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HBO Real Time with Bill Maher - Transcript

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HBO BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT

March 17, 2006

Episode #405

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

MAHER: And she was - she was the first Cuban American elected to Congress. Please welcome Florida 's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. How are you? [applause]

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Good to see you. Thank you.

MAHER: Thanks for coming back to see us. You're very brave to come in here in the lion's den. I should say that right away. Most of the audience is liberal. I know Richard Belzer is liberal.

BELZER: I'm not a liberal. I'm a social democrat from Europe . [laughter]

MAHER: Well, liberal, conservative, you know, I think everybody wants to get out of Iraq . We were talking about this with Michael Stipe. Okay, Bush made a speech this week saying, you know, we're not going to lose our nerve. Which is apropos, because he's got a lot of nerve. [laughter]

BELZER: Right. [singing like Bob Dylan] "You've got a lot of nerve."

MAHER: Yeah. But he actually - we actually sent more troops in this week. And I just want to ask, when is the right time to ask the John Kerry question that he asked at the end of Vietnam , which was, "How do you ask a man to be the last man…"

BELZER: [overlapping] "The last man."

MAHER: --"to die for a mistake?" When does that question get operative for this war?

MICHELE MITCHELL: Well, I'll jump in right away.

MAHER: Yes, please do.

MITCHELL: Which is - I don't - I don't think that there is a quick resolution here. And my question is, when are we actually going to hear the truth of what is occurring? Fighting a war is really, really hard. I was in a war zone. It was not fun. I don't even like camping.

MAHER: Really?

MITCHELL: And I was camping with guns. [laughter] So that's not a fun experience. And one of the things that I realized was that, look, you know what? War is ugly. It's going to take a lot more people over there, unfortunately. And what you are going to see happen is you're going to see a nominal number of soldiers will return. You'll hear 5,000 guys are coming back, 10,000 guys are coming back. But every military source says, "Look, we're in there for ten years." And you're not going to see 50,000-100,000 guys coming back. And I really wish that I could just hear that coming forward from the leaders.

MAHER: Well, yes?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, first of all, you say everybody is against the war. And, no, I think that—

MAHER: No, I said everybody wants the troops home.

ROS-LEHTINEN: We would all like to be in a perfect world where there would not be a Saddam Hussein, where there would not be—

BELZER: [overlapping] There is no Saddam. He's not there anymore. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—the Taliban. [applause] So we would like that - we would like that kind of world. But while there is Saddam Husseins, I mean, you can ignore that those despots exist, but they do. And—

BELZER: Well, we are ignoring them. We picked the wrong one. What do you mean, we can ignore? [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: Okay, I mean, look—

BELZER: We have ignored all the worst people in the world. We went after one worst person who was no threat to us. So our priorities are really wrong and off. [applause]

ROS-LEHTINEN: I've been in Iraq . I've been in Afghanistan . I've had the opportunity - and I know anyone—

MAHER: [to audience] Easy.

ROS-LEHTINEN: --anyone who disses the war, and all that, is going to get the great applause. There's no doubt about it.

BELZER: For a reason! Everyone in the country—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Okay.

BELZER: [overlapping]—most people in the country are against the war.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] I'll just shut up and I'll let you talk.

BELZER: [overlapping] No, but you're being so glib and dismissive of me, I have to defend this point of view.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I think I was just speaking—

BELZER: I know, but—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—and I was just trying to make my point, if I could.

MAHER: All right, make your point. And then—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Having been in Iraq a few times, and Afghanistan, having met the troops, one-on-one, with free rein and asking them what they're doing, they are saying, "We are proud of our mission. We know what we're doing over here. We don't want you guys in Washington to lose it over there." And there is a great sense of determination that what they are doing is making a difference.

And, yes, it has been an important mission, but we're doing—

MAHER: Come on.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Come on? [voices overlap]

BELZER: Yeah, come on. You know, our soldiers are - our soldiers now are at—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Our volunteer force. A volunteer force.

