I’m not exactly sure what’s gotten into Bill Maher.
Over the past year-plus, the supposed liberal firebrand has seen eye to eye with the likes of bigoted performance artist Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow, New York Times hate-read specialist Bari Weiss, and NRA shill Colion Noir, bonding over issues ranging from transphobia and Islamophobia to guns and those pesky “PC” college kids. Armed with softball questions and weak insights, he’s allowed these rank opportunists to exploit his HBO platform for personal gain, casting them as thought leaders instead of the Trump-era trolls that they are.
On Friday, Maher welcomed another delusive dimwit onto his Real Time program: Ben Shapiro, the former Breitbart editor whose preferred shtick is complaining about leftist “identity politics” and “victimhood”—even though the guy will not shut up about that time some teenagers protested his talk at Berkeley.
“[Conservatives] have more guts than the liberals, because they don’t go on conservative shows. They don’t even come on this show sometimes!” offered Maher by way of introduction. “We seem to be living in a time of utter tribalism, and I think you and I have a few things in common besides we were both uninvited at Berkeley, but we’ve been coy about our affiliation.”
Maher conceded that right now, he identifies as “a Democrat,” and asked Shapiro to pick a side: “There’s only two teams,” he said. “And since all the Republicans are now backing Trump—except for the ones who are leaving, but he totally owns that party now—if you’re a conservative, aren’t you really team Trump?”
Shapiro claimed that he was not “Never Trump” but rather “Sometimes Trump,” saying, “When he does something that I like, I cheer, and when he does something that I hate, I boo.” The former-child-actor-faced Angeleno went on to explain that he was “very pleased with this [potential] Supreme Court nominee,” and that President Trump is “doing a lot of things that I like in terms of policy now.”
“I’ve been incredibly critical of Republicans who have suddenly become fans of Vladimir Putin or have suddenly become fans of tariffs,” continued Shapiro. “I think all of that is idiocy. But again, I think that with regard to judges, with regard to taxes, with regard to Middle Eastern policy—particularly Iran and Israel—I’m much more of a fan of President Trump than I certainly would have been of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and by the way, I didn’t vote for President Trump in the last election because of my concerns about him.” (A remarkable display of having it both ways.)
After some very light prodding by Maher, his guest conceded that he may someday vote for a Democrat if the Dems would “stop being insane” and “present a face that doesn’t look like people shouting down people at gas stations or entering restaurants and trying to throw them out”—a classic bit of intellectual dishonesty, striking a false balance between tepid protest (politely refusing to serve an administration official at a restaurant, some booing) and the systematic separation and imprisonment of brown immigrant children in order to gain political concessions. Not to mention how Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and presidential adviser Stephen Miller’s visits to Mexican restaurants in the wake of their “zero tolerance” immigration policy enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border were nothing more than deliberate acts of provocation.
“OK, well if you’re talking about the ‘civility’ thing, why don’t we start with the Republicans stop saying, ‘Lock her up.’ You don’t think that’s a worse abridgment of civility?” asked Maher. “And it’s not just ‘lock her up,’ [Trump] talked about locking Comey up, he talks about locking journalists up. There’s a guy who said ‘lock Tim Kaine up.’ How about we stop the ‘lock them up?’ Shouldn’t the civility argument start there before we care about who gets their entrée?”
Shapiro argued that Americans should broadly condemn incivility “across the board,” once again drawing a false balance between the weaponized rhetoric deployed by the Trump administration—and their legion of far-right acolytes—and those on the left who’ve engaged in predominantly peaceful protest. “Ben, you can’t walk into a room and see an elephant and a mouse and not know which one is bigger,” said Maher. “It’s an elephant and an elephant. I needed 600 officers to protect me at Berkeley!” whined Shapiro.
There was more, of course. Shapiro confessed, “I don’t look to Donald Trump as a thought leader”; falsely alleged that Trump has been “a lot harsher on Putin than Obama was”; and, despite the fact that the investigation is still ongoing and we haven’t been presented with its evidence, blindly proclaimed that Trump was “too ignorant” to have colluded with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.
More than anything, however, this pointless gabfest only served to boost Shapiro’s bafflingly-high profile. Congratulations, Bill: you just played yourself. Again.