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Bill Maher on Palin, Pot and Patriotism

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What did you make of Obama’s speech explaining the decision to intervene?

He seemed to be readying America for the idea that we are no longer the big swingin' dicks in the world. We can occasionally, as in Libya, put our thumb on the scale to change the course of events when it's doable, but we need to lose the empire. If these Teabaggers and Paul Ryan were serious about cutting the deficit, their first order of business would be to say, "This country was never meant to be an empire." Jefferson would turn over in his slave if he knew we had tens of thousands of troops on bases in Germany, Japan and Korea – wars that we won 50, 60 years ago. It's a concept we would never tolerate in reverse, by the way. If there were 20,000 armed Guatemalans on a military base in San Bernardino, Lou Dobbs would become a suicide bomber.

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill; Obama’s been promoting new domestic drilling. BP is negotiating permits to get back in the water. What’s happened to America that we’re no longer capable of taking an event like that and changing our behavior?

After the Depression, we got the New Deal. After this financial meltdown, we got more tax cuts for rich people. We have lost the ability to be corrective, to do big things — or to even ask ourselves to.

 Do you have any hope for us responding to global warming in a way that’s meaningful?

I have to say, I’m pretty sure it’s too late. I never read a headline that says, “Polar ice caps melting slower than expected.” Everything seems to be moving at a pace that’s alarming — even to the scientists who predicted it would happen. Just that idea — of the polar ice cap melting — the ice that that reflects so much of the sun’s energy back into space. We’d better start building a really big mirror. We need a team to take it up to the North Pole and put it in place…. I’m thinking Bruce Willis, Kate Beckinsale, the Rock, and the big black kid from The Blind Side.

You're prodigiously well informed on your show; is that a testament to your own news junky-ness or the skill of your staff?

I have a skeleton staff, but a brilliant skeleton. Most shows have, like, 15 writers; I have six. But news is ubiquitous for me: It comes on my BlackBerry, it comes on my computer at home, on television. I was always interested in the news – my father was a newsman. He was on-air on the radio in New York. This is the era when you could not turn on the dial of any radio station that didn't have a news broadcast for five minutes at the top of every hour. Later, he was a news editor – worked the Don Imus shift in the era when Don was beyond Charlie Sheen crazy on coke.

An opening at one of the big three networks used to be like a vacancy on the Supreme Court. But now Katie Couric is leaving CBS, and no one seems to care.

She was as professional as it gets at that hour, which is not very. The most recent example: The other week, ABC and CBS led with Elizabeth Taylor's death for the whole first slug. That's unconscion­able. It's not like she was struck down in her prime. They named a sandwich after her at ­Cedars-Sinai – she was there a lot.

Is there anything you admire about Fox News, even ruefully?

They're good at confirming what knuckle-­draggers believe. I'm sure they'd say the same thing about MSNBC. But if some celestial judge could come down and answer which station cleaves more to the facts and doesn't just pull it out of their ass, it's undeniably MSNBC. Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity are not peers.

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