updated 4/30/2004 12:09:50 PM ET 2004-04-30T16:09:50

Bill Maher, host of HBO's 'Real Time,' gave his take on the battle for the White House, the ethics of the media and the intelligence of the American media. In a Wednesday appearance with MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Hardball, took the media to task for paying too much attention to the controversy over the 1970s anti-war actions Democrat's likely presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On the Kerry medal flap:
Why are you covering this? Why are you taking this bait, seriously? Why are you even letting them bait you into covering this complete non-issue? This guy has medals.  his guy has ribbons.  The other guy didn‘t go. That‘s the whole story. 

The other guy is a draft dodger. They were both rich kids in the ‘60s. One of them went to where the bullets were flying and one of them found a way not to go and then he lied about that. Stop covering the medals. 

Look, one guy went into the National Guard, which back then was a way of getting out of it.  On top of that, he had the nerve to say to Tim Russert, 'You know, if my Guard unit had been called up, I would have gone.'  How very brave, Mr. President, considering ... only 8,700 Guard people were ever called up there, 0.03 percent. So there was no chance he would have been called up. 

That‘s George Bush for you: 'Hold me back, hold me back'.” 

On President Bush:
"I‘m not even talking about the decision to go into Iraq, which, you know, doesn‘t look so good nowadays.  I‘m looking at this news about Fallujah, and I hear what President Bush is saying.  Do you remember 'Baghdad Bob,' the guy we all laughed at because he was saying things that were completely crazy? Well, President Bush sounds like Washington Bob right now. He‘s saying, “It‘s only a few troublemakers. It‘s a few rotten eggs that we‘re fighting over there.” Are you kidding? Is he joking? 

He‘s getting the media to cover this nonsense about John Kerry‘s medals. So Joe public, as President Bush would call him, sits home and goes, 'Well, gosh, there was a controversy with Bush‘s military history and now there‘s a controversy with John Kerry‘s military history.  I don‘t know who to vote for.' It‘s nonsense. 

One guy actually has honor and integrity, although I will admit that John Kerry certainly is not burdened with charisma, and the other guy only has the words ‘honor and integrity.’  He‘s never connected them to anything. 

The true axis of evil in America is the brilliance of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people. George Bush has $180 million to spend.  With that kind of money, he could convince Americans to drink paint, and he probably will. 

With enough money, you can convince people of anything.  And that is what George Bush does.  He is one of the most cynical presidents we‘ve ever had, I believe, because with that kind of money, he plays on people‘s fears, he plays on people‘s ignorance, and he plays on people‘s shortsightedness." 

On John Kerry for president:
"John Kerry‘s campaign slogan should be 'Do not resuscitate.' He’s cold. I‘m sorry. But you know what?  That‘s who he is.  Why do people have to like the guy? I hear people say, 'I don‘t know if I‘m comfortable with John Kerry.' You know what? You don‘t have to go to bed with him. Just vote for him. 

We‘re such babies about this. In the days before television, people didn‘t judge presidents on whether he was sunny, warm, or likable. They judged on whether he was the best man for the job. I would like to bring that criteria back now that we‘re at war."

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.


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