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Maher: Nothing funny about Hurricane Katrina

Comedian Bill Maher joined MSNBC-TV's Tucker Carlson to discuss the government's reaction to Hurricane Katrina.
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With a brand-new hurricane bearing down on the United Starts, the political fallout from Hurricane Katrina continues.  Comedian and author, Bill Maher joined Tucker Carlson on Tuesday's 'Situation' to give his take on the Katrina aftermath.  

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the “Launch” button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, 'SITUATION':  Irony aside, do you think the federal government ought to spend $200 billion to rebuild the Gulf Coast?

BILL MAHER, AUTHOR, “NEW RULES”:  No, I don’t.  I don’t know how they come up with a figure like that to begin with.  They came up with $62 billion so quickly.  It was like the Patriot Act.  Did anybody read it?  On Friday’s show, I compared them to Kobe Bryant.  We did a very bad thing.  Now we are going to buy you something very expensive. 

Somebody came up with the figure, $35 billion, would there have been all sorts of demonstrations?  “Thirty-five billion, that won’t cover it.  Are you kidding?  We need 62.”  I mean, it seems like they’re just pulling these numbers out of their behind. 

CARLSON:  The government is now saying that it’s going to essentially rebuild everything that was destroyed.  They’re going to wind up rebuilding some people’s houses, anyway, and philosophically, I wonder why they’re obligated to do that.  I mean, if your house gets hit by lightning and burns down, the federal government is not going to buy you a new house.  So why should acts of God be insured by the rest of us?

MAHER:  Well, it was partly an act of God, let’s get real, and it was partly an act of government negligence.  I think they also have a case against the local government.  They are not blameless.  Let’s be real. 

They got plenty of federal money to rebuild those levees, and they chose to spend it on the Museum of Shrimp and the Mardi Gras fountain and the Museum of Soot and lots of other stuff.  I know it’s hard to believe that there’s corruption in Louisiana.  I never heard of it before.  But it’s a revelation. 

But there’s also huge federal responsibility.  George Bush should have been on this case.  Again, he didn’t leave his vacation.  He appointed Fredo Corleone to be the head of FEMA. 

If this was a lawsuit privately, I would say that people would have a case of negligence against the federal government, yes, they do. 

CARLSON:  So in other words, anytime something bad happens to people, the federal government has a moral obligation to come rescue them and rebuild what they lost?

MAHER:  Of course not.  That’s not what I am saying at all.  I am saying in this case, let’s be clear.  There is a FEMA.  And they are supposed to respond and they didn’t. 

Now, if we want to have a new sort of America where there isn’t such a safety net, where there doesn’t exist a FEMA, and people can’t expect that kind of help, that’s a different story. 

But you know, as you heard from down there, they expected the cavalry to come, and they never showed up, because, once again, the president was on vacation.  We couldn’t interrupt that. 

You know, I thought he had set a new standard on the day of 9/11, when he sat there for seven minutes.  But obviously, he improved on his own record, and this time, he sat for four days. 

CARLSON:  Wait, I know people will never be convinced that Bush is not a right wing crazy, but just consider what he said in the last couple of days.  We’re going to spend at least $100 million, probably I would say $200 billion to rebuild this. 

He’s come out for affirmative action.  He said in his speech the other night that he thinks that racism causes poverty.  These are all liberal ideas.  He is behaving like Lyndon Johnson.  When at some point are liberals going to say, this guy is not a conservative, after all, he is talking like us?

MAHER:  I don’t think he has ever been a conservative.  I don’t know why you guys ever were so strong for him to begin with.  He’s obviously... 

CARLSON:  You guys? I never was. 

MAHER:  You never liked George Bush?

CARLSON:  Yes, I always liked him, still like him now personally, I think he is a totally charming guy, but I never, ever thought, day one, 1999, that he was conservative.  I never felt that. 

MAHER:  Right.  Well, I mean, Bill Clinton was a charming guy too, and I seem to remember you going after him a lot more than you’ve gone after George Bush. 

And doesn’t Bill Clinton look a little better these days? 

CARLSON:  He looks worse.

MAHER:  Don’t you feel a little silly?  Bill Clinton looks worse?

CARLSON:  You have got to be kidding.  Clinton comes out the other day and says, A, you shouldn’t have gone into Iraq.  Wait a second, he was for Iraq.  He and his wife both supported the war.  Now they’re second guessing it ... 

MAHER:  They didn’t support the war.  Excuse me.   They supported a resolution that said as a last resort, we are going to give you, Sheriff George Bush, a badge and a gun.  That’s not saying we want you to go in there blasting at the first sign of trouble. 

But we’re just talking about the hurricane.  You can’t really deny that under Clinton, FEMA was in a much better situation, that he didn’t appoint somebody’s college roommate, and this is after 9/11, to head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

I understand that all politicians appoint their cronies to certain positions, but this isn’t the ambassadorship to San Marino or Liechtenstein.  It’s the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  You don’t think that’s a smoking gun for George Bush’s administration?

CARLSON:  I think it’s totally negligent.  I mean, some guy, who was, the Arabian horse breeder lobbyist, absolutely.  But my question still, I think there’s blame to go around. 

Why during the Clinton years weren’t those levees shored up?  I don’t know.  What else was FEMA doing?  You know what I mean.  There were no major emergencies.  There weren’t you know, major emergencies like this. 

MAHER:  It’s not FEMA’s job to shore up the levees.  It’s FEMA’s job when the hurricane hits, as you well know.  But, you know, that is local politics, and as I said, they deserve a lot of blame too. 

CARLSON:  Almost aesthetic level, aren’t you repulsed by Clinton’s never ending self-righteousness? The other day, over the weekend, he says essentially, I would have done a better job responding to Katrina because I am a better person, great guy, look at me, great administration.  Doesn’t the constant bragging make you want to throw up?

MAHER:  You know what makes me want to throw up, seeing dead bodies floating in New Orleans, that makes me want to throw up. 

That kind of stuff that would not have happened under Bill Clinton.  You can’t tell me that you think that FEMA would have not been a completely different agency and that Clinton would have been all over this situation from minute one like white on rice. 

You don’t think that’s who Bill Clinton is?  He would not have slept from the moment this hurricane started to hit until we could do the best we could with the situation. 

You’re angry at his self-righteousness at a time when there are hundreds and hundreds of dead bodies that are on the tab of George Bush?  Why don’t you focus your anger on the guy who really deserves it? 

CARLSON:  Night after night after night my anger has been focused on the local, state, and federal authorities who allowed this tragedy to happen.  Merely pointing out that Bill Clinton’s opportunity to say something to America, devolves as usual into another, “Look at me, aren’t I’m a great guy,” lecture.  And it just makes me want to throw up.  My only point.

MAHER:  I’ll hold the bag for you. 

Maher is the host of “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO.  He’s also a best selling author whose latest book is “New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer.”