent episode with a monologue featuring ten out of eleven jokes about Bush, his family, the Administration, and seemingly any politician with an “R” next to his name.

Most disgracefully, the first josh of the evening actually mocked the First Lady (video available here):

You can tell it’s spring. Laura Bush’s smile is beginning to thaw.

Hysterical, Bill. I’m sure Joy Behar and “The View” audience would have eaten that one up, too.

Of course, for those keeping score, the only joke during the opening monologue not about a Republican dealt with Barack Obama, but it was by no means derisive towards the Democrat presidential candidate. By contrast, all ten jokes about Republicans were indeed intended to offend the individual that was the subject.

Sound like Rosie?

But that’s not the only similarity, as Maher seems to go out of his way these days to almost exclusively interview folks hostile to the Administration.

In this instance, when the monologue mercifully concluded, Maher invited on former Carter administration national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to continue with the Bush bashing. The host quickly set his guest up by referencing Brzezinski’s new book “Second Chance” and, in particular, chapters dealing with how America has squandered some foreign policy opportunities since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Maher perfectly asked: “As far as blowing it, what president would you say most blew it?”

Anyone want to guess the answer? If you said “Bush 43,” give yourself a cigar, for Brzezinski proudly stated, “The chapter which is devoted to our current president is entitled ‘Catastrophic Leadership.’”

What a shock, huh?

After the laughter and applause died down, Maher mugged, “I certainly wasn’t fishing for that.”

Yeah, right Bill. It seemed so staged that it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the entire interview was actually scripted.

For example, Maher then asked about the various grades Brzezinski gave previous presidents, mentioning that the first president Bush got a “B,” Clinton got a “C,” and the second Bush got an “F.” This was followed by a rather deplorable question: “But shouldn’t the first president get a lower grade because he provided the sperm for the second president?”

Sperm jokes. About our nation’s presidents. Is this what Maher – who used to be a comedian for those unaware with his background before HBO picked him up – now thinks is funny? Incredible.

Regardless, the discussion predictably moved to the Iraq war, and the bill passed by the House last week that Brzezinski advised the Democrats on. The former Carter administration official then demonstrated exactly how far to the left he was, and exactly why Maher invited him on:

I think the bill is driving home a lesson to the Republican establishment that if they stay on course, not only will the U.S. suffer, but something else will suffer which perhaps is equally important to them: the Republican Party is going to be wiped out in the next presidential election.

After applause, Maher said: “They were wiped out in the last election.”

Brzezinski responded: “Not enough. Not enough.”

Once again, almost as if scripted. Any question why Brzezinski was on?

But, that wasn’t the worst example of partisanship and bias by this pair, for Maher, after bringing up the recent picture of President Reagan on the cover of Time magazine, said:

But I was very glad to read in your book something that I have been trying to say for years is that when people say to me, “Ronald Reagan won the Cold War,” it’s sort of a disservice to all the other people who fought in that battle. Where would you, now Ronald Reagan certainly played his part in winning the Cold War. But, where would you put him in the pantheon of Cold warriors?”

Quite a question to ask a man who: just admitted that he wanted all Republicans out of office; is currently advising House Democrats on how to pressure the White House to get out of Iraq, and; used to be the national security advisor for the president who set back America’s efforts in the Cold War more than any in history.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time Maher had made such a case, or bashed former President Reagan. Two weeks prior, as reported by NewsBusters, Maher made the claim that Republicans “love Ronald Reagan in a way that’s just gay,” while admonishing Republican guest David Kuo that it’s “ridiculous” for people to suggest Reagan won the Cold War.

As such, Brzezinski was the perfect shill to validate Maher’s pathetic opinions on this subject, and gave this tremendously absurd and self-serving answer that the reader should sit down and prepare his or herself for:

I would put him among all of the presidents that waged the Cold War. In a different way, each of them made a contribution. Truman sort of mobilized the West. Eisenhower organized it. Kennedy fired it up. Johnson infused into America a greater sense of social justice, racial justice, and that was important. Nixon made the first opening to China. Carter revitalized American military after the letdown of the Vietnamese War. He normalized relations with China. And he created the first peace treaty ever in the Middle East. And Reagan essentially continued a lot of the things that Carter did. And then Bush 1 actually consummated the process by very diplomatically making it easier for the Soviets to quit for Gorbachev to complete the process of blowing up the Soviet Union.

