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Bill Maher plays Hardball

Senator Joe Biden calls Bill Maher of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" an "equal opportunity offender."  He's back with a new season, and true to form, tells Chris Matthews exactly what he thinks.
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Senator Joe Biden calls Bill Maher an equal-opportunity offender.  True to form, Bill is back with a new season of telling everyone exactly what he thinks on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher.”   He joined Chris Matthews to weigh in on the latest political stories out of Washington D.C.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST 'HARDBALL': Bill Maher, it‘s a hell of a good week for you to come back.

MAHER:  I think the comedy gods are smiling on me, Chris.  It just says to me, they want you back on the air when the week I come back, the vice president caps a man.

MATTHEWS:  Well what do you make of Dick Cheney?  If this hadn‘t happened this week, what would you have thought of Dick Cheney absent this latest episode of Cheney?

MAHER:  I think it‘s interesting that this is only the third-worst thing that happened to Dick Cheney this week, with the Valerie Plame thing and the Paul Pillar revelation.

And I think what historians in the future will note from this is that it is so emblematic of the whole administration, the way they handle everything, which of course is to immediately screw something up, then lie about it, blame the victim. 

You notice that story keeps changing?  At first he was just peppered. 

He was sprayed, just something between friends.  It brought them closer.  And then we found out no, actually he got shot in the face.  And then today the thing went to his heart.  I heard by tomorrow it‘s going to be that Dick Cheney blew his head off at the dinner table.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about those two things you eluded to, because this is serious business and it‘s more macro than just personal level behavior.  You talked about the Cheney incidents, the two others of the big three this week.  The first one, his chief-of-staff said that his superiors told him to put out classified information.  Who do you think he‘s talking about?

MAHER:  Well, it‘s obvious.  Who did Scooter Libby get his marching orders from?  Who did he drive to work with every day?  Dick Cheney.  It‘s obvious that this came from the Dick Cheney team, and Scooter Libby was his No. 2 man.  I don‘t know what the debate is about that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Pillar, the CIA chief for the near east, said that Cheney—the administration was mainly Cheney—manufactured this whole connection between 9/11 and Iraq.  That would be a bigger story than a hunting accident, but it‘s getting blown over by this thing.

MAHER:  Right.  Right.  It makes you think that Cheney shot this guy on purpose, just to divert attention.  I‘m kidding about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, but I think—let me ask you about Cheney.  What do you think—I really want to get in to you on this, because I find it fascinating.  I want to know—and you think about this all the time. 

Dick Cheney is unlike any VP we‘ve ever heard of.  He picked himself in that selection process.  He seems like he doesn‘t have to report—he didn‘t make a phone call.  Did you know that he hasn‘t talked to the president until Monday, and the incident happened on Saturday?

MAHER:  Yes.  You‘d think it was a hurricane.  Look, you know, Chris, you don‘t have to sell me on Dick Cheney being a bad guy, and just to go back to what you mentioned before, about the connection between Iraq and 9-11 -- to me, that was always a much bigger lie than the one that most people focused on, which is weapons of mass destruction.  Weapons of mass destruction, we know they cherry-picked the intelligence, yada-yada-yada.  But we also know that the Clintons and a lot of other Democrats, a lot of people on the other side of the aisle always thought that maybe Saddam had weapons. 

To me, that was not the most egregious lie.  But a connection between Iraq and the people who did that to us?  That was the bigger lie, and that‘s the one that Cheney kept pushing.  I don‘t have the quotes before me, but I remember they were very carefully crafted, so the beginning of the sentence started out talking about 9-11 and the terrorists, and the end of the sentence was always, and if we could strike them at the very geographical base where they come from.  So he conflated the two (events) and the truth is, that if Saddam Hussein, as bad as he is, was in power right now, he would be a bulwark against terrorism, just the way we put rotten dictators in the communist era on the throne, so that they would be bulwarks against communism.  Saddam would never have allowed a rival power base like Zarqawi in his country.

MATTHEWS: Bill's show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” premiers this Friday on HBO at 11:00 Eastern time.  It is a great show, and you get to say—you‘re pretty much uncensored, aren‘t you, Bill? 

MAHER:  Actually, I was always uncensored.  It‘s just that on the other network, I got fired for it.

MATTHEWS:  So that‘s—in other words, they let you know you were censored afterwards. 

MAHER:  Yes.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—let‘s change to a brighter, less—less important topic, maybe.  It‘s about the future of the country... 

MAHER:  Valentine‘s Day? 


MAHER:  Come on, it‘s Valentine‘s Day, Chris.  I thought you had me—I thought you had me on because you wanted to tell me something. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re my Valentine.

What do you think of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton at the funeral for Coretta King. 

MAHER:  He‘s good.  Oh, he‘s good.  Come on, isn‘t he? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s good and it‘s good—it‘s good and it‘s real to me.  It‘s both real and political and theatrical and everything.  And human.  I got a chill watching that.  This guy connects like no pol today, I don‘t think. 

MAHER:  I think he connects with black people, which is not easy to do in the polarized world we live in in this country.  There‘s not a lot of white politicians who get that kind of from-the-heart ovation, just like there is not a lot of white comedians who can play the Apollo, which I will be doing on May 25th of this year.  Sorry, I had to get that plug in.

MATTHEWS:  Really?  No, I think it‘s good.  I think it might work.

MAHER:  I‘m so proud of that.

MATTHEWS:  I saw your act at—I think it was the Virginian (ph) on Broadway, and it was great.  I mean, it was unbelievable.  Almost two hours of comedy, just you up there.  I‘d like to see that.  I think I‘ll come up and watch that.  I‘ll be the other white guy in the audience, OK?  I‘ll watch that.

I want to change the subject to something positive.  The relationship between Bill and Hillary.  I just saw a poll that showed that three out of five people don‘t care if they get divorced or anything; they‘re going to vote for Hillary.  And the other two out of five say, hey, look, it‘s kind of a split, whether it helps or hurts her if they get divorced.  In other words, it‘s not about Bill anymore, according to the way people respond to polls.  It‘s up to her now to be the next president, to the people who like her or don‘t like her.

Do you think she can win the presidency and govern without him around?  Just period, without his help at all, just run the country by herself? 

MAHER:  Could she?  Of course.  George Bush is doing it, and how many lower IQ points than her is he?  But you know, first of all, she will never win the presidency, so the people who are worried about that can stop worrying.  She will never be elected president of this country.  The Democrats should buddy up to that concept before they walk over a cliff with her in 2008. 

But the other thing that disturbs me about those kind of questions is that it‘s always assumed that Bill and Hillary Clinton have some sort of arranged marriage.  First of all, no one knows what goes inside—goes on inside a marriage. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘ve never assumed that, Bill.  I‘m not assuming that.  I‘m just looking at the public‘s perception that she can stand alone, completely alone, without him. 

MAHER:  Well, why couldn‘t—well, of course she could stand alone.  What do you think?  She comes home from the Senate every night and says, oh my God, honey, thank God you‘re in the kitchen because I have a thousand questions to ask you?  Can you help me with my homework?  

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s because—they always say two for the price of one.  They come as a unit.  That‘s why I‘m asking.  I found it fascinating people—obviously, you don‘t.  You think she‘s going to be a stand-alone loser.

MAHER:  Look, she is the worst of both words—and I like her a lot - for the Democratic Party, because she keeps trying to move to the center. 

And she‘s never going to win over those right-wingers or those middle Americans, the kind of people John Kerry was going after when he got in a goose-hunting outfit the week of the election.  She will never, ever win them over.

Watch each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.