HBO Real Time with Bill Maher - Transcript
March 18, 2005
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
MAHER: She's the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia - wow, there's a lot going on there now - and serving her eighth term, from Florida's 18th District, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. [applause]
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, thank you.
MAHER: Thank you for being here.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Good to be here.
MAHER: I know it wasn't easy for you. I appreciate you making the trip.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Thanks, Bill.
MAHER: And he is the star of stage and screen, who is now seen Mondays on CBS's "Listen Up." And his new children's book, Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy? [laughter] comes out in May. America's sweetheart: Jason Alexander, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] [cheers]
Okay, now before we start with the panel, I do have a program note. We will be off next week. A lot of times, people say to me when we're off for a week, "Did you get canceled?"
JASON ALEXANDER: I get that, too.
MAHER: Did you get-
ALEXANDER: Yeah, I get a lot of that.
MAHER: "Did you get fired?" [laughs]
ALEXANDER: Yeah, exactly.
MAHER: "What did you say this time?" No, we're just taking a break so I can go up to the Pacific Northwest. I'm going to be in Vancouver on the 24th, Eugene the 25th, Portland the 26th. I'm going to put my stand-up act on DVD. You understand how much the kids love DVDs.
ALEXANDER: I certainly do.
MAHER: Okay. But let's get to the news. Everybody this day was looking at this story of Terri Schiavo? - is how I'm pronouncing that name - okay. So I just want ask this question to start: has anyone that you've ever met, that you've ever known personally and talked to, has anyone ever said to you, "If I'm in that state, keep me going"? [laughter] I've never met anyone who said anything but, "If that's me, take me off the plug; don't let me drool."
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that's why-
ALEXANDER: I'm going to be the first one to say - I always say to my wife, "If I'm not bothering you " [laughter] "I don't require a visit, I don't require a card. I'm lying there; you're feeding me, I'm not bothering anybody. Something could happen. They'll come up with something. Poof, I'm back on TV." [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: But that's why we need a living will. And I think even though this is a very - obviously, a very tragic situation for everyone involved - that's - if one good thing is going to come out of this tragedy, it is to inform the public about the need for living wills. To tell - to have a real document that says-[applause]-"If I'm in a state like this, this is what I want to happen." And the legal wrangling-
MAHER: [overlapping] You don't trust what the husband says? You don't trust that the husband says, "She always said to me this is what she wanted"?
ROS-LEHTINEN: I think at some point-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] At least if you have a living will, then you'd have it on paper-
ROS-LEHTINEN: Then there's no doubt.
WHITMAN: [overlapping] But the thing is you've got to make it so that the hospitals and the doctors will respect it. [applause] Because it's very hard for them. They are in a position - they have sworn to do no harm, and their natural instinct is to keep people alive. And even with living wills, I've known people that have had fights, the families have had fights at the hospital, saying, "Look, I know this is not the way my loved one wants to be kept alive."
ROS-LEHTINEN: Yeah, and the press is saying that it's just unprecedented. These kinds of family discussions and problems and legal battles take place all the time. This case of Terri Schiavo has been so difficult and has been going on so long because the parents feel that the husband is really not representing the true interests of Terri. They believe that even though - in your monologue, you said that she's in a coma - she's not in a coma. And people have the feeling that she's-
MAHER: She's worse.
ROS-LEHTINEN: People think that she's in all this - all this machinery. She just has one feeding tube.
MAHER: Oh, come on.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And - well, that's true. I mean, the image that people have is that she's-
MAHER: [overlapping] But she's not enjoying life. I never - I don't understand-
ROS-LEHTINEN: Who are we to say that she is or is not?
MAHER: Oh, come - you're seriously thinking-
ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] I think that there's a responsibility-
MAHER: [overlapping]-how long has she been kept to a hospital bed without moving, talking, communicating? You can't tell me that that is life.
ROS-LEHTINEN: You know, disabled people-
MAHER: That's prolonging-
ROS-LEHTINEN: --have rights as well. And incapacitated people have rights as well. And I think that there is going to be a proper-
MAHER: [overlapping] And one of them is to die. [applause] [cheers]
ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] And if the courts decide that, let that be. And that's why-
MAHER: But the courts have decided that, haven't they?
WHITMAN: The courts have now - the courts have now stepped in. And the courts have said-
MAHER: [overlapping] Many times.