Imagine that. Carter revitalized the military, and Ronald Reagan essentially continued a lot of the things that Carter did. THAT’s why we won the Cold War.

Extraordinary. Once again, is there any question as to why Brzezinski was invited on?

Of course, Brzezinski wasn’t Maher’s only guest on Friday. As the panel discussion began, Maher introduced conservative David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute, the Democrat Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin, and musician John Legend.

This is a classic tactic by Maher at this point, to invite on a lone conservative to have to defend his positions against three liberals chomping at his heals like Toto pulling on the Wizard’s curtain.

In reality, though outnumbered, most of the discussion was dominated by Frum. Yet, Maher didn’t let up with his attacks on Republicans, at one point saying:

The great dichotomy about Republicans: they’re so macho, but they’re so naïve. They’re such tough guys, but they’re such sentimentalists. Who gives a f**k about the American spirit? People are dying, and we lost the war.

Sound like some of Rosie’s recent rants without the expletive?

Later, when Frum addressed why America can’t negotiate with Iran, describing them as “difficult customers,” Legend responded: “We’re difficult. We’re, we’re killing a lot of people in the Middle East as well.”

So, in the eyes of this musician, America is just as bad as Iran. Does this indicate that Maher, like Rosie, has created an environment on his set so hostile to the Administration and Republicans that guests feel quite free to make such absurd comments?

Regardless of the answer, Maher’s next guest was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the only admittedly Socialist member of Congress. And, not surprisingly it took him less than one minute after his introduction to attack President Bush: “And the bad news is that we have a president who, as in many other areas, neglected this problem, ignored the problem. That’s the bad news.”

Boy, that didn’t take long. Any question why he was invited on?

Finally, as reported by NewsBusters, Maher concluded the program with an almost five minute tirade about how President Bush and Dick Cheney are traitors. 

Adding it up, and the bulk of this program was spent beating up President Bush, his administration, and anything involving Republicans. As such, the question still remains: is this cable’s answer to “The View,” and has Bill Maher just become a male version of Rosie with a better vocabulary?

To answer this question, one has to recognize that this type of behavior on “Real Time” is certainly nothing new. Far from it, as an examination of NewsBusters’ “Bill Maher Blog” -- which covers a number of episodes from the past couple of seasons -- demonstrates. For instance:

  • In March 2006, actor/comedian D.L. Hughley went into quite an anti-Bush tirade
  • In April 2006, writer Erica Jong claimed that Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened
  • In April 2006, actor Ben Affleck claimed that Bush could be hung for outing Valerie Plame   
  • In September 2006, actor Bradley Whitford attacked Bush

However, in this season, such attacks have been much more frequent, with Maher in particular making numerous derogatory and disgraceful comments about Bush virtually every episode, and seemingly every chance he gets.

Is this the formula HBO wants? For that matter, is this really what Maher wants?

After all, there was a time when he hosted a fabulous, cutting edge panel discussion program on Comedy Central. In its day, “Politically Incorrect” was a stellar example of how humor could quite entertainingly mix with politics to make for a fascinating 30 minutes. And, as Maher was an equal opportunity offender back then, his own personal political proclivities were not only not apparent, but seemed totally irrelevant.

As a result, people of all political persuasions and views could watch “PI” without feeling that they were being targeted by the host or his guests because of their opinions and the folks they supported at the polls.

By contrast, what Maher and HBO have now created is a disgraceful platform for Bill and his guests to pontificate hateful epithets almost exclusively at the members of one political Party and its constituents. This means that a goodly percentage of Americans are being routinely offended by the program's content, and the lack of concern for such by the host, the producers, and the network in question makes the festivities all the more abhorant. 

Maybe such a revelation makes the question concerning similarities to “The View” and Rosie totally beside the point. Instead, what is likely much more crucial is whether or not this program in its current form represents entertainment or advocacy.

I suggest the latter, and wish that Maher would go back to being a comedian and a talk show host rather than a liberal attack dog. 

How ‘bout you?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.