The news that a Republican senator who recently had dinner with President Barack Obama ordered a vegetarian meal briefly shocked Bill Maher on Friday night.
The unidentified senator, Huffington Post publisher Ariana Huffington suggested, might be in danger in a primary election, to which Maher said, “Absolutely.”
“In America, that’s worse than being gay,” Maher told his panelists. “Are you kidding? They will elect a president who eats cock before tofurkey. Just one man’s opinion: that’s very suspect. Are you kidding? You’re not a real American unless you eat meat.”
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Obama picked up the tab for his dinner with the 12 senators Wednesday night, a meeting that saw him seek out GOP members who are not part of the Senate leadership.
But Maher also said he was surprised that Obama allegedly having to explain to the group that he had already proposed spending cuts before having to sign the federal sequester into effect on March 1, reminding him of his frequent criticisms last year that Republicans were living in a bubble.
“I never knew the bubble was that thick,” he said. “It’s like, in a space movie, the airlock that doesn’t let an alien in.”
But Forbes blogger Avik Roy defended the dinner as falling in line with a presidential tactic of avoiding miscommunication by cutting out indirect sources like White House staff.
“It’s not about hearing it indirectly,” Huffington said. “It was on his website.”
“If you’re gonna negotiate, what your position is on a website and what you’re willing to give up in a negotiation are two different things,” said Roy, a health care adviser to former presidential challenger Mitt Romney. “You have to hear that from someone directly.”
Huffington said the fact that Obama had to go around GOP leadership to get the chance for meaningful dialogue spoke to a different problem.
“Anything that comes from Obama is going to be turned down,” she said. “Maybe he should do what [novelists] George Eliot or J.K. Rowling did — you know, just use a pseudonym.”
After confirming he was not the mystery vegetarian (“I don’t get those invitations anymore,” he said) former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele also defended the dinner, calling it good strategy by the president to lay out his plan before the senators, who can in turn report back to the GOP caucus.
“This was a very good move by the president, to begin to reposition the conversation, and to have the kind of response that we’ve seen from Senate leadership — and I will say they were leaders because they are going to be leaders in this particular conversation — is good,” Steele said.
Watch Maher and his panel analyze Obama’s dinner with the 12 Republicans, posted Friday by Mediaite, below.