WHITMAN: Many times. And I hope that what the Senate tried to do today in subpoenaing her, I hope that doesn't go anywhere.
MAHER: Why - I never understand why the people who are most religious are most reluctant to meet God. [laughter] It seems like they would be the ones-[applause]
ALEXANDER: [overlapping] Because they - you know.
MAHER: I don't know why.
ALEXANDER: You know the answer to that.
MAHER: I don't.
ALEXANDER: Because - because they feel that birth and death is God-ordained, and that-
ALEXANDER: --human interference with it - but under that philosophy, you know, I shouldn't take a tetanus booster either.
WHITMAN: Then she should be
MAHER: Right. All right.
ALEXANDER: So it is - it's tragic.
WHITMAN: So she shouldn't have a feeding tube - shouldn't have a feeding tube then.
MAHER: Speaking of - speaking of killing your wife-[laughter]-Robert Blake-what? [applause] The conservatives like to go, "Ooh." [laughter] Robert Blake got off this week. And, you know, first O.J., then Robert Blake, not exactly A-list stars. [laughter] I just wanted to ask you, Jason-
MAHER: You're so beloved, how obviously could you kill your wife-[laughter]-and still get away with it? [laughter] I think
ALEXANDER: Well, you know, the important thing is, with O.J. and Robert Blake, neither were Jews. The Jews, we go - we go right down. [laughter] [applause] No, it's - you know, I followed that case a little bit. They had a hard time putting the gun in Robert Blake's hand. The important thing is that I think Robert Blake - you're wrong, it should not be a reality show, it should be a talk show much like Martha Stewart. I think they should be back to back. [laughter]
ALEXANDER: Imagine that talk show? Could you imagine?
MAHER: Well, I know that he speaks funny. I know it would be a lot of-
ALEXANDER: You could take it all to the bank. Take that to the bank.
ROS-LEHTINEN: You know, O.J. is a constituent of mine.
ALEXANDER: You must be so proud. [laughter] [applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: I know. I'm not asking him how he's registered. But it's amazing when you see him at the South Florida coffee shops and delis. I mean, people come up and they want to take their photo with him.
WHITMAN: Oh, they love him.
ROS-LEHTINEN: I mean, he's a real star. And I'm thinking
WHITMAN: I don't think they're going to want to do that with Robert Blake, though. [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't know. I don't know. But you've got to respect-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] I don't see it, somehow.
ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]-you have to respect the system. I mean, I looked at the case and I said-
MAHER: [overlapping] Why? Why do you have to? Why can't you look at the system and say it's screwed, blued and tattooed? [applause] [cheers] I don't respect the system.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, because - I do. You want the jury-
MAHER: [overlapping] I really don't. I mean, this guy - excuse me - asked everybody he ever met to kill his wife. [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: As an outsider, I felt the same way: the guy is guilty. And it wasn't on star-power because his star faded a long time ago.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But the jury took this case seriously; they looked at the facts, and they thought it was circumstantial at best.
ALEXANDER: Not only that-
ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]-they thought it was from another gun.
ALEXANDER: [overlapping]-but I think from what - and I think you also had a case of the jury looked at him and looked at her and said - it's not fair - but said, "Can you blame him?" [laughter] [applause]
MAHER: Right. No, really. I mean--
ALEXANDER: I think - I'm serious. I think that was a factor. I think they said she was a worse person than him.
MAHER: Right. Sort of like the Michael Jackson trial in that the accusers are grifters. It's kind of hard to-
ROS-LEHTINEN: How many people are we killing in this show tonight? [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: We're slaying them left and right.
MAHER: You're right. There are more important issues. I know you were dealing with it yesterday in Congress: steroids. [laughter] [applause] And I - and speaking of killing people, I couldn't help but notice that on the same day that Congress decided to call the ballplayers in and make an issue of steroids, we found out that at least 26 people who have been kept in our prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan may have died - or they died - but it may be because of criminal homicide. In other words, we tortured to death Arab men while in prison. I can't help but think that this is going to bite us in the ass a little more than whether Sammy Sosa was on the juice. [applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: Okay, well, then let me ask you this, Bill: if that issue is so important and deserves to be highlighted, then whose fault is it that the first thing you saw on the news was the baseball hearings? Now, where is - where are all your stations covering this news? On that same week when we were covering-[applause]-when the media was covering the baseball scandal with steroids, because it is a scandal, we met with King Abdullah - and I know Jason has been so involved with Middle East policies - a great force for change-
MAHER: Really? [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: Where was that - and he has - he has-
ALEXANDER: I've got it - I've got it under control. It's coming around. [laughter] [applause]
MAHER: [overlapping] You went to Israel, right?
ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] That was never - that was not-
ALEXANDER: I'm doing my work.
ROS-LEHTINEN: That wasn't covered by the press.
ALEXANDER: Takes a little time, Bill.
ROS-LEHTINEN: We passed a bill on the floor, trying to tell Syria once again, "Get the heck out of Lebanon. Let the Lebanese people be free."
ROS-LEHTINEN: That wasn't covered. We held so many things. The media has a responsibility.
MAHER: [overlapping] So what you're - what you're saying, they weren't paying attention to you, so you-
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, what I'm saying is that it isn't our fault that the media decides to put all of their cameras there, and they give gavel-to-gavel coverage.
MAHER: But you spent eleven hours with the ballplayers. And I read today that only four hours were allotted for the entire debate on the Medicare entitlement program, drug program, which is going to cost trillions of dollars.
ROS-LEHTINEN: That debate is going on every week in Congress. In it-
MAHER: Well, it passed. How could it be going on?
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, because - in our committees, we do that all the time. But if you think that the steroid use is a frivolous one, then you should have heard the testimony of the parents who were there, whose children killed themselves because of the indirect use of steroids. It is a pressing issue for all of our athletes.
MAHER: That's - isn't that anecdotal? I mean, don't kids die of a lot of different things every day? You could call in parents for kids who died of a lot of things that weren't - lots more-
ROS-LEHTINEN: But when their coaches are telling them, "You've got to bulk up if you want to be a competitive player, if you want to play in the major leagues. If these guys do it, you've got to do it, too." There's a lot of pressure on the young people to do that.
MAHER: But is it government's job to give--?
ROS-LEHTINEN: It should be baseball's job. And the reason that we held those hearings is because baseball hasn't done squat. [applause] They've had all of these years of scandals, and they - what penalties do they have?
MAHER: [overlapping] But why is - why is the government even in the baseball-regulating business?
MAHER: It's entertainment.
MAHER: You might as well try to get weed out of rap! [laughter] [applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: Baseball has a special - baseball is a special legal category.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Because they have antitrust. They were in a special legal category. It's not like football. It's not like any other sport.
ROS-LEHTINEN: They're in a special category, and that's why there - it is proper to have congressional inquiry. And we can't help it. All the press is there. We don't control that.
ALEXANDER: But the goofy thing is-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] And they hate it.
ALEXANDER: [overlapping]-is that they're hurting-
MAHER: Yeah, yeah, and they hate it, right.
ALEXANDER: Why don't we slap them for chawing on tobacco, too? Because that's going to kill them as quick as anything else.
ALEXANDER: I mean, this is a substance - you know where I am on this - I'm the libertarian; I go, "This should all be legal, and the penalties for abusing it should be high." But in a country where we have adult rights and there's alcohol out there and tobacco out there and prescription drugs out there, this is a losing battle. It's just - steroids in baseball, if they want to use them, they're going to use them. [applause] And nothing is going to stop them. It's just you're wasting congressional money. This is such a-
WHITMAN: More importantly, you've got-
ALEXANDER: [overlapping] I mean, I applaud - I applaud the protections-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] I mean, how many times does Dwight Gooden have to get picked up before someone decides that enough is enough? I mean, these-
MAHER: Dwight Gooden. Another one of your constituents down there with O.J. [laughter]
WHITMAN: You know, we have so many sports figures that have abused various laws and gone over the line, that I think we need to take a big, long look at how we put them up on pedestals and
ROS-LEHTINEN: But this is a performance-enducing-
ROS-LEHTINEN: Enhancing drug.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And that's why so many players and so many other athletes are saying, you know, if you bulk up, what good are these baseball records? Because how can you compare the records of today with the records of yesterday? Will they always have a little--?
