It would make a great Valentine’s Day greeting card message for political foes and ideological rivals: “I wish we had someone on our side as evil as you…” That was the less-than-warm closing comment on Friday by talk show host Bill Maher as he walked away from testy guest Steve Bannon, the infamous (and, some would say, insidious) political strategist who helped elect President Trump and then joined him in the Oval Office as White House chief strategist.
Bannon was a turning guest to the HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher and, by most appraisals, the Virginia native had gotten the best of the show’s namesake host in their last soundstage sparring match. Both men got in their jabs Friday night but Bannon’s tactical prowess might have been on display when he booked the show.
That’s because the live HBO broadcast of Maher’s interview on Friday aired opposite the Democratic debate, raising the possibility that the promise of a sparks-will-fly interview pulled eyeballs away from the key soapbox time for the sputtering Democratic candidates and their vexed political party.
The opinions and appraisals offered by Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and veteran of the U.S. Navy, were (no surprise) diametrically opposed to the viewpoints of Maher, the acerbic New Yorker, stand-up comedy veteran, and impassioned champion of pot legalization. Maher sniped at Bannon for his fallacies and also peppered the guest with some biting personal comments and sarcasm. (“Steve, let me get to Question 2,” Maher said at one point to rein in Bannon’s expansive bluster).
Bannon, meanwhile, basked in the glow of Trump’s fizzled impeachment and baited Maher by confidently predicting that the incumbent will “run the table” now that he’s coming off “his best two weeks” in office.” Here are some of the comments during the back-and-forth (as well as some Maher monologue lines):
Maher on pejoratives: “When you talk about people like they’re scum and they’re evil — we’ve seen it in Rwanda, ‘cockroaches,’ and we’ve seen it in Germany, ‘vermin.’ You don’t think when you talk about people like that — your side — you don’t think it translates into action?”
Bannon on Bernie Sanders: “I like Bernie… the Bernie people helped make Trump president. And they’re going to help make him president again.”
Maher on GOP principles: “Republicans have to admit they don’t just hate Democrats, they hate democracy. They hate the player and the game. So stop saying Republicans don’t have principles, they do. They are deeply committed to all things undemocratic.”
Bannon on the skimpy impeachment: “We should’ve had a longer impeachment. We should’ve had Bolton, we should’ve had Mulvaney…witnesses, let ‘em get crossed, but we get the whistleblower, we get the second whistleblower, we get Schiff as a factor. Let’s get it all out.”
Maher on Iowa debacle: “Not everything needs an app! They went and f*cked up the voting. Democrats had a brilliant idea: Let’s give brand new technology to 90-year-olds voting in a barn.”
Bannon on Democratic arrogance: “It’s that mentality that has you in the place you are today. Which is Donald Trump is about to the run the table…It’s the same arrogance you see in Iowa about this app…I love this. We’re going to win and we’re going to keep on winning.”
Bannon on Bloomberg: “A super-rich guy who is going to put billions of dollars to destroy Donald Trump. He’s not running against him. It’s a leveraged buy out of the Democratic Party.”
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