Saturday, September 1, 2012

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher #257 'The Empty Chair"

Real Time with Bill Maher” is a talk show/comedy show so the “episodes” are not given a name. I’m taking the liberty of naming  my recap and review of this episode, “The Empty Chair.

The name, of course, refers to Clint Eastwood’s performance at the Republican National Convention on the night before where he gave a speech which wasn’t a speech. It was a stand-up comedy act according to Bill. 

Clint addressed an empty chair pretending that Obama was sitting in it. He lectured and chastised the empty chair and pretended to respond to vulgarities uttered by the chair.  

Bill gave Clint props saying he did a great improvised stand -up comedy act that was right on target for his audience who ate it up. Bill may be right; if so, Clint was portraying the angry old man (like he did in Gran Torino) so the stuttering and rambling must have been part of the act.

But, and it is a big but, Clint wasn’t there to do a stand-up comedy act.  He was there to lend his support to Mitt Romney. Network TV gives only one hour each night to live coverage of the convention, and the Republicans squandered 15 minutes of it on a comedy act. On Friday, what was everyone talking about?  Senator Rubio’s speech?  Governor Romney’s speech?  No!  All anyone can talk about is the empty chair.

Did anybody on the campaign staff ask the speakers what they were going to talk about?  Apparently not.  Except for Ann Romney, all the speakers I heard spent most of their time talking about themselves. (It looked like they were setting themselves up for 2016.) They were supposed to be there to tell us how great Romney is and they barely mentioned his name. If this is how badly Romney runs his campaign, do we really want to put him in charge of the whole country?

In his opening monologue Bill mentioned another problem with the convention speakers--the huge number of blatant lies in the speeches. V.P. nominee, Paul Ryan, was especially guilty. Bill said that when Ryan heard that the consensus of opinion was that his speech held the record for “the greatest number of lies in a single speech,” Ryan said “Game on!”

Bill’s interview was with Dinesh D’Souza, a so-called journalist who has a so-called documentary in theaters right now. The film makes the most bizarre accusations against President Obama. This isn’t just my opinion, it is the opinion expressed in every review of the film I have seen. Bill and the panel said that D’Souza was practicing the “Big Lie” a theory popularized by the Hitler regime. Make the lie so outrageous that people will believe it just because they can’t believe that anyone would make such a preposterous thing up. 

D‘Souza came on the Real Time to promote his film. I don’t think he will be back. Bill was clearly on a mission to take D’Souza down. First he ripped into him for the nutty claims in the film, and then it got personal. Several years ago, Bill had another TV show, “Politically Correct.”  He lost that show because he said that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards. He said that it takes a lot of courage to smash a plane into a building when you are on the plane.

It turns out D’Souza was a guest on the show that night, and Bill was only agreeing with a similar comment D’souza made. Bill was angry that D’souza just laid low as Bill was widely castigated for his remark. He felt that D’souza should have spoken up.

The conservative guest last night was Ron Christie, Republican political strategist.  I have seen him all over cable TV as a guest on talk shows making ridiculous statements. He did the same tonight. At one point, Bill lowered his head to the table in exasperation during a conversation about global warming. Bill said that it was impossible to have a conversation with Ron because Ron has his own “facts” as well as his own opinions.  Bill said, “We can disagree about how to handle it, but not on whether it exists.The fact that global warming is real is now beyond dispute.

I will say one thing for Ron. He was a gentleman last night. Unlike most of the conservatives on Bill’s show he spoke calmly and did not raise his voice, cut off the other guests, or talk on top of them.

I can’t help but wonder—do he and D ‘Souza and the others of his ilk actually believe the things they say. These are intelligent educated men!  I can only think that they have found this niche for themselves, they earn a good living from it, so the truth be damned.

It’s like Mitt Romney claiming that he no longer believes everything he appeared to believe his whole life—his whole life until he started running for president. Or was he lying before in order to get elected as governor of Massachusetts. Only he knows the answer to that. I think it doesn’t really matter what he personally believes, if he is elected the radical right would have their way with him.

The other panelist were Soledad O’Brien (CNN news anchor) and Jason Alexander (actor and director). The final guest was Walter Kirn (writer and ex-Mormon) who was there because Bill wanted to discuss Mormonism. Since Romney’s faith is a big part of who he is (by his own admission), we can understand Romney better if we understand Mormonism. Although Kirn is an ex-Mormon, he is not critical of the faith. He did a good job of explaining how some of Romney’s positions may have been shaped by his religion.

At the end of the show, Bill returned to discussing the Republican National Convention.  He said that although G.W.Bush and Dick Cheney were the most recent president and V.P, they were not present, and their names were almost never mentioned. He said, It was like having a Star Trek Convention without inviting William Shatner.”  
Perhaps the real empty chairs at the convention were the ones that Bush and Cheny should have been sitting in.
I found this picture at  It's not from the 8/31/12 show, but it suits this post very well.