MAHER: [overlapping] But isn't - isn't America all about performance-enhancing? Whether it's steroids or Viagra or whatever it is? [laughter] [applause] It does seem to me that it's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose. And that's why these kids are doing this.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, but let's - let's have major league baseball regulated. Let's have them do what they need to do.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And Congress will get the heck out of the way. We don't mind that.
WHITMAN: And parents - parents and coaches.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But let baseball do it.
WHITMAN: What about parents and coaches, too? I mean, come on. How many of these parents didn't know - I saw that one father, and it must have been just awful when his son committed - Taylor - I have a son, Taylor - committed suicide. I can't imagine anything worse. And the one question I didn't hear - and I really would have liked to have known - did he have any idea his son was taking steroids? Any idea. [applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, one of the parents did say that he was - he was hiding it from them. And I would not want to be in their shoes-
WHITMAN: Oh, it would be awful, just awful.
ROS-LEHTINEN: --or question anything about that. But
MAHER: But most kids-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] No, I was just interested.
ROS-LEHTINEN: --a lot more kids probably die from-
ROS-LEHTINEN: But for the Olympics, you use steroids, you get a heavy penalty. You use it twice, you're out. For football, if you use-
ROS-LEHTINEN: --any kind of these substances, you get heavy penalties. For baseball, "Enhh." [laughter]
MAHER: Okay, let me go to Thomas Frank. He is the bestseller with the book, What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. It makes liberals read it and weep. Thomas Frank, are you there from Washington, D.C.? [applause]
THOMAS FRANK [via satellite]: I'm here. How are you doing, Bill?
MAHER: How are you, Tom? Your book is being widely read and talked about in Washington and other parts of the country. Tell us basically the premise of it, because I think it's going to be very interesting to both halves of our audience tonight.
FRANK: All right. It's about - it's about blue-collar conservatism. It's about working-class people that vote Republican even when the Republican Party hasn't particularly served their economic interests. It's about why they vote that way and what the consequences of that has been. And I do it by - I guess I should say - by focusing on my home state of Kansas, Bill.
MAHER: Right. And basically you're saying that a lot of the country is being punked. [laughter] [applause] No, really, you're saying people who work at Wal-Mart are voting to eliminate the estate tax. That's really what it is, isn't it? [laughter] Well, because - because of - truly, because of these wedge issues, just like - I mean, this one today, the Terri Schiavo issue is a perfect example, is it not, of an issue that really doesn't affect a lot of people personally, but it's emotional-
FRANK: Touches the lives of almost nobody, Bill. [laughter]
MAHER: Right, almost nobody. And they get these people to vote for that-
FRANK: Yeah. And then-
MAHER: And it's real easy
FRANK: No, they don't - I mean, yeah, they might vote for, you know, Tom DeLay or something like that, but the place where these people really put their money, you know, the conservatives in Congress, the President, whatever, is on the economic issues. It's on the bankruptcy bill that they passed last week. That's the money. That's what it's all about. The culture wars are, you know, just for election time.
MAHER: Right, you make the comparison, like in the Civil War, the Southerners who fought for the war, none of them were - hardly any of them were slave owners. They weren't really going to benefit. And yet they went out there and fought and died in that bloody conflict-
MAHER: --for something that really didn't benefit them personally.
FRANK: That's right. That's sort of the classic historical example, you know, that historians like to use. Well, let me take a step back here and give you the sort of general thesis of the book. And it's this: that conservatives do a very good job talking about issues of social class without actually bringing up the economics of social class. They constantly talk about what they call the "liberal elite." Okay, and I'm guessing you've heard this term before, Bill. [laughter]
MAHER: Once or twice, yes.
FRANK: And the idea is that - that liberals are a social class unto themselves that rule this country from on high, from their, you know, their strategic positions in the media and in academia and in, you know, the bureaucracy and stuff like that. And that they are, in fact, the ruling class of America. And so the revolt - you know, the culture wars are, in fact, a form of class revolt. And they actually are, in some places, like in my home state of Kansas: the line between the people on the left side of the culture wars and the people on the right side is strictly by social class.
