It was a pretty engaging episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, with a liberal-skewed panel and a good mix of humor and serious discussion.
The Primaries are Finally Over
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Newt Gingrich is dropping out of the race, or as Bill Maher mocks him for in the monologue, "suspending his campaign." Mitt Romney is, finally, the Republican nominee for president. Maher also mocked Romney for his flip-flopping, and the Republicans in general for their apparent devotion to the cause of turning women into second-class citizens. For example, they proposed paying for maintaining student loan interest rates by cutting preventative health care for poor women. Oy.
Talking in Circles
Maher had controversial conservative author Charles Murray as his guest to discuss his new book, Coming Apart. But Maher rejects Murray's basic premise, so the conversation was kind of a non-starter. Murray's contention (expressed briefly on the show) is that our country has become divided, with the upper classes sticking to wholesome American values of hard work and marriage while the great unwashed masses drift away from them. Maher pointed out that the economic divide between rich and poor has grown a lot since 1960, the starting point for Murray's book. Murray claimed that in terms of purchasing power, the poor have not lost ground. That can't possibly be true, but it's not like I'm going to look it up or something.
The Right Way to Panel
This was a solid panel, and the topics of discussion -- from student loan debt to speculation about Democratic strategies against Romney -- were pretty interesting. You had Democratic hack Paul Begala, who got off some good quips while essentially toeing the company line. Financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times and CNBC came off as smart but not smug, which already gives him an edge on most youngish guests of the show. S.E. Cupp was the designated conservative, with ties to Glenn Beck even, but was reasonable for the most part despite her false equivalency arguments: For example, about rags-to-riches Barack Obama and silver spoon-fed Romney both claiming to represent the American Dream.
The bonus panelist was Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and author of Chasing Ghosts. Rieckhoff discussed the shameful way America has neglected its troops, discussing high unemployment and suicide rates among veterans, and a backlog for receiving care from the VA. It was a pretty somber discussion, but very worthwhile.
Maher got off a few good zingers during "New Rules," and his main rant, about our sex-scandal-obsessed, lightweight national media, was very salient.
"You can't worship Ronald Reagan and then attack Obama for being a celebrity. That's like running Chris Christie and saying Obama has a fat ass."
-- Maher on the Romney's PAC's first anti-Obama ad.
"If we can't win the women's vote, we'll do the next best thing and kill them!"
-- Maher jokes about the Republican plan to fund student loans by cutting cancer screenings for women.
"Does he think he's more successful than Barack Obama? The son of a single mother on food stamps, who became the first black president of these Racist States of America?"
-- Maher discusses Romney's statement that voters who don't like successful people should vote for the other guy.
"It may be good for the senior military to have this disconnect, but it's not good for our democracy."
-- Rieckhoff points out that just because our military leadership doesn't want a draft, doesn't mean it wouldn't be the right thing to do.
"We don't need another copper-colored reminder that the government is a useless, stupid boondoggle. We already have John Boehner."
-- Maher advocates getting rid of the penny.