Bill Maher weighed in before yesterday's State of the Union address on CNN and had a few things to say about gun control after the tragic shootings in Arizona, the ridiculous "date night" seating arrangements, crying John Boehner, Michele Bachmann getting air time on CNN to respond to the SOTU and the continual move to the right by our politicians.
January 26, 2011

Bill Maher weighed in before yesterday's State of the Union address on CNN and had a few things to say about gun control after the tragic shootings in Arizona, the ridiculous "date night" seating arrangements, crying John Boehner, Michele Bachmann getting air time on CNN to respond to the SOTU and the continual move to the right by our politicians.

BLITZER: I'm told, Bill, that the president of the United States has decided, despite what happened in Tucson, he will not specifically talk about guns in his speech tonight. He's going to do that down the road in a future speech in a few weeks. But, tonight, the word gun is not going to be there. You think that's a mistake, don't you?

MAHER: Oh, I do. That's a real shame.

And it's always down the road. And it's always finding common ground with this president. And that common ground always seems to be the ground where the Republicans are already standing on. So, no, that's a real shame, because this was again an opportunity, similar to the opportunity Ronald Reagan had in 1981, when he was shot.

At a moment like that, maybe people would be willing to go along with a -- sort of a different point of view. Even Dick Cheney said that. Dick Cheney seems to be to the left of Barack Obama on the gun issue. So, I guess it's true. He has moved to the center.

BLITZER: Well, and it's helping him in the polls. There's no doubt about that. You can see, in our most recent job approval number, 55 percent. It was in the 40s, low 40s, not that long ago. So this move to the center, it certainly seems to be helping him with the American public.

MAHER: Well, we don't know what's helping him. Maybe it's the fact that there was a tragedy. People tend to rally around the president when there's any sort of a tragedy.

Remember, after 9/11, Bush's approval rating was 90 percent or something. I don't think that was because he got a lot smarter after we were attacked.

Maybe it's because -- Obama's popularity hiked because people have now seen the opposition. They got a good look at Boehner. Maybe they don't like that. Maybe people don't like someone who cries at the drop of a hat. People don't like a crier, Wolf.

You know, women say they do, but they really don't. How many times have you really cried in front of your wife?

BLITZER: Me? Are you saying -- are you asking me?


BLITZER: A few times. I see a nice...

MAHER: Yes, a few times.

BLITZER: I see a nice movie that brings a tear to my eye, I hear about a good person who -- who got hurt. I heard about that 9-year- old little girl who was killed in Tucson, I started to cry. I'm not ashamed to say that. Those were pretty sad moments.

MAHER: Right. But John Boehner cries just because he wakes up being John Boehner. You don't do that.

Blitzer: No. I don't cry because I wake up being Wolf Blitzer. That's -- that's for sure. What do you think about date night?

MAHER: I think that during this speech...

BLITZER: Date night on Capitol Hill.

MAHER: ... Joe Biden, who is going to sit next to him, should hand him a box of Kleenex during the speech.

BLITZER: He's an emotional guy, John Boehner. You know, he's got -- he's got an incredible story. When you think about it, he was one of, what, ten kids growing up. His father had a little bar. They had a small House, one bathroom. And look, he's now the speaker of the House, second in line after the vice president to the presidency. So it's -- he's got an amazing story. And I can understand why he gets emotional.

MAHER: Wolf, first of all, get over it. That was a long time ago. It's America. Yes, we understand. People can rise up from places of humble beginnings and make something great of themselves. Most of that is anecdotal. Statistically, people don't do that any more.

America is not, I don't think, even in the top ten or maybe we're tenth in social mobility. Social mobility means the ability of one generation to do a little better than the generation that proceeded them, that spawned them. That used to be known as the American dream. That is the American dream. But we're like tenth in the American dream.

BLITZER: All right.

MAHER: It's like Mexico coming in tenth in the Mexican hat dance.

BLITZER: The fact that they got -- they're going to be sitting Democrat and Republican together tonight, date night on Capitol Hill. Is that good or bad?

MAHER: Oh, I think it's going to solve all our problems, Wolf. Yes. When a madman kills people at the Safeway, the problem isn't guns or nuts. It's that we haven't been polite enough to each other.

Yes, if Barney Frank and Rand Paul are sharing an armrest, I expect all our problems to go away.

You know, of course, as always -- as always, Wolf, it's symbolism. That's all we know how to do. We don't know how to actually solve problems anymore. We just know how to attack it symbolically.

And also, I don't even think it's helpful on that level, because it's actually good to see the parties sitting apart from each other. Because then you see which one cheers or which one sits on their hands according to what the president says, and you get a real feeling for how they feel about him.

BLITZER: What's unusual tonight also, not only that they're going to be sitting next to each other -- they've got dates -- is that there will be the president's State of the Union address.

The official Republican response from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, a rising star in the GOP of Wisconsin, the chairman of the budget committee. And then another response from Republican Congressman -- woman Michele Bachmann, who's representing the Tea Party Express. We'll carry all of that live here on CNN. I don't know about the other networks, but we'll let -- we'll let all of those speeches breath.

What do you think about the decision by the Tea Party to go ahead and have their own response?

MAHER: Well, I understand why they would. Who wouldn't want to? I don't understand the decision by CNN to air it. Why are you giving two -- why are you giving air time to basically two Republican responses? I mean, the Tea Party is the Republican Party. It's just a rebranding.

The Republican Party realized a couple of years ago they were very unpopular with the American public, possibly because all of their ideas had been miserable failures over the last 10, 20, 30 years. So they rebranded as the Tea Party.

Why don't you give equal time to the Democratic response, and then have Representative Anthony Weiner, who's from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, why doesn't he get some -- some air time?

BLITZER: Well, I'm sure -- I'm sure he'll get plenty of opportunities. We'd love to have him in THE SITUATION ROOM. He can -- he can respond.

I will point out, the president will speak, probably, for an hour. Paul Ryan will speak maybe for 10 or 15 minutes. And Michele Bachmann's speech will be very short. So in terms of the amount of time that the response will be is nothing compared to what the president of the United States will deliver in making his message, as it should be, since he is, after all, the president of the United States. And this is the State of the Union address, although we will be getting some responses.

Give me a grade for the president right now, halfway into his presidential term, two years into this presidency. Does he get an A, B, C, D or F?

MAHER: Well, I mean, I guess I'd give him a C-plus at this point. Obviously, he had a lot to deal with when he started, when he came into office. You know, I used to say he was -- he was the maid after Led Zeppelin had been in the hotel room.

But you know, quite frankly, he's given up too much of, you know, what I'm calling this common ground. What he calls this common ground. And I don't really see that we have two policies on enough issues in this country.

You know, I keep reading in the newspaper, what would you like -- you know, different writers, what would you like to see the president say? Well, I'd like him to say, "OK, let's get rid of health care, the plan we passed, and let's have Medicare for all. Let's have a single-payer system." That should be the position of a progressive party in this country, if we had one.

I'd like to see him say, "We're pulling the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And not just there, out of Germany and Korea and Japan and all the places in the world where we have a far-flung empire. And while we're ending wars, we're also going to end the drug war. And we're going to take on the gun lobby."

You know, I'd like to see him do all this stuff. But we don't have a progressive party in this country. We have a right-wing party, and we have a center-right party. So to me, that's where all our problems come from.

BLITZER: Bill Maher, thanks very much for coming in, as usual, and we'll have you back.

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