Bill Maher, widely known for his “politically incorrect” wit, always has an opinion when it concerns politics. The host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” has received nationwide recognition for his satirical views on current events— he was awarded an Emmy for his series. Recently, Maher joined Chris Matthews on 'Hardball’ to discuss the Democratic National Convention and Election 2004.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “Hardball”: Let me ask you, Bill, before we get to the serious stuff, what did you think of the Democratic Convention?
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: I wrote an editorial that “The L.A. Times” put out Friday saying everyone should watch these conventions. It is one of the last times that you have in the campaign to see people talking when it is not reduced to sound bites and attack ads.
I think it is disgusting that this country cannot take three or four nights out of their year to watch the people who are presenting their plan for America's future, as opposed to what? It's the summer. There's not even anything on. There's reruns of “Reba.” That's what they're choosing?
MATTHEWS: If one network or all three networks tried to do that, broadcast nets, people would find something else, like HBO, to watch, wouldn't they? You can't force-feed, can you?
MAHER: You can't. But you certainly could encourage it more. The networks could not walk away from it. Their attitude seems to be: “This is something we have to do to take us away from what's really important.”
MAHER: Chris, did you see John Kerry rushing through his speech?
MATTHEWS: Well, yes, because he was told to.
MAHER: In a cold sweat?
MATTHEWS: He was told to, yes.
MAHER: OK, because this is the man who is proposing to be the leader of the free world and he has to rush through his speech like he is accepting an award at the Golden Globes and any minute the band is going to play because he's going over.
MATTHEWS: No, that's not it. He was warned right before he went not to wait for the applause lines because that's what Jack Kemp did a couple conventions ago and it blew his night.
MAHER: No, he just didn't want to go over the precious time, because if he went over, then, oh, my God, they would miss the first three minutes of “elimiDATE” at 11 o'clock when that came on.
MATTHEWS: I don't think so. I think he was told not to wait for the applause line right before he went on, because I know Ron Reagan told me that's exactly what they did to him. Right before he went on, they showed him a tape, a video, of what not to do. And it included two things. Don't wait for applause or you will look like an idiot and don't try to out yell the audience because you have a direct mic and you'll look like Al D'Amato.
MAHER: There's a big difference between not waiting for applause and rushing. And I think what happened there was that, they told them, "Look, you have a window of one hour, buddy, and one hour. And you get your plan to save the entire world into that one hour, because we've got something on at 11:00 that we're not going to bump for you."
MATTHEWS: OK, as they say in the Democratic platform on the issue of whether we should have gone to war with Iraq, let's agree to disagree. Do you realize that they said that in their platform?
MATTHEWS: What's the role of a political party if it isn't to take a position on war and peace?
MAHER: Well, I mean, party platforms, didn't Bob Dole say when he accepted the nomination, I think, in 1916, that he didn't even read it? Wasn't he the one who said I didn't even read the platform?
MATTHEWS: I don't know. Isn't he the guy that ran against Wilson for the second term?
Let me ask you about the whole question of this election. Do you have a nose for it? Do you have a smell that says which guy is going to win? I have to claim, I don't.
MAHER: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: What does it tell you?
MAHER: I'm not saying this because obviously it's the guy I am pulling for. But I really do believe it is the challenger in this case. I really think John Kerry will win because this race reminds me of 1980, Carter vs. Reagan. Carter had a terrible hand to play. He was steering an economy that was the worst we had seen since the Depression. The hostages were in Iran. And yet the race was absolutely tied until about a week before. And then the independents all broke for him.
MATTHEWS: What broke it? Was it the failure of the mullahs to release the hostages or was it the debate?
MAHER: I think it was the debates. I think people are reluctant, they just cannot seem to make up their mind. They don't really want to leave the president because for some reason they don't want to change horses in midstream or whatever. So they need reassurance. I think Kerry went a long way to do that, doing during the convention, when he made a decent speech.
