After a few weeks off, political satirist Bill Maher emerged refreshed and more cynical than ever on his program Real Time Friday night.
The comedian addressed the week’s biggest controversy during his monologue—Trump finally acknowledging after being at the forefront of a five-year racist crusade against the first black president that Barack Obama was born in the United States. As is his wont, the bloated ex-reality show host delivered the news in true Trumpian fashion: in seven seconds, during a press conference announcing the grand opening of his tacky new hotel, while flanked by a fellow birther (Thomas McInerney, a retired Air Force lieutenant general), claiming Obama should be thankful that he “finished” the racist speculation he stoked, and that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement (a bold-faced lie).
“He blamed it on Hillary. Of course,” said Maher, rolling his eyes. “Because even when [Trump] admits he lies, he has to tell another giant lie! He says Hillary and her campaign started birtherism in 2008, which is something contradicted only by newspapers, television, Twitter, eyes, ears, and smell. Hillary started birtherism? Oh yes, I think we all remember that. I think it was right after Hillary’s casinos went bankrupt.”
A softball, Fallon-esque softball interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway—who’s been a guest and pal of Maher’s for twenty years dating back to his ABC series Politically Incorrect—followed, as did a bickering panel wherein political pundit Margaret Hoover, serving as the moderate voice of reason, assured the American people that the country “will survive” regardless of who wins the presidency (Hoover is also the wife of Daily Beast EIC John Avlon).
But the night’s biggest highlight came courtesy of Maher himself. During a his “New Rules” segment, he delivered an important monologue about the need for a return to decency in American politics.
“Both candidates must sign a pledge that whoever loses the election in November, whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Orange Hitler, the loser has to congratulate the winner and concede graciously. Why? Because civility is nearly dead in this country and we need to return to some basic level of bipartisan decency and respect for our opponents,” offered Maher.
“If you want to know why our country is so tense and our government doesn’t work, it’s because society functions on some basic rules of conduct and they’re all going away. It’s why filibustering has become not a rare principled protest, but the everyday automatic cockblocking that defines government now,” he continued. “Ted Cruz filibustered Obamacare for nearly a day by reading Green Eggs and Ham: a book about how you might like something if you give it a chance. It’s why Republicans, who claim to worship the Constitution, can just ignore their duty in fulfilling a Supreme Court vacancy. And speaking of the Supreme Court, which used to stay supremely out of partisan bickering, it’s why Ruth Bader Ginsburg—yes, even sweet, scholarly, grandmotherly Ruth Bader Ginsburg—talked trash about Trump this year like she was in a rap battle.”
“But I gotta tell ya: Donald Trump didn’t create this swamp. He just rose from it. He and Hillary are the first two candidates in memory not to call and congratulate each other after they won their respective races. Forever, that’s what people did! Even Al Gore called George W. Bush after he lost—and he didn’t even lose! In the Senate, members used to refer to each other as ‘my friend from the other side of the aisle.’ They didn’t mean it literally, of course—no one thinks of Ted Cruz as a friend—but you say it anyway.”
Maher then pointed to the birther movement as playing a large role in the disintegration of bipartisanship in America, but also to when Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie!” at POTUS while he delivered a 2009 speech to the joint session of Congress, as well as racist and homophobic Maine Gov. Paul LePage leaving a voicemail for one of his political opponents labeling him a “socialist cocksucker.”
“I keep saying that this election is a referendum on decency. It’s a chance to reject the gutter and punish people who want to live there, but right now, we are rewarding them,” said Maher. “The guy who said ‘You lie?’ The next day donations poured into his coffers because now in America, when you act like an asshole you’re a hero.”
He then cut to footage of politicians coming to blows in various parliaments around the world. “This is what parliament looks like on a bad day in the Ukraine. And here’s the Turkish parliament. And the one in South Korea. And the one in Nepal. Yeah, we laugh at it, but that is where we’re headed, because the real infectious disease that’s threatening our election isn’t pneumonia—it’s a total lack of class.”