Saturday, October 6, 2012

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher "The Great Debate" #261

HBO  Real Time with Bill Maher 10/05/12 #261

“Real Time with Bill Maher” #261, airing on October 5, 2012 on HBO deserves the title “The Great Debate.”  I’m naming it “The Great Debate” because, naturally, a big topic for the night was the presidential debate, but also because a lot of issues were debated last night.  Yes, I mean there was an actual debate. No one attempted to dominate the show, and no one went on foaming-at-the-mouth rants. 

Bill Maher discussed  the first presidential Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama debate of 2012 with in his opening monologue. Like just about everyone else on the planet , he thought that Mitt Romney “won.”  Bill joked, “Obama looked so dead that Romney tried to baptize him.”

The question everyone has is “how could this have happened?”  How could Obama have lost to Romney? Romney—the man who sticks his foot in his mouth just about every time he opens it.

Bill put forth the theory that it was “anniversary sex.”  October 3rd was Barack and Michelle’s 20th wedding anniversary, so perhaps he had sex before the debate and it left him drained and passionless for the debate. I don’t buy that.

First, any reasonable person knows you save the sex for after the debate. There’s nothing like coming off a big win to fuel the energies of passion.

My theory is that Obama was just plain tired.  Physically tired, but emotionally tired too.  He has the hardest job in the world, being not just the president of the United States, but also the leader of the free world. Then in addition to his day job, he has to go running around the country campaigning.

His opening statement at the beginning of the debate when he spoke about his anniversary gave me the impression that he was a little bit resentful. He would have liked to have spent the evening quietly celebrating with Michelle instead of standing on a stage with Mitt Romney. 

I also think he resents having to defend his record day after day. His remark later in the evening when he said, “I have not been a perfect man and I have not been a perfect president, but I have fought for Americans every day.” indicated both his weariness and resentment. He has done the best job that anyone could reasonably expect and he has to defend his record day after day. I think he especially resents the outrageous lies and vicious personal attacks hurled at him day after day. Maybe some days, he wishes he could just chuck it all, go back to being a law professor, and have a quiet happy life.  Maybe October 3rd was one of those days.

But Mr. President, please:

I know it is a lot to ask, but you cannot give in to human frailties.  We are depending on you to save us from another eight years like the Bush years. Please, I know it is hard, but bring your A game.

Where was the charm that bowls me over every time?  When you flash that smile, hearts melt. We could have used a little more of that smile on Wednesday night.  I guess it was a “play-it-safe strategy,” and a “don’t-look-like- an-angry-black –man” strategy and a “don’t- be-condescending” strategy.  (That last one had to be really hard to follow.)

My feeling was that you either had to rebut Romney’s lies (27 lies in 38 minutes is the final tally) or mostly ignore him and talk directly to the American people.
You can use the “zingers” as long as you flash that smile afterwards. But maybe I’m wrong. The dials in the focus group rooms all went negative when you did the one zinger of the night about Romney suddenly transforming from an extreme conservative to a compassionate moderate on the debate stage. You said his position was “Never mind.”  (I thought that was a rather mild zinger, I would have said much worse.)

BTW, all the pre-debate talk was about how Romney was going to use zingers. He only tried one, and it fell flat. “He said, “As president you can have your own plane and you can have your own house, but you can’t have your own facts.”  (A man with no sense of humor should never try to tell a joke. Further this was especially lame because Obama does not have the reputation of being a liar--that “honor” goes to Romney.) I wonder what happened to the focus group meters on that one.
Later in the show, Bill talked about “the smirk” on Romney’s face throughout the debate.  He called it “condescending.”  I interpret it slightly differently. I see it a self-satisfied, smug smirk. It made me think he was trying not to smile, or trying not to deliver a war whoop, a-look-at- me-I-sure-told-him self-congratulatory cheer.

(Also did you notice that the little laugh that Romney uses when he is lying or trying to sound like a human being was gone.)

Bill also touched upon the subject of why Romney wants to be president. Just as John Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president, and Obama was the first black president, Romney want s to be the first Mormon president. He wants Mormons to have the prestige that will come when one of their number is president.

In the monologue, Bill also talked about the new employment numbers just released.  Unemployment was at 7.8%, just a bit below the symbolic 8% level. (Obama promised to reduce unemployment to below 8%. Promise kept.)  Republicans were apoplectic and desperate to explain it away. They decided that Democrats lied about having a job just to make Obama look good. That made me laugh out loud. What about this—maybe Republicans have been lying and saying that they didn’t have a job just to make Obama look bad.   

Bill joked that unemployment was up because of the expanding industry of Mitt Romney fact checkers. Now that is a zinger.  A zinger only stings if there is some truth to it.

The interview was with Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and strategist. He is known for his focus groups which help him determine how to “frame the debate.”  What words will best win the debate. (For instance, don’t say “inheritance tax”, say “death tax;” don’t say “‘privatization of social security”, say “personal social security accounts.”)

Bill called him “evil,” but he said it in a good natured way. I think Luntz actually liked being called “evil.”  Bill explained that Luntz was evil because “You think of words to make stupid people vote Republican.”

Luntz said that he believes Obama will win the election. Luntz also said “Romney is honest.”  Everyone roared with laughter. Nice try Luntz.

The panel was Will Cain, a conservative from CNN’s “Talking Points”, Mark Foley, the former Republican congressman forced to resign because of a scandal concerning him soliciting underage male interns for sex, and Kerry Washington, an actress on the TV show “Scandal.” Kerry may have be only an actress, but she held her own against the politically experienced.  It was good to have her on the show. She represented the viewpoint of “ordinary Americans.”

The special guest tonight did not come from the entertainment world. The guest was Bill McKibben, a noted environmentalist. I liked him a lot. He was soft-spoken, calmly stating his position, using a dash of humor to get his point across. He talked about how so many so-called leaders are in denial—they refuse to accept the evidence.  McKibben said, “Imagine a world with 40% fewer calories,” “We can’t move Iowa to Siberia,” and “We have to protect what we can’t adapt to.” Maher pointed out that some in Congress say there will not be an environmental disaster because God said so—after “The Flood”, he promised to never again try to wipe out mankind.  (I don’t think that is what the Bible says exactly, but never mind.)

In “New Rules”, Bill took on the economy. He pointed out that all you have to do is go to a mall to see that Obama has not ruined America. People are out shopping. Also the Dow has doubled since Obama took office. These are great achievements considering that the world was on the brink of financial collapse when Obama took office. He then gave us the “this-is-over-the-top-but-nonetheless-apt-analogy” moment of the week.  He said, “You have to blame Bush for the bad economy the way you blame rats for the plague.” 

Bill ended the show with another analogy saying, “If you don’t like how the stewardess landed the plane after the werewolves ate the flight crew, stop electing werewolves.”  Stop electing Republicans!.

End of debate.