Monday, October 19, 2009

Real Time with Bill Maher season finale wrap-up

This weekend was the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher. It was a good show, guests including Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, political commentator Chris Matthews, activist/actor Alec Baldwin, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and comedian Garry Shandling.

The topics covered included much of the big hot-button issues of today and those over the summer. Here is my take on some of the comments and topics:

Congressman Alan Grayson is to liberals what Congressman Joe Wilson is to conservatives. I thought his stunt in the halls of Congress was sensational theatrics, as was the Republican reaction to it and calls for him to apologize. But I must say I do like his style. For a first-term congressman he is showing a great deal of testicular fortitude. I think he seems refreshingly honest, too. While he obviously appears to left-wingers, he seems eager to tell people what he really thinks rather than what he thinks would be safe enough to get him re-elected. We could use a lot more of that quality among  politicians these days.

I'm glad Congressman Grayson is unflinchingly taking the Republicans to task on healthcare, I think they need to have their lies and stonewalling ways shoved right back in their face, but I definitely disagree with his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

My favorite line from the congressman was about President Obama when he said, sarcastically, “he turns the other cheek, like any good Muslim would do.”

Speaking of Afghanistan, Bill Maher was again repeatedly making the case that we just need to pack up our stuff and come home. He showed his inconsistency again (I realize that he has explained in the past that it's okay when he changes his mind, just not politicians) when he argued for dealing with al Qaeda by using helicopters and drones and missiles and the like. I found this especially ironic as this contradicts statements he made after 9/11—statements in fact that lead to his show, Politically Incorrect, being canceled from ABC—“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.”

Now that we have troops there and we're seeing the human cost, conveniently Maher and others are arguing that we should just go back to lobbing missiles at the enemy. Keep our safe distance. Well, Bill Maher was correct after 9/11 when he chastised the Clinton administration for not properly addressing the clear threat from al Qaeda, relying on cruise missiles to destroy tents rather than sending in the troops to destroy much of the organization itself and deny them safe haven in the future.

Over and over and over again, liberals are showing a lack of spine, an ignorance of history and an indifference to facts. They were correct in arguing that the Iraq war was an unnecessary war of choice. But they are dead wrong in characterizing the war in Afghanistan the same way. It was a justified war; a war of necessity.

I think any reasonable person would agree that it is as critical today that al Qaeda be denied safe haven as it was prior to 2001. We removed the Taliban and denied al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan, but they are now operating freely in Pakistan, as well as likely in  in both Yemen and Somalia. If we surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban, as a lack of adequate coalition training and combat forces would provide, al Qaeda will have in addition to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, their home turf back in Afghanistan. This would be a major step backward, not forward.

Cruise missiles and helicopter gunships didn't and couldn't stop al Qaeda from planning and carrying out terrorist attacks prior to 9/11, it wouldn't stop them today. To me it is absolutely senseless when people like Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Arianna Huffington, Max Clelland, and several current members of congress argue for maintaining the status quo there or even drawing down forces in Afghanistan.

Frankly, it infuriates me to no end to see so many liberals living up to the right-wing characterization as being “defeatists” who just want to “cut and run”. I spent a lot of time defending these people when they, rightly, criticized the war in Iraq. Now it appears that their perspective truly was/is one in which the United States should simply not be involved in any wars, for any reason, period.

Moving on, Bill made a point that should be reiterated over and over again, "the Taliban is no more oppressive than the Saudi Arabian government". A bit of an exaggeration, to be sure, but Saudi Arabia is in the same league as the Taliban in its intolerance and brutality. Let us not forget that they still have government sanctioned beheadings in the Saudi Kingdom, including the beheading of homosexuals. Let us also not forget that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. It seems the most fundamental difference here is that the Saudis are rich and have lots of oil. That, to me, seems no justification to turn a blind eye to their human rights violations and their secret funding of terrorists.

On the show they did bring up the “war tax” again. I was well in favor of the concept a few years back, but, of course, it went nowhere. I've thought that folks should put their money where their mouth is. If you really want to support the troops, how about paying for their efforts instead of taking some tax cut designed to get Republicans re-elected?

Bill continued with his paranoia about vaccinations. Funny how he can deride those who question whether our government had any involvement in 9/11 as just being a bunch of loons, while he's being quite reasonable to not trust the government when it comes to vaccinations. Not sure, also, how he reconciles this with his obvious desire to have the government run all of healthcare...

Bill says he just wants debate on the use of vaccines. Ok. Fair enough. But then that's what those who oppose the consensus on climate-change and evolution want, too, Bill. But you still think they're batshit crazy, right? Well, a lot of folks think it's a bit batshit to refuse vaccinations on the grounds that they cause more sickness than they prevent. For the record I never get them, and I think they are overused as well.

“Don't ask; Don't tell” came up on the show. Everyone seemed very supportive of lifting the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military. Chris Matthews was dead on, in my opinion, saying that, "this instant gratification crap isn't going to work. It's easy to take it up the Hill and get beaten... it's easy to loose that fight. Do you want to lose it? You can lose it tomorrow morning. You want to win it? You gotta do it the right way."

Chris also suggested again, as he did last week on his own program, that people who feel strongly about this issue (or any other) need to write their representatives, type it out on a business letter and mail it the old fashioned way. He insists that it really does make an impression and he's absolutely right. More people should heed his advice and understand the reality that actually taking the time to write your congressman does a hell of a lot more than applauding on some show.

Garry Shandling gave support for gay-equality, saying, “we should rid ourselves of 'don't ask; don't tell”. He added that we'll "have to change other phrases, like 'I got your back'". He also said, "I have no trouble with anybody who is in  love with anybody—if they're different. Two women can have a child, as far as I'm concerned." Adding one hilarious exception, "As long as they're not both Jewish. The idea of two Jewish mothers..."

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