Bill Maher closed out the 500th episode of his HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher with a bruising appraisal of the Democratic Party’s feckless options for 2020 and a point-by-point explanation of why there is one (and only one) “sure-thing winner” for the opposition party: Oprah Winfrey.
“I am telling you, at this particular moment in history and in this particular election year, she is the only candidate who is a sure-thing winner for the Democrats,” Maher said, adding as an aside: “No pressure.”
Maher noted several times that he wasn’t urging Winfrey to run (he said that would be for others to do) and he expressed doubts that she would ever enter the race. And, with more exasperation than excitement, Maher explained that Winfrey’s media position and her stature with women are among the reasons she could take the White House from President Donald J. Trump.
Maher added that Winfrey is uniquely positioned to beat Trump at his own game: the persona politics and digital influencing of today’s “As-Seen-On-TV” culture.
“There’s no underestimating the power of celebrity in modern American politics…it’s not the way it’s supposed to be be, its not the way I’d like it to be but we officially live in a post-literate, post-truth, star-f—er society and this is going to be the dirtiest campaign ever.”
Maher described a core Trump supporter (in short, an angry white guy with three shotguns and a singing plastic fish on the wall) and explained that Winfrey would be the only Democrat who could sway him due to practical considerations. “If he’s fed up with Trump, I know he could vote for Oprah. Because he knows that if he doesn’t his wife will never blow him again.”
And what about Joe Biden, the former vice president and presumptive go-to guy for the Dems? When young people look at the 72-year-old Beltway mainstay it’s like “a typewriter is running for president.” Maher, never leery about treading beyond the boundaries of good taste, also identified Biden as a geriatric risk who might drive a car through a farmer’s market crowd.
Maher unloaded in both directions all night, of course, with Trump playing the part of the comedian’s favorite piñata.”That’s Trump for you,” Maher said of the honesty-challenged POTUS early in the show, “even the lies have to be white.”
The milestone episode of Real Time with Bill Maher suggests that the franchise and its host are living up to the show’s name. Seventeen seasons and 500 episodes qualifies as putting in some real time by anyone’s standards.
“We went on the air in 2003,” Maher deadpanned. “Since then, weed has become increasingly legal, religion is on the decline, and less people are having children. You’re welcome, America.”
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Maher’s first solo HBO comedy special; he’s had 11 of them total. Yes, Maher is a wily old hand, too. He salvaged an early punchline dud with a Carson-esque reaction that earned a big laugh. “Even after 500 shows you can still have a clunker…” Maher said with a wry chuckle , yielding one of the warmer moments in the history of the series. The episode ended with a parting line that even Marie Antoinette could appreciate, “Where’s the cake?”
Historian Allan Lichtman, author of The Case for Impeachment, was the top-of-show guest, columnist Dr. Debra Soh came on as the mid-show interview subject, and the roundtable portion of the show was populated by Dan Savage, the syndicated LGBTQ sex-advice columnist; Thom Hartmann, host of his own syndicated radio show since 2003 and a political progressive; and Liz Mair, a political consultant and communications official for the Republican National Convention during the McCain-Palin campaign.
Lichtman arrived on stage plenty fired-up about impeachment and drew a hearty ovation from the studio audience at CBS Television City in Los Angeles when he called out the failings of both major political parties. “We have in America today, two parties: We have a Republican party with no principles, but a spine, and we have a Democratic party with principles, but no spine. The Democrats have a chance to get courage.”
Lichtman reframed the impeachment conversation when he batted away a suggestion that the proceeding could still qualify as an optional or rhetorical discussion. “Nancy Pelosi has said this president is such a criminal that he should be in jail. Well frankly, it is congressional malpractice, then, not to invoke the proper constitutional remedy of impeachment.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Maher’s first HBO solo special and he has a total of 11 to date. 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.