MAHER: And you are from Kansas. I mean, you-
FRANK: Yeah. Can't you tell? [laughter] [applause]
MAHER: [laughs] I can't quite figure out which side you're mocking now. [laughter]
FRANK: You know what's funny-
MAHER: And - but, you know, Kansas didn't used to be - didn't use to have this reputation. And then they had the flap over evolution, where they weren't teaching that in the schools, and a lot of these issues. But they used to be quite progressive. They used to be not exactly-
MAHER: --Berkeley with wheat-[laughter]-but it was-
FRANK: Well, you know, Berkeley, I mean, geez, when was that - that image only got started, you know, in the mid-sixties. That's a fairly recent thing. Kansas, one hundred years ago, had this reputation for being, you know, a crazy state. This is where, you know, Carrie Nation came from, the prohibitionist.
FRANK: This is where populism came from. This is where John Brown made his name, you know, the famous abolitionist. And numerous others. And Kansas was, you know, forever electing these kind of radicals to Congress. And this is true, by the way, of all the Midwestern states. The other day, I was given as a gift, an encyclopedia of the Great Plains, this huge, mammoth book, really wonderful book. And it has a whole, you know, section of it on radicalism in the Plains states. And you'd never think of that now. You always think, you know, "the fly-over," "the red states," you know, that sort of thing.
FRANK: But this is like - they had general strikes there. This is where, you know, Eugene Debs came from. This is where Walter Reuther came from. Bob LaFollette, George Norse, all these great-
MAHER: Lawrence, Kansas is where - I've played there - very liberal, right?
FRANK: Yeah, Lawrence. Yeah, that's one of - that's - I love Lawrence. That's-
MAHER: So why are they so - why are they sort of-
FRANK: --that's where - I'm still allowed to go there. [laughter]
MAHER: Why are - why are they so agitated about something like gay marriage? I mean, the last gay thing that happened in Kansas was the "Wizard of Oz." [laughter] [applause] It can't be - it can't be there can't really be a lot of gay people in Kansas to worry about. I mean, how are they going to destroy marriages out there? [laughter]
FRANK: [laughs] And, you know - and that's one of those things. It's - I think the subtext to all the culture war issues goes - it goes something like this: it's always the liberal - it's - you know, it's not so much the issue itself, although, you know, gays are obviously a - for many people, still a despised, abhorred minority, and so it's very easy to pick on them politically. You know, it's an ugly, vicious, mean thing to do, to pick on them politically, but it's also - it's very easy. But I think the real impetus, the real driving force behind this issue as well as so many of the other culture war issues, is that they dramatize this idea of liberals as a class unto themselves ruling over you from the bench, okay? Changing the most basic, fundamental aspects of your society from - you know, it's one judge in Massachusetts or it's one judge in California, or whatever-
FRANK: --and they say the same thing about the abortion issue. It's this liberal elite changing the basic fundamentals of society without you having any say in it. And that's what strikes people as intolerable.
MAHER: Okay, Thomas Frank, thank you very much. Click your heels. I know you'll be able to get back home. [applause] All right.
ROS-LEHTINEN: [under applause] They don't mention the "vast, right-wing conspiracy" that we heard so much about. What does he have to say about that?
MAHER: You know, I don't believe in it, because a lot of people on my staff were afraid that we would invite the conservatives here to the audience and they would yell out and they'd be irresponsible-
ROS-LEHTINEN: They seem pretty tame.
MAHER: They've been wonderful. I thank you very much. [applause] And I just want to acknowledge: the Bruin Republicans are here from UCLA-[cheers]-the Log Cabin Republicans, Pepperdine University, the Republican Jewish Coalition-[laughs][laughter]-the Lincoln Club of Los Angeles. We bussed them in from such rough neighborhoods as Pepperdine and Beverly Hills-[laughter]-and Bel-Air.
And by the way, in preparation for this show where I knew we'd have two kinds of audiences here, I looked through some of the publications. You know, there are these little magazines that are not read by a lot of people but are awfully, awfully influential in Washington.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Inside the Beltway.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
MAHER: All right, let's - let's talk a little bit about your book, because this is certainly apropos to all that we're doing here tonight. [holds up book, It's My Party, Too] It is called, It's My Party, Too. And when I read this, and read the book, what it made me think of was Ronald Reagan. When Ronald Reagan said, "I never left the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me." It sounds like you're saying the same thing about the Republican Party.
WHITMAN: I think the Republican Party has moved very far from where its roots are. And one of the things I point out in the book is-[applause]-looking at where the party has been, where our history has been. And, you know, the fact that today Barry Goldwater would be considered a moderate by many people. Because he was-
WHITMAN: --he was pro-choice-
MAHER: Gay-gays in the military.
