Ex-New York Times reporter Judith Miller continued her book/apologia tour Friday night on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Sitting in the hot seat to push her new memoir The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, Miller smiled as she blamed the intelligence community for her incendiary reporting on Iraq’s supposed WMD program, shrugging to a gently skeptical Maher, “Politicians lie – you know that.”
Insisting she thoroughly questioned the intel that fed her fear-mongering Times coverage that she jokes in her book helped send America to war, Miller deflected scrutiny onto Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush, and calculating neocons for exploiting the panic stirred by her headlines.
“Every administration has hawks and doves,” she said. “But the information they got was with high confidence that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons, and moderate confidence that he did not yet have a nuclear weapon.”
The real culprit wasn’t bad journalism or bad politicians, she said, but mistakes made by the intelligence community: “The intelligence community that is paid billions of dollars a year, 16 different agencies, totally got it wrong… and they could get it wrong again.”
Maher didn’t let her completely off the hook. “We depend on the fourth estate to call bullshit on the military industrial complex,” he scolded, before mostly letting her off the hook.
Miller’s not-so mea culpa aside, Maher scored with his stoner demo by proposing the national recognition of April 20, aka 4/20, complete with a Change.org petition that popped up online right before his live broadcast.
“It’s more worthy than Columbus Day—why should we celebrate that racist psychopath?” Maher argued before reading aloud from his market-ready bedtime story ’Twas the Night Before 4/20.
On Overtime, Miller's controversial role in the Bush administration’s Iraq press campaign surfaced again as she sparred with Neera Tanden, President of The Center for American Progress over rearview mirror WMD posturing. “I think Colin Powell had the best line about that,” Miller said. “He said, ‘Where were all these people when I was making my speech and when the President was looking at the intelligence? Where were these dissenters when we needed them?’”
“There were lots of Americans who dissented,” Tanden countered. “There were lots of people who opposed the war. It wasn’t just Michael Moore. There were a lot of Americans and a lot of political leaders, and one of them is now President of the United States.”
Maher broke up the scrum by tackling the recent news of Hillary Clinton officially kicking off her presidential campaign, predicting that “Hillary could lose it” in 2016 because instead of getting criticized over WMDs, “it’s going to be ISIS 24-7.” He then warbled an off-key rendition of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody,” threatening not to stop until American Idol winner-turned-politician-turned Real Time panelist Clay Aiken agreed to run for office again. Because on Real Time, as in Washington, there are hawks and there are doves.