'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, August 18, 2009http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32474504
RACHEL MADDOW: Joining us now is the host of HBO‘s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Mr. Maher, thank you for having me on your show a couple of weeks ago and thanks for being here now.
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: Always, Rachel. How are you doing?
MADDOW: I‘m weird-ed out by this, honestly. There‘s this huge disconnect, not in opinions about what to do, but in beliefs about what is true. What is going on?
MAHER: Well, you know, you‘re right that the Republicans have a more casual relationship with the truth. I have always believed that. I mean, I don‘t think they care as much about what is really true. It‘s more about what the feeling is, what the spirit of the truth is.
Reagan, you know, used to tell a bunch of whoppers, you know, ketchup was a vegetable and, you know, trees cause pollution and, you know, anecdotal stuff about welfare, queens and the Cadillacs, and you know, ball games he saw that he never really saw. They didn‘t care.
It was the idea, the big idea behind it. So I‘m not surprised at that. You know, it is all about feeling, I think, with those people, which is ironic, of course, because they accuse of liberals of being naive and not steely-eyed.
But really, they‘re the ones, you know, who don‘t really care about what the actual truth is. They think, you know, like the torture debate. They were all about, “Oh, yes, those naive liberals. We know what the real truth is because we watch ‘24.‘ You know, we have the real truth.”
MADDOW: Well, do you fight -
MAHER: You know, and the health care -
MADDOW: Go ahead. I‘m sorry, Bill.
MAHER: No, no. You go ahead.
MADDOW: Do you fight feeling with feeling? Do you say, “All right, we have facts,” on one side of this debate and you believe things that are not true on your side of the debate. So since we can‘t agree on the facts, let‘s just try to make you have a different feeling about the myths that you believe? How do you actually move people? How do you fight?
MAHER: No, I don‘t think you can do that because, again, feelings are very - are stronger than facts. You know, these people who are so exercised now about the healthcare debate, I don‘t know if it‘s always about health care. You know, it seems a lot of it to be about this “I want my country back.” We hear that a lot.
And I always want to say to them, from what? Who‘s taking your country away? Name one thing in your life that is different now that Obama is president. So I don‘t know if you can fight it on that level. But you can certainly could. The president, I think, could do a better job of, you know, getting a little Harry Truman on these people
. He‘s just a little too nice about calling a liar a liar.
You know, when somebody says government takeover, he should just say that‘s a flat-out lie. There is no government takeover. Stop lying. Stop lying about my record. A little Bob Dole in there.
MADDOW: But the way that that would be fought back against, the way that people would respond to that is by saying, “What‘s he covering up? He‘s telling us we‘re lying but he‘s the real BS artist.” There is so much more energy than there is factual basis for that energy.
And it‘s one thing if you‘re just fighting about whether or not you feel bad for the country or good about the country, whether you like Obama or you think he‘s a bad guy. But this is, you know, should we have a public option in healthcare reform?
And it feels like something about which all of this fact-free emotion is - it‘s stymieing our ability to move forward or even have a smart discussion about it.
MAHER: True. But where are all Obama‘s people to help him with this, by the way? You know, I mean, he is Michael Jordan on a very, very, very bad team. Where are all the people who were so enthused during the campaign? You know, that was the fun part, the election.
Now comes the hard part. You know, where‘s Oprah? Where are all of the people who were out there on the campaign trail? We need them now. This is the actual hard work of government.
MADDOW: Maybe people will be mobilized by the extremism of the people who are calling Obama Hitler and calling him a Nazi and bringing their AR-15s to the town halls. Maybe the Obama-ites who came out in such numbers in the election will be turned out specifically because they‘re so horrified by the atmosphere that‘s happening whenever Obama does one of these town hall meetings and people show up with guns.
MAHER: Well, you think it would have happened by now, because this has been going on for weeks and weeks at this point - the guns in the town hall meetings. You know, I think people figure it‘s just a tiny fringe and it‘s inflated by the media. And that‘s not entirely untrue.
There are people out there who are scary and nutty. I don‘t know how much a part of the larger population they represent - certainly, a good chunk of it. But, you know, again, it‘s not the Republicans - I mean, of course, it is the Republicans who are holding this up.
But that‘s the given. You know, the real death panel is that Senate Finance Committee. It‘s these Democratic senators, the Kent Conrads and the Max Baucuses from these tiny little states that represent one or two percent of the population. That‘s holding up the works. You know, I guess the days of arm-twisting are over within your own party. I don‘t know, maybe I‘m just remembering finally my image of Lyndon Johnson and people like that doing that. You know, you wake up and there‘s an intern‘s head in your bed or something.
I don‘t know.
They used to be able to corral the members of their own party to get behind the business of that party. I don‘t think that‘s something that‘s gone away. I mean Bush did it only a few years ago when he was president. He seemed to get his puppies in a line. Why can‘t Obama do that?
MADDOW: Well, you are seeing a little bit of an uprising right now of some angry liberals, particularly in the House, saying, “You know what, we‘re not going to vote yes for this thing unless it doesn‘t have a public option. We‘re liberals, we‘re mad and you can‘t count on our votes.” We haven‘t seen that in a long time.
MAHER: Yes, but that‘s not really going to be there at the end of the day. At least, I hope not. I mean, I hope they don‘t split along those lines because as Paul Begala wrote so effectively the other day - boy, he‘s a smart guy.
He was writing in “The Washington Post” about the fact that, you know, when FDR was passing social security, it did not include domestic workers. It didn‘t include farm workers. It didn‘t include the disabled, government workers, who are now, you know, the first people to get an entitlement. Lots of categories that were excluded.
And if people back then had said, “Come on. This is not a very good bill,” nothing would have gotten passed. What happened was they got something through and then, over the years, they improved it. And you know, unfortunately, it looks like that‘s the best we can do with this health care thing.
MADDOW: It‘s the best we can do with 60 seats in the Senate, 80-vote majority in the House and a brand-new, popular president.
MADDOW: My expectations are shrinking all the time - yes. Bill Maher, host of HBO‘s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” it‘s great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us tonight, Bill.
MAHER: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it.