MATTHEWS: In other words, you were offering a counter premise here from the normal P.R. premise of the way the media has been playing this. The media has been playing this, is there a bounce, how much of a bounce, how come it's not a big bounce, sort of like a baseball season where you win games day by day.
And you're saying, no, it is the playoffs.
MAHER: Yes, I think that's true. I think 45 percent of this country would vote for George Bush if there were pictures of him in the Abu Ghraib prison with somebody on a leash. They're religious in nature, just the way they have faith in Jesus and faith and that nothing can shake that. Nothing can shake them away from George Bush. So that's why Kerry didn't get a bounce. There's not a lot of play in the electorate this time.
But I think those independents, just like in 1980, at the last minute, they will all break and I think they will break pretty decisively for the challenger.
MATTHEWS: If we face a terrorist strike before the election, say the week before, it will cause us all to root for the unity of the country and to support the incumbent president, won't it?
MAHER: I don't know about that. First of all, their credibility about terrorist alerts is so poor now. I mean, Tom Ridge has done something I thought was impossible, which is make the thought of my own violent death now seem dull.
This latest information they have, come on? It's old enough to sue Michael Jackson.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but it also has been updated in January of this year. So whoever was casing those banks and financial centers was updating their plan. Doesn't that make you worry if you were working in one of those buildings like the IMF or the World Bank or whatever, CitiCorp? Wouldn't you think about going up the elevator every morning like, 'Oh, this has been targeted?'
MATTHEWS: Wouldn't you be worried about, as you got your coffee and muffin in the doorway, wouldn't you be thinking, I might not come down that elevator?
MAHER: Actually, Chris, I would be more worried about the coffee and the muffin.
MATTHEWS: I'm serious. We talked about this once. I think people in this country are worried about the wrong things, not that terrorism isn't a worry. But there are a lot of things that are probably harming you a lot more in your everyday life and that's what you're going to die from. You're probably going to die more from the coffee and the muffin.
MATTHEWS: The bear claw is going to get you, huh?
MAHER: The bear claw and the buffalo wings.
MATTHEWS: I worry about those fritters.
MATTHEWS: What's pushing Ralph Nader into this role of basically being a spoiler?
MAHER: I don't know.
I mean, I said to him- Ralph, I learned a long time ago, there is a difference between right and being correct. You are right. The Democratic Party is corrupt. The Democratic Party doesn't deserve our votes. The two parties are too much alike. They are not addressing the issues that should be addressed. You are right.
But it's also not correct to do what you're doing, because this is an election where we can't afford to thumb our nose at the lesser of two evils. But I don't think it's ego. I think he really thinks that he's doing the right thing, but he just doesn't see it the way we do.
But I thought it was interesting. I asked him, if it was Bush against someone—if it was Kerry against someone who you thought was even worse than Bush...And I thought he would say, "No, it doesn't matter." And he would say "no, in that case, I would vote for Kerry." So it's just a case of apparently Bush not being bad enough.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Theresa Heinz Kerry’s speech?
MAHER: She sounds like Patton. You want hell? Spill their blood. I love her. Of course, I love anybody who is politically incorrect, somebody who speaks their mind. It's so nice to see anybody, especially during a campaign, who doesn't just walk and talk like a soulless automaton.
MATTHEWS: How come it doesn't even sound right? Of course she thinks they're going through hell. Of course what she said about "Shove it" is what she felt. And we say—we want Stepford politicians, it seems.
MAHER: Right. Exactly. And also, the Republicans have a way of trying to put two issues together, one on their side, one on the Democrats' side, and say, it's a wash.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MAHER: Like, OK, Bush dodged the war in Vietnam and John Kerry threw his medals away. It's a wash.
Dick Cheney said to a senator in the Senate "Go F yourself" and she said "Shove it." That's a wash.
MATTHEWS: I want you to be a pundit. When will it break, this campaign, toward Kerry?
MAHER: I'm telling you, after the last debate. The last week of the election, it's going to go very south for the president.