Bill Maher Is Mistaken About Cheney

Conservatives had a collective conniption fit recently.  While Ann Coulter’s “faggot” remark received all kinds of play in the mass media and on countless blogs (including this one), they complained about the lack of attention afforded to Bill Maher’s recent remarks, which they felt were worthy of outrage.  They’re right but not for the reasons they believe.
 
On his weekly HBO program, Real Time With Bill Maher, a discussion arose regarding recently posted comments on The Huffington Post.  Vice President Dick Cheney was the target of a failed assassination plot during his recent trip to war-torn Afghanistan and is very lucky to be alive today.  He barely escaped with his life.  Some HP readers posted comments that expressed disappointment that he wasn’t killed.  Arianna Huffington, the founder of the site, made the decision to have those comments removed.  Maher, on his TV program, didn’t understand why she did that.  He felt the move was a violation of the First Amendment.
 
Then, he offered his own take on the issue:
 
“…I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow.”
 
There appeared to be some confusion shortly after that remark got applause from the studio audience, according to the official transcript.  (Real Time remains unseen on Canadian airwaves.)  Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and MSNBC personality (and former Republican Congressman) Joe Scarborough weren’t quite sure if Bill actually said what they thought he said, that if Cheney were indeed assassinated things would be very different in Iraq.  The lives of civilians and members of the military would be spared from further bloodshed.
 
When Scarborough asked him directly if that was what he meant, Bill replied, “No.  No, I quoted that.”  If that was indeed the remark of a Huffington Post reader and not Bill’s actual thought, we’ll never know since all of those anti-Cheney comments were deleted.
 
Immediately afterwards, Congressman Frank asked Bill, “Oh, you don’t believe that?”  Bill’s response:  “No, I’m just saying that if he did die – other people – more people would live.  That’s a fact.”
 
Going over this exchange again leaves me perplexed.  Was Bill Maher quoting someone else’s words from a popular website or were they his own?  Did he actually believe what he was saying or was he echoing the words of that mysterious HP reader?  I’m not sure.
 
Regardless, what he said infuriated the right wing, especially after a story with the headline, “Bill Maher Sorry The Assassination Attempt On Dick Cheney Failed” appeared on the NewsBusters.org website.
 
On March 5, two days after that live Real Time broadcast, Bill posted a short piece on The Huffington Post clarifying what he said and disputing what was stated in the NewsBusters piece.  (To read his remarks, click here.)  He made no mention of quoting someone else’s words during the broadcast.  Instead, he made it abundantly clear where he stood on the matter:
 
“…what I said Friday — and what I believe — is that the Vice President has presided over a bungled execution of a war in which thousands of our bravest continue to die. And I believe that were he not in power, our troops would likely come home sooner. But I don’t wish him dead.”
 
Many right-wing pundits were very upset that Bill’s original remarks didn’t get nearly as much attention as Ann Coulter’s.  One writer, Ian Robinson of The Calgary Sun, went so far as to call critics of Coulter’s “faggot” comment “left-wing hypocrites” for not getting upset over Maher’s views on Real Time.
 
It’s too bad he didn’t read Richard Roeper’s March 6 column in The Chicago Sun-Times.  (Look for the item “Early candidate for Idiot of the Year” here.)  Roeper criticized Bill unequivocally and noted, “to talk in such a manner about the life of the vice president of the United States is deplorable. In this case, Maher’s no better than Coulter.”
 
Personally, the problem with what Bill said is that it’s patently untrue which Roeper also acknowledged in his column.  Even if something awful were to happen to Dick Cheney (which would greatly upset his family and friends) or if he was removed from office or even resigned, people would still be dying in Iraq.  We’ve unleashed a hornet’s nest in The Middle East.  The death of one powerful American government official changes nothing.  Even if the American military and its few, remaining allies left today, people would still be dying. 
 
The tone of the war over there has changed dramatically in recent years.  Initially, it was America invading Iraq with the sole purpose of toppling a corrupt, repressed government (or so we were told).  Now, it’s an escalating civil war between the three tribes – Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis – with America and its allies caught in the middle.  If we stay, people will die.  If we leave, people will die.  That’s the madness of it all.  It was stupid to invade The Middle East like we did and now we’re stuck.
 
Taking Cheney out of the equation is irrelevant, especially since he wasn’t the only one who supported both of these wars.  (His death would most likely make things far worse than they already are.)  That was the problem with Bill Maher’s remarks.  He made a ridiculous statement that falls apart upon closer scrunity.
 
Bill will be on CNN’s Larry King Live tonight at 9 p.m.  It will be interesting to see what he has to say about all this.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 12, 2007
4:10 p.m.
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Published in: on March 12, 2007 at 4:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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