O'Reilly reminds Maher US might still be party to torture

HBO host Bill Maher ventured into the lion's den this week, sitting down for a two part interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. During the first several minutes of the opening night's segment, however, O'Reilly seemed to get all the good lines, while Maher's responses appeared surprisingly tepid.

It's possible, of course, that Fox News had edited down the interview the same way they did Jon Stewart's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. As Mediaite reported last week, "The jovial exchange lacked any real body blows to declare a 'winner.' ... Well, thanks to the folks at Fox News, the entire unedited version of the interview is available, and it turns out that much of the un-aired portion included the most pointed commentary by Mr. Stewart."

As shown by Fox, O'Reilly began by asking Maher, "Why do you think President Obama's having so much trouble in the job approval polls?"

Maher initially responded that "there's a lot of disinformation out there" and that the Democrats simply "do not brag about their accomplishments." But when O'Reilly persisted in asking whether perceptions of President Obama were also a factor, he finally acknowledged, "Obviously, people think he's a little bloodless."

"I happen to like that in a president," Maher insisted stoutly. "I like a president that uses his brain and not his heart or his gut as the former president did." He then went on to suggest that a lot of the apparent dissatisfaction with Obama's performance on the economy might be racially motivated.

At that point O'Reilly interrupted him to say, "You're on that bandwagon that if you don't like him, you're a racist?"

"Oh, so you don't think it's racially involved at all?" Maher retorted. "The tea baggers -- they're the ones who are so upset about the debt. Most of the debt came from Bush. That's just a fact. And under Bush, Cheney said it, 'Deficits don't matter.' Nobody was angry about the deficits when it was President Bush."

"Because they didn't know about them," O'Reilly asserted. "President Obama has spent more money ... He's the biggest-spending president in the history of the republic, Maher. You've got to know that, man."

"That's not a true statement," Maher insisted. "Bush was the biggest spender."

"No, Obama's budget is bigger than Bush's budget!" O'Reilly exclaimed. "And I'm not any better off, and the economy's not any better off. So it's all a waste. He's not doin' it. ... That's what's inside many Americans' brains."

To some degree, both men were right. Obama's current budgets are without dispute the largest in history -- but Bush's wars and tax cuts ran up the national debt enormously during his eight years as president and continue to provide the greatest portion of Obama's own deficits. Last June, the Center on Budget and Priority Policies argued:

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush’s policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade — that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. ... Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.

The deficit for fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion and, at nearly 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the largest deficit relative to the size of the economy since the end of World War II. ... The events and policies that have pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control.

"The reality of the situation is ... we have him on the rocks now," O'Reilly said of Obama. "He's going to lose the House, probably, maybe lose the Senate. Therefore, he's going to lose his power except for veto. And there's a reason why. It's not that Americans are racists. ... It's that they want, after almost two years, some improvement -- and we haven't seen it."

"We've seen a lot of improvement," Maher responded. "We've stopped torturing people. We can have stem cell research again. ... People can't be thrown out of a hospital"

"I'm not saying there haven't been any good things," O'Reilly admitted, but he added, "You're wrong about the torture deal, by the way. The Obama administration does practice rendition ... so that's off the chart."

As reported last year by the New York Times:

The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.

Human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying that continuing the practice, known as rendition, would still allow the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture. They said that promises from other countries of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse.

Maher had no answer on the torture issue, but he finally appeared to catch fire when he got the chance to attack the right rather than defend the Obama administration.

"Do you believe that conservative individuals are just bad people?" O'Reilly asked. "Are they just nasty people, racist people?"

"No, not entirely," Maher replied. "But I do think in general, yes, they're more selfish. They're more likely to advocate policies that serve their own interests."

"At some point in the last 20 years, the left moved to the center and the right moved into a mental institution," Maher continued, warming to his subject. "The Republican Party now is just a bunch of religious lunatics, Flat Earthers, and Civil War reenactors."

"If you can't see the extremism on both sides, I'm flabbergasted," O'Reilly remarked.

"There really isn't extremism on both sides," Maher countered. "That's a canard. ... There's no movement [on the left] like the Tea Party movement."

"MoveOn, The Daily Kos, those kind of people, they're just normal kind of people?" O'Reilly prodded.

"Yeah," Maher asserted. "They are normal kind of people."

This video is from Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, broadcast Sept. 29, 2010.