WHITMAN: --and he had nothing - gays in the military, no problem with that.
MAHER: Yeah. Right. Well, he was a Libertarian. The party used to be libertarian.
WHITMAN: More libertarian than it is today.
MAHER: Somehow, they got to be the opposite, which is a busybody. [laughter]
WHITMAN: In everybody's life.
MAHER: Isn't that the opposite of a libertarian?
WHITMAN: In everybody's life, yes.
MAHER: Yeah. So what do you think of that, Congresswoman? You're not
ROS-LEHTINEN: I think that we have the big tent.
ROS-LEHTINEN: I think that there's room for everybody. There's room for Christie Todd Whitman. There's room for the most conservative - for Tom DeLay.
MAHER: But is there?
ROS-LEHTINEN: There is.
MAHER: Is there really?
ROS-LEHTINEN: There is.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And I wonder how much room there is in the Democratic tent. Because, for example, one of my colleagues, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, would like to go against Lincoln Chafee, a very moderate, very much of Christie's part of Republican Party.
MAHER: Hated in the party, I believe.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, well-
MAHER: Despised. Lincoln Chafee is despised.
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no. He's got a great relation-
MAHER: He is persona non grata.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But what has the Democratic Party done for my friend in Rhode Island? They're telling him not to run, and they're doing everything possible so that he doesn't run. Why? Because he's pro-life. How much of a big tent is there in the Democratic Party? The same complaints could be made of the Democratic Party-[applause]-and they could be made of the Republican Party. And there's room for social issues and cultural values of all types.
WHITMAN: They have the same - they have the same problem, I believe, as far as the left is concerned. And it's going to be very interesting to see what Howard Dean does with the party and where he takes it. You watch Hillary Clinton, she's moving right back to the center-
ALEXANDER: [overlapping] Oh, it'll be - it'll be a party. [laughs]
MAHER: Yeah, it'll be a party.
WHITMAN: It'll be a party of some sort.
ALEXANDER: It's going to be a big party. [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: But I agree, it is - it is Christie's party, too. And we should do more to invite folks who have a different point of view than what we would call the rigid Republican way. But I think that that's how the press wants to label us as such. And if you look at our party, we have folks who are very moderate, who are loved and respected in the House, like Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson. And we have a myriad of thoughts. And to think that the Republican Party is this party - and you saw in our convention, we have Arnold Schwarzenegger who thinks in this way. And there are just lots of different ways of being a Republican.
WHITMAN: And the unfortunate thing, we have a few who have decided that there's no room for those. And that's the problem, because they keep running primary challenges against the moderate Republicans who are-[applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: But the primaries are rough for the Democrats as well.
MAHER: You're right.
WHITMAN: Oh, yeah.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Because if you're not - if you're not-
MAHER: They've forced both parties-
MAHER: All right, let me ask you about the Bernie Ebbers thing this week, because this, I thought, was something that speaks to both parties. I'm certainly not going to sit here and accuse the Republican Party of being the only party that is the party of greed, because we're all greedy in America. And that, to me, is what this verdict said. Bernie Ebbers, of course, is going to jail because he was the head of WorldCom, and the "I don't know" defense apparently doesn't work. [laughter]
And the guy who was right under him, the chief financial officer, he was asked during the trial what he was told to do, you know, anything specific. And he said, "No, Bernie just told me I gotta hit the numbers."
And I think that should be an iconic phrase in this country now: hit the numbers. Because that is what it's all about. That is why we are so greedy. That is why everything is so corrupted. [applause] I was railing last week about why CNN and MSNBC had a whole day of just - why a news channel would have a whole day of just Michael Jackson in his pajamas: because they had to hit the numbers. You see, their ratings go up this much and they hit the numbers, and that's the way everything is corrupted in America.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But you can hit the numbers-
WHITMAN: You can hit numbers honestly. [applause]
ROS-LEHTINEN: --fairly, yeah.
WHITMAN: You don't have to-
MAHER: But you - no.
WHITMAN: Aiming - aiming high isn't the problem. It's how you get there.
MAHER: That's what the steroids thing was about, too.
WHITMAN: [overlapping] I mean, you can do it honestly.
