Could the constitutional crisis gripping Washington represent an attack on Democracy? It certainly seemed plausible tonight watching HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, a show hosted by a human air-raid siren of the same name. Maher’s monologue went early and often to the Washington showdown over the Mueller report and the now-sprawling political subplots that lead back to it.
“I know, It’s very exciting when you have a constitutional crisis,” Maher deadpanned about the hyped-up audience. “We’re so f—-ed. I’m telling you, we’re so f—ed. Today, Venezuela put us on the travel advisory. If America were a summer blockbuster it would be Democracy: Endgame. If you missed the earlier installments of this franchise…”
Maher had his sharpest knives out for Attorney General William Barr, who the comic portrayed as a unethical stooge who is subverting the very laws he has sworn to uphold as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
“This week we found that Robert Mueller wrote more than one letter to the Attorney General — wink, wink– William Barr saying why did you mischaracterize what I wrote? And Barr responded, ‘Well, the report was my baby.’ My baby? I thought Republicans were against killing babies.”
Maher continued: “This Bill Barr is so far up Trump’s ass he bumped into Hannity. So Barr went before the Senate this week, on Wednesday, and the Democrats looked all so happy after they gave him a good grilling. But I think they missed the big picture. Trump is still President and the big gotcha was they got Barr to commit perjury, which is apparently some old-timey law about lying being wrong. Nancy Pelosi said, ‘That’s a crime and..I’m going to report it to, oh, yeah.’ See this is the problem when the guy who is supposed to be enforcing the law is the guy who’s breaking the law.”
“The lamer the excuse the better…they said they couldn’t get the report over there because the printer jammed,” Maher said in tones of disbelief. “Then they went to Kinko’s but a kid was doing fliers for his band. Then the Attorney General himself was subpoenaed by the House to appear yesterday. Blew that off. And Congress was like, ‘You know we both work for the same country, right?’ So legal experts are now saying this is a Constitutional crisis the likes of which we have not seen in three of four days. When did testifying before Congress become optional? It’s not freshman Psych. class.”
Maher’s descriptions of Congress and the Democrats made them sound like ostriches with their head lodged firmly in the sand at their feet. The comic reserved a more craven comparison from the animal kingdom to describe Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States and the reigning leader of the Free World.
“Democrats don’t seem to get it,” Maher fumed. “You know, ‘It’s in the rules,’ is not an argument that works on Donald Trump. You’re playing Monopoly with a hyena. When it bites you and shits on the board, saying ‘It’s not your turn’ really doesn’t work.”
Maher’s guests for the night did wait their turn. First up was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, then musican Moby in the mid-show interview slot, and, finally, the roundtable trio of political analyst Bakari Sellers, columnist Bret Stephens, and journalist Kara Swisher.
At one point, Maher pointed to Trump’s unlikely path from reality TV personality to Commander-in-Chief and said that another big name from the small screen could pull off a similar trick if she wanted the White House.
“I don’t even like Oprah that much, she could run… Trump won ’cause he was a TV star,” Maher said. “Kneel before Zod, TV is Zod. That’s what gets to people. They saw him as The Apprentice guy. Oprah, she doesn’t scare a lot of people who otherwise would be scared. She’s much more popular than Hillary. She would certainly get the African-American vote to come out, that’s important to the Democrats. I’m telling you, I don’t think she wants to do it, but she could win.”
The “kneel before Zod” line is a bit of dialogue from Superman II, the 1980 movie about the Man of Steel fighting black-clad aliens led by the cruel megalomaniac General Zod. It was a surprising reference to hear uttered by Maher considering his sneering public disdain for fans of comic books, superhero movies, and the late Stan Lee.
Real Time with Bill Maher is in its 17th season on HBO. This year Maher is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first HBO solo special. He followed that 1989 comedy production with 10 more solo specials. The executive producers of Real Time with Bill Maher are Maher, Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Dean Johnsen, and Billy Martin. The co-executive producer is Chris Kelly. The producers are Matt Wood andTJ Baldino. The associate producer is Miles Leicher and the director is Paul Casey.