Bill Maher tonight began the way he always does when introducing conservatives who come on Real Time. This time, though, that guest was Steve Bannon, the former advisor to President Donald Trump and the architect behind the campaign that got Trump elected. Despite those credentials helping Maher’s Public Enemy No. 1, the thank-you set the tone for a mostly cordial interview.
Mahar said conservatives like Bannon appearing in hostile territory “said volumes why the Republicans are in power and we have none. Hillary Clinton never came here — maybe she’d be President if she were more confident.” Bannon didn’t disagree. (He would later say when assessing potential Democratic presidential candidates that “if Bernie Sanders had an ounce of Michael Avenatti’s fearlessness, he would have been the Democratic nominee,” not Clinton.)
Said Bannon, who was recently dis-invited to the upcoming New Yorker Festival after backlash: “I like going into hostile audiences with tough interviewers — I do very little conservative media now — I do CNN, BBC, The Economist. I go to the toughest places, toughest interviewers, and say hey, no holds barred, hostile audiences, let’s get it on…I think it sharpens the blade.”
On that front, Maher was toughest on Bannon when he questioned why he didn’t take more credit for getting Trump elected. “First you were crazy about Sarah Palin, then you were crazy about Donald Trump — I think you look for morons who are empty vessels that you can put your ideas into.”
But later, when Maher pressed his guest on a discussion about Trump’s tax cut and trade war with China, Bannon was tougher to crack. “I’ve gone as far as I can to get you on this,” Maher said. “Next question.”
Bannon did offer up one admission of Trump. “I do think this campaign, after November 6, which is really Trump’s first re-election. If we lose the House, he’s gonna be impeached — this is a referendum on him.”
Check out the interview above, which ended when Maher tried to get in one last shot (he is the host, after all).