MAHER: They gotta hit the numbers. And everything-
ROS-LEHTINEN: But you do it in a fair way. Babe Ruth hit the numbers and he did it in the right way. Did Mark McGwire do it in the right way? [applause] Did Jose Canseco do it in the right way?
ALEXANDER: Please, let's not equate this to the steroid conversation.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I mean, that's what Bill brought up.
ALEXANDER: I do believe it is equate-able.
ALEXANDER: [overlapping] I think it goes beyond the "hit the numbers." There is certainly a greed motivation behind it, but I think more endemic to the country is this notion of "make it work for now." "Just make it work now. Whatever the consequences later, we'll deal with it later." [applause] That is - that is from the top down. This is a - this is truly a fast-food country. "I don't care if it kills me; is it hot, is it ready, can I eat it now, does it taste good? And I don't care if it kills me 20 years from now."
ALEXANDER: And this starts all the way - and I'm sorry to say - and, you know, I have great respect for our president and a lot of what he's done, but cutting taxes and driving a gazillion-dollar deficit at the same time to get a popular effect now-
ALEXANDER: --is just irrational suicide. [applause] [cheers]
WHITMAN: But one thing that's interesting, though, is that if you take that very criticism, one thing that's interesting is the push-back you're getting now for his effort to change Social Security. Because everybody said the problem isn't until 2025; we don't need to worry about it now. When you can say if you deal with the problem now, it's going to be much easier to deal with much less of a problem than if you wait. [applause]
ALEXANDER: I agree with you. He's as much a victim as anybody else. Because that is an area where he is actually looking with foresight, and everyone saying-
WHITMAN: But he's getting push-back.
ALEXANDER: --"Don't mess with me now. Don't touch it. Don't mess."
MAHER: Let me just ask one more about greed. It just seems like this is the only country in the world where just doing well is not enough. No corporation can just do as well as they did the last quarter. We always have to have growth. The worst you could have would be-
ROS-LEHTINEN: Of course we do. That's a great thing!
MAHER: That is not a great thing.
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no. But listen here-
MAHER: "God forbid, the stock is flat!"
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, listen here.
MAHER: "Call 911! Fire people!" [laughter]
ROS-LEHTINEN: In your intro of corporate greed, notice that you used the word, "conviction." What does that mean? He was convicted. There is a system in place to say to those who abuse the system, who corrupt our capitalist system, that you are going to get prosecuted, you are going to get fined, you are going to go to jail-
MAHER: But - but lots of-
ROS-LEHTINEN: --and the system works. [applause]
MAHER: But he may have been convicted for what he did specifically. But for what he represents philosophically, he is lionized, as are all CEO's. Jack Welch was the most lionized executive of all-
WHITMAN: [overlapping] And look what's happened to him now, though.
MAHER: [overlapping]-head of GE. He fired - his policy was, every year, the bottom ten percent of the work force is fired. I don't care if you did your job, you're at the bottom ten percent. Now, is that values and morals to fire the bottom ten percent of-
ROS-LEHTINEN: You are confusing so many different issues here.
MAHER: Oh, I am not.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Hitting the numbers, making sure that you're successful, reaching your quota, improving your business, making it better for your employees, all of those things are possible without breaking any laws. What that guy did was broke-
MAHER: It's not about laws! It's about values.
WHITMAN: He broke the laws. No, he broke the laws.
WHITMAN: But don't you want good ratings?
ROS-LEHTINEN: And values are based on laws. [applause]
WHITMAN: You want good ratings.
MAHER: No, laws should be based on values.
WHITMAN: [overlapping] You do what you need to do for ratings.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Both of them interconnected, yeah.
MAHER: Right, you're right, ratings.
WHITMAN: Yeah, you want good ratings. There's nothing wrong with wanting good ratings.
MAHER: Right, but I'm not willing to pimp myself to that degree to get them.
WHITMAN: No, and not all executives are willing to-
MAHER: [overlapping] If I did, I'd still be on ABC. [laughter] [applause] No, I'm kidding, that's-
ROS-LEHTINEN: That's the case.
MAHER: But, I mean, you were the head of EPA. Wasn't your biggest frustration, when you're the head of the EPA, isn't the main obstacle that people say, "Well, yes, we want a clean environment, but not if it hurts the economy, not if it affects jobs"?
