Bill Maher is the Rodney Dangerfield of political satire. No respect.
The uncompromising comic who brought political comedy to late-night television with Politically Incorrect has received 35 Emmy nominations between that and his HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher, winning zero. If that weren’t enough, Maher’s been trying for years to get President Barack Obama—who is no stranger to television—on his highly-rated program, culminating with a White House petition garnering 320,000 signatures. Well, on Friday night, POTUS finally gave in, granting Maher a sit-down interview that ran much longer than the twenty minutes allotted Samantha Bee.
“For the interview tonight, we were thrilled to be invited to the Roosevelt Room of the White House where the president was,” said an ecstatic Maher. “And I can tell you that the president was extraordinarily generous with his time. I wanted to ask him the kind of questions that we crazy people here at Real Time might be interested in—the kinds of questions he doesn’t often get.”
After delivering his usual spiel about how much he’s “loved this job” and what a “singular privilege” it’s been, POTUS was grilled with a couple of tough questions by Maher—one on the state of the news media, and the other on legalization of marijuana. He dodged the latter, but delivered an interesting response to the former. “The question I’d have when it comes to the media is how do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining, and we can build a common conversation?” asked President Obama. “When I leave here, one of the things I’m most concerned about is the balkanization of the media where you’ve got 800 stations and you’ve got all these websites. People have difficulty now just sorting what’s true and what’s not. If you don’t have some common baseline of facts, you know, we can have a disagreement about how to deal with climate change, but if we have a big chunk of the country that just discounts what 99 percent of scientists say completely, it’s very hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”
POTUS then took aim squarely at the TV network that hates him most: Fox News. “The problem is we’ve got all these filters. Look, if I watched Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me either because you’ve got this screen—this funhouse mirror—through which people are receiving information. How to break through that is a big challenge,” he said. “This whole conversation that’s been had lately in the aftermath of the rise of Trump, this notion that part of what’s happened is both Republican and Democratic elites have neglected the white working class, the truth of the matter is that every policy I’ve put forward would make a huge difference with the white working class—and the black working class, and the Latino working class.”
But defending his record aside, we are now less than four days out from Election Day, and the reason why President Obama agreed to come on Real Time was to try and swing disaffected liberals (aka Sanders supporters) towards Team Hillary. “The stakes are high,” said POTUS. “I will say this: the choice in this election should be really clear. And anybody who’s watching your show and was a supporter of mine or was a supporter of Bernie’s, is a progressive generally, this idea that somehow, well, both of them have problems and nothing will change either way?”
The president shook his head. “Listen, all the progress we’ve made on climate change—the Paris Agreement, HFC Agreement, Aviation Agreement; the 20 million people who have health insurance right now that didn’t have it before; all the progress we’ve made on trying to check the excesses of Wall Street, Dodd-Frank, and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau; any chance of immigration reform, including the work that we did to make sure that these amazing Dreamer kids who are now going to college or serving in our military are not suddenly deported or at risk of deportation. Every single issue that we’ve made progress on over the last eight years is going to be on the ballot in the form of this choice.” “And I have worked with Hillary Clinton and I know her, and she is somebody who cares about these issues, she’s done her homework, she cares deeply about ordinary folks, her policies are aligned with yours and mine, and, yes, she is somebody who believes in compromise and you don’t get a hundred percent of what you want, but you know what? That’s the way this democracy works. Anybody that’s sitting on the sidelines right now or deciding to engage in a protest vote? That’s a vote for Trump. That would be damaging for this country, and would be damaging for the world. So no complacency this time.”