Saturday, January 19, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #268 "Easy Marks"

By Catherine Giordano

Bill Maher is back on HBO with “Real Time with Bill Maher”, but the show felt a little lame this week.  Was Bill (and staff) just a bit rusty from their eight week break, were the guests a bit lackluster, or is it because that now that the election is over Bill just doesn’t have as much to work with? 

I’ve titled this review “Easy Marks” because a lot of politicians and celebrities being hoist upon his rapier are just easy marks.  Making fun of them is just too easy.

In the opening monologue, Bill said John Boehner refers to next Monday, the day of President Obama’s inauguration for a second term, as “Black Monday.”

Also in the monologue, Bill mentioned that former Republican presidential candidate (and current governor of Texas) Rick Perry, said the real answer to school shootings is prayer. Bill skewered him by saying he would pay money to see Perry defend himself against a school-shooter with prayer. Then he added, “Who am I kidding—Perry in a school?” It was funny, but ever since Perry humiliated himself by amorously caressing a bottle of maple syrup, he’s just too easy a mark.

Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who became famous for giving new meaning to “hiking the Appalachian Trail” is planning to run for Congress.  He was the butt of the mid-show comedy segment—Bill had some campaign slogans for him such as, “More tail and less fat” and referring to Arnold Swartzeneggar (another easy target) “At least it wasn’t the maid.” (That was a twofer.)

Manti Te’O, who is looking a bit pathetic these days, is another easy mark who got a drubbing last night. He was a Notre Dame football player up for the Heisman trophy who claimed that his internet girlfriend, whom he had never met in person, had died. It was a hoax, but it is unclear if Te’O was the victim or the perpetuator of the hoax (or maybe both).

Bill commented that the United States is in love with torture. “The first 45 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty was all torture, the same with The Hobbit.” He pointed out that Ben Affleck, Claire Daines, and Jessica Chastain all won Global Globes awards for playing CIA officers. Then he took aim at Sarah Palin, an easy mark, and said Julianne Moore won for Game Change because Sarah Palin is a master CIA officer.

Bill picked on the easiest mark of them all, Glenn Beck. It seems Beck wants to build his own town for his followers. Bill said that Real Time has a segment about Republicans being in a metaphoric bubble, but now Beck wants to live in an actual bubble. [This would make for a great horror movie—a town where everyone was like Glenn Beck—maybe we could call it “The Horror at Becktown.”]

The interview was with Bob Kerry, a Democrat, and the former governor and senator from Nebraska. Bill teased him about being confused “with the senator married to the ketchup lady (referring to John Kerry married to Teresa Heinz). Kerry sheepishly admitted that it sometimes happens. 

The rest of the interview was serious. Bill commented on the fact that Bob Kerry is a Vietnam vet, as is John Kerry, Obama’s pick for Secretary of State, and Chuck Hegel, Obama’s pick for Secretary of Defense. They discussed how it was good to have veterans in these positions because they understood the real consequences of war, unlike McCain who always wants a war going. McCain opposes Hegel because Hegel will likely mess with McCain’s plans for war with Iran.

One of the panelists was Martin Short, the comedian and actor. He is liberal, intelligent and can usually be counted on for a few witty, but scathing, remarks. His liberal and intelligent views were on display during the show, but the wit—not so much.  

The other two panelists were Republicans, Michelle Caruso-Cabera, a CNBC correspondent, and Steve LaTourette, a former Republican congressman from Ohio who is currently--what else?--a lobbyist.  Both were well well-behaved and made reasonable comments—something we don’t see too often with Republicans on Bill’s panel.

Caruso-Cabera is more a libertarian than Republican. She favors conservative fiscal policy and small government, but feels that government should not intervene on social issues.  Un-fortunately for her, she became the star of the “the-egg-on-your-face“ moment of the week. During the discussion on torture, she said that if you knew you could save lives, it would be right to use torture. She looked stunned when everyone turned on her, including LaTourette, forcefully condemning her statement. 

The special guest was Rula Jebreal, a contributor to Newsweek and the Daily Beast, a novelist, and screenwriter. She made intelligent and insightful comments, and she was passionate about her opinions. Very passionate--but she managed to do it in a charming way.  Jebreal  is a Palestinian, and she educated the panel, and me (and probably you) about the Israeli—Palestinian conflict.. When Caruso-Cabera tried to score points and call Al Gore a hypocrite for selling his TV network, Current, to Al Jezeera (a favorite talking point lately among right wingers), Jebreal sprang to the defense of, not Al Gore but, Al Jezeera. She said that Americans misrepresent Al Jezera--without Al Jezera there would have been no “Arab Spring.”

Martin Short made some good points during the discussion about guns in America.  He pointed out that Canada, where he is from, has only 24% gun ownership, and a fraction of the rate of gun deaths compared to America.  When Bill scoffed at the idea that we would get any change in gun laws here in America, Short compared it to cigarettes. They were once ubiquitous, but first attitudes changed, and then laws changed. We have to begin somewhere.

I think Short has a good point. Once cigarette smoking was everywhere, now smokers have to take the walk of shame out to the alley if they want to smoke.  Maybe one day, no one will want to belong to the NRA and gun ownership will be a shameful secret.

Speaking about gun control, all I hear from right-wing gun nuts is that the 2nd amendment is to protect citizens from the tyranny of the government. Stephen Colbert had a great line about that on his show the other night.  He said that the writers of the Constitution, like all constitutional writers said, “If you don’t like what we do, feel free to shoot us.” The 2nd amendment includes the phrase “a well-regulated militia”--right-wingers always ignore that phrase.

The “militia” part is key to understanding the 2nd Amendment. There was no standing army at the time and the “right to bear arms” was about every able-bodied man being ready to defend the country against foreign invasion. At the time, soldiers were often required to supply their own weapons. The constitution offers other ways to defend against tyranny—elections, checks and balances, and as a last resort, impeachment, which was meant to be used rarely and  only for the most egregious of crimes.

Bill devoted the last bit of his “New Rules” segment to the issue of guns, He said that gun-nuts think they need guns to protest their freedom, but they have already lost their freedom. The real threat to freedom is “Big Brother.” The government can look at our emails, can monitor our phone calls, can pry into our private life in all sorts of ways.  He said, “They think guns keep them free, but we have lost all our rights except gun rights.  “It’s like a strip club with a million bouncers and no strippers.”

Finally, I would like to award the first ever “Easy Mark” award of the week to Michelle Caruso-Cabera. She has evidently been living in the right-wing bubble because she looked startled when even fellow Republican, LaTourette, called her out on her statements.

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This picture of  targets within a speech bubble is from