WHITMAN: No, actually, up until very recently, every poll that was taken showed that when you ask people would they be willing to pay more in taxes in order to have a cleaner environment, they said yes. If you asked them were they willing to have a slower economic growth if it meant protecting the environment more, the answer was yes. That just changed for the first time since Gallup has been doing this particular poll, last year. And I don't think it's because people are now saying they don't care about the environment or, you know, "it's for the future, I want my money now." It's because they think we can have a balance. We can have both things. We don't have to give up one for the other. But up until last year, the polls were all the other way.
MAHER: But Bush just released his new mercury-reduction plan. It caps emissions in 2010 at 38 tons, at 2018 at 15 tons. Obviously, this says that we could have 15 tons or less in the atmosphere of mercury if we wanted to. I don't agree with this whole, I guess, philosophy that, you know what, it's only what we're breathing; it's only toxicity; what's the rush?
WHITMAN: No, no, no.
MAHER: I mean, can you imagine if they said, "Terrorism, we'll get 'em in 2018." [applause]
WHITMAN: No, that's not why the numbers are where they are. Now, you can argue - and I would argue that we could probably do faster than what those numbers are, but let me tell you why they are that way. Because the technology doesn't exist to take it down to 15 right now. It really doesn't exist. There are some who will argue that it does, but it doesn't, for utilities. This is just on utilities.
And the second part of it is that, yeah, you can say this is bad because if you force it too fast, it'll force utility prices up. And you can look at it from the corporate point of view and say that's a bad thing. But you have to look at it from the average person's point of view: what happens if your electric bills and your power bills suddenly go out of sight? You can't afford to stay in your home, you can't afford to heat it, cool it in the summer. You need to do this in a way that allows people to continue to live in their homes but still forces the issue.
Now, you can argue whether this is fast enough, but you couldn't get it down to 15 in five years, the way some people are arguing. The technology is just not there. It's so would disrupt, dislocate the way our energy sources and supplies and the economy that it would be an enormous problem.
ALEXANDER: But it's such a question of leadership. If President Bush-
ALEXANDER: --a year ago or two years ago, instead of saying, "I want to be on Mars in 2015," said, "I want to be off oil."
ALEXANDER: "I want to reduce the consumption of oil in this country by 75% in the next ten years." [applause] And if he then started to work with Congress to mandate the ability to do that with tax incentives and incentives to technology, we would accomplish that. There is not that kind of leadership. And it's not just endemic to him.
WHITMAN: That's why we need - that's why we need to have an energy plan.
ALEXANDER: I mean, there's not that kind of leadership-
WHITMAN: And, you know, whether you like it or not, and all this stuff about who met with the Vice President and who didn't, at least there's a plan that was sent out. We haven't had an energy policy, a national energy policy, in a decade.
ROS-LEHTINEN: We passed it in the House. It stalled in the Senate.
MAHER: But, but-
ROS-LEHTINEN: And we can't get a discussion going.
MAHER: I want you to look at this picture. This is this week, from Mt. Kilimanjaro. You remember the famous Hemingway story, The Snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, now it's called the "Muddy Runoff from Mt. Kilimanjaro." There's Mt. Kilimanjaro today. [shows photo] It's been snowy for 11,000 years, and now it's not. And by the way, that's not the only thing that's melting. Look at this. [shows photo of Michael Jackson] [laughter] And wait, look at that. [shows photo of Michael Jackson melting] [laughter]
ALEXANDER: Come on.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, wait. Why not show the picture of the volcano in Hawaii or Mt. St. Helens? I mean, why are you just showing--?
MAHER: Because Mt. Kilimanjaro famously had snow forever, and now doesn't. I'm just saying - you know what?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Global warming here but global warming not there?
MAHER: But you know who's come out with warnings against global warming? The Pentagon. Because they say it could get so bad it would be a national security crisis. Shell and BP, these are oil companies, evangelicals are saying, hey, we've got to save Creation. [laughter] James Baker. I mean, when Shell, BP, Jesus, the Pentagon and James Baker-[laughter]-come out for it, isn't it time to say, okay, we don't need studies, it's really happening? [laughter] [applause]
All right, we've got to go to New Rules. I'm sorry to leave that rhetorically. [applause] [cheers]
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