Maher praises Obama speech, slams McCain on war
David Edwards and Mike Sheehan
Published: Wednesday March 19, 2008

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Real Time host Bill Maher, appearing on MSNBC's Hardball, had words of praise for White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and jeers for presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

"I thought it was a great speech," said Maher of Obama's milestone address on race. "He never fails to rise to the occasion. I think history will look back and see him as ... the Jackie Robinson of politics."

Maher added, "It was such a pleasure to hear a speech for adults, to adults, that didn't pander, that was eloquent."

Elaborating on the hubbub over remarks by Obama's onetime pastor, Maher said, "Americans are so narcissistic, they're such navel-gazers, they only live in their own little world. ... People wouldn't know what goes on in a black church, they could be preaching jihad every week and nobody would know about it. I mean we learn this every time there's a racial episode in this country ... [E]very time people are absolutely shocked at what's going on, because obviously there really isn't a lot of dialogue between the two races."

Matthews began laughing hysterically as he brought up how Bill O'Reilly was stunned by the civility he experienced in a black restaurant. Quipped Maher, "He thought it was gonna be 'Dinnertime at the Apollo.' He was just gonna have dinner, stay for a little of the dogfighting, and then leave."

When it came to McCain, Maher let loose with more of his trademark caustic wit. "We're one terrorist attack away from John McCain rising in the polls by ten points because people think he's tougher. Of course he's not tougher about the war, he's dumber about the war ... because he thinks that by keeping troops in the heart of the Muslim world, that's gonna help the war on terror."

Transcript via closed captions

:: welcome back to "hardball." every friday night at 11:00 p.m., bill maher offers up a unique look at politics on hbo "real time with bill maher." he is with us from los angeles. mr. maher, sir, here we are, almost at the end of a cycle of picking a president. the republicans have picked john mccain. the democrats, what are they up to?

:: you know, when i was a kid i remember my father and mother who were like dyed in the wool democrats, liberal democrats, they would tear their hair out because they say the democrats are the party never organized, fighting amongst each other. the republicans are organized, they get up in the morning, they have their candidate by february. obviously, nothing has changed.

:: i know. i sometimes think if you go to a movie theater and go to everybody who comes ten minutes early and they sit there all organized an the people who come in in the dark with their big boxes opopcorn and the gallons of coke. those are the democrats. let me ask you a more serious question, barack obama, did you think his speech had the emotional and historic impact that some of us did?

:: yeah. i thought it was a great speech, but i'm supposed to. i'm that white progressive who loves what he does. but he is. he never fails to rise to the occasion. i think history will look back and see him as -- i keep using the analogy of jackie robinson. the jackie robinson of politics. i say that because jackie robinson had to be, of course, absolutely perfect. he picked jackie robinson not because he was a great ballplayer, but the exact temper meant and the guy who can take it when they yell out racial ep tats at him in st. louis. that is barack obama, too black, too white. not everybody is going to love that speech. you guys have been talking about it, blue collar workers, reagan democrats, whatever you want to call them. people who think, well, we had a racial problem in this country but that ended when bill cosby got a tv show in 1980. what is all the talk about race? that guy is never going to be swayed by that speech or any speech. it was a pleasure to hear a speech for adults to adults that didn't pander, that was eloquent. it is like reading a book now adays, chris, so much writing is not writing. you read a john grisham book and it is an outline for the script for the movie. once in a while you read great writes and you think, oh, what a pleasure. that was what it was like listening to that speech for me.

:: you are right about the jackie robinson stuff, that trash talk was coming from the philly dugout.

:: it was everywhere. boston, too.

:: that is -- i'll say no more about that one. i can talk about my city. boston is trickier when it comes to that topic. let me ask you about the grandmother comment. a lot of us were taken that he is defending his relationship with his minister, with jeremiah wright, and he offered a parallel, his white grandmother, white grandparents on his mother's side, how she talked about fear of black men, the stereotypical language she used that made him cringe as a boy. almost ripping the scab off of american people, so the secret talk that goes on in our different racial dugouts.

:: well, when black folks get in trouble, chris, they always go to the grandmother. i thought it was very effecting. americans are so narcissistic. they are such nazal gazers. they only live in their own little world. it was astounding that in 2008 somebody had to go through the abcs of what racial relations are like in this country. that people still don't know. i mean, people wouldn't know what goes on in a black church. they could be preaching jihad and we wouldn't know about it. we learn this every time there is a racial episode in this country, o.j. or the gena six situation. people are shocked because there isn't a lot of dialogue between the two races. yes, they work together now.

:: how about bill o'reilly being surprised that people at a restaurant use knives and forks and spoons.

:: yes. right. and they weren't screaming --

:: amazed in harlem they used utensils. i'm sorry. some things are beyond imagination, things people say.

:: he thought it was going to be dinner time -- chris, would you let me get my joke out. he thought it was going to be dinner time at the apollo. he was just going to have dinner, stay for a little of the dogfights and then leave.

:: well, let me ask you this, let me get to the tough political question, what is the disconnect between barack obama and working-class regular guys, i don't like that, joe six pack, joe bag of donuts, the guy who makes less than the national average, working 40, 50 hours, tired, comes home at night and doesn't want to hear about affirmative action or racial change. he is not connected with that buy the, apparently.

:: well, you know, i can sort of understand why that is. i think we all have sympathy for people who are struggling economically. i thought it was great barack obama in the speech made the point you are not being kept down by the immigrants or the black guy. that is not who is your problem. your problem is the corporation. the greedy corporation and those pop who put politicians in office who do the bidding of those corporations who rapaciously plunder the workers' pensions, who take their jobs overseas. that is the real problem. that's that book "what's the matter with kansas." the lower middle class people keep voting against their economic interest, people who want to repeal the estate tax and shovel more money into the pockets othe richest 1% of america. that is the challenge for a politician like obama or really any democrat is to convince those people who their real problem is. and their real problem is corporations have taken over america.

:: well, great. it is great to have you on. i agree with almost everything you say. john mccain is tricky with the democrats because he is a war hero. you list that attack on the republican policies if you are a regular person, how it hurts you economically. suppose they don't choose between their economic interests and the richer guy's economic interests. they choose the war hero, the guy they identify with, personally.

:: well, that is very possible. you know, we are one terrorist attack away from john mccain i'm sure rising in the polls by ten points. because people think, oh, yeah, he is tougher. he is not tougher about the war. he's dumber about the war. he's dumb about the war because he thinks by keeping troops in the heart of the muslim world that's going to help the war on terror. that's exactly what started the war on terror. that's why bin laden was so angry at the u.s. because we had tloops in saudi arabia. we pulled them out after 9/11, by the way. of course we go right back in and plant them in the heart of the muslim world and build pizza huts. that is why young muslim men want to come here and blow themselves up and kill us. it is not about what happens in iraq. we need to get out of iraq not build bases there.

:: you are a gutsy man, bill maher, and a funny guy. i'm glad we had a serious show.

:: come join us, chris.

:: just get hbo. last time we were on that show it was wild. friday nights at 11:00.