BELZER: Okay, fine. No one questions the nobility and the honor that - these men and women serving - and what they're doing. No one questions that. But now—

MAHER: [overlapping] Nor is there—

BELZER: [overlapping]—they're targets. They're not going out - now they're just protecting each other. And they're in the middle of a civil war. So it's really not fair—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] No, I'll—

BELZER: [overlapping]—to have these people who volunteered their lives to protect our nation under false pretenses to now be—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Ask them! Ask them if it's fair!

BELZER: [overlapping]—targets. [voices overlap] [applause] [cheers]

MAHER: But, wait a second.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Wait a minute. My step-son.

MITCHELL: One of the—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Wait a minute, wait a minute. My step-son—

BELZER: Ask them? That's bullshit! Ask them?! They're not—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Look.

BELZER: They don't read 20 newspapers a day. They're under the threat of death every minute.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No.

BELZER: They're not the best people to ask about the war.

MAHER: Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Wait, wait.

BELZER: Because they're going to die any second!

ROS-LEHTINEN: You are talking about my step-son. My step-son who just finished last week—

BELZER: [overlapping] God bless your step-son!

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—eight months of duty in—

BELZER: [overlapping] It doesn't mean he's a brilliant scholar about the war.

MAHER: Right.

MITCHELL: Okay, but, without—

BELZER: Because he's there. [applause]

ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh!

MITCHELL: Okay.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And you are.

BELZER: And God bless him.

ROS-LEHTINEN: You are, though? Okay. I mean, I don't know.

BELZER: Well, I have more time to - I'm not there!

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] You're an intellect. Thank you, thank you!

BELZER: [overlapping] And my life is not under threat!

ROS-LEHTINEN: Hey, I'm glad.

MAHER: Wait. I think the point he's trying to make is that a 19-year-old who is in that Army because he probably couldn't find other employment—

ROS-LEHTINEN: He's a college graduate. He's a Marine officer—

MAHER: Okay.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He volunteered for the - for the Marines.

MAHER: [overlapping] But—

BELZER: [overlapping] He's the exception to the rule.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He's not the exception for the rule! I've been there—

BELZER: [overlapping] You think everybody over there is a college graduate?

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] I've talked to those guys.

BELZER: [overlapping] They're 19- and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Yeah, you know because you've been there and you've talked to them.

BELZER: [overlapping] What? I don't fucking read?! Don't - don't do that!

MAHER: [overlapping] Oh, oh, oh. Come on. Wait, wait, wait.

BELZER: [overlapping] No, really. I—

MAHER: Wait, wait.

BELZER: [overlapping] It's like I don't know?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Okay. Whatever.

MAHER: That—

BELZER: Pardon my French.

MAHER: Yeah.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Yeah.

MAHER: That was over the line.

BELZER: No, but it's this—

MAHER: [overlapping] And now you're going to lose—

BELZER: It's this patronizing thing that people have about if you're against the war, everyone is lumped together. And, you know, the soldiers are not scholars. They're not war—

MAHER: But you're going to lose—[voices overlap]

MITCHELL: Some of them are actually—

MAHER: [overlapping] You're going to lose even me.

BELZER: [overlapping] I know. I'm—

MAHER: [overlapping] Like Michael Moore did when he came down on Charlton Heston in—

MITCHELL: [overlapping] A lot of them are very smart.

MAHER: [overlapping]—"Columbine."

MITCHELL: But the fact is—

BELZER: Sorry. I apologize.

MITCHELL: [overlapping]—we are there now. And if we are there, what happens if we pull out? And this is what the discussion needs to move to. Because if we pull out, then we do have a destabilized - the destabilization of Iraq . And Afghanistan is already destabilizing. There's no way that can be painted well. If you - if we leave Iraq , unfortunately, we're there. So what's the solution now?

MAHER: Yeah.

MITCHELL: If you leave, the Kurds could pull off on their own. And then Turkey starts a war.

MAHER: [overlapping] When did we ever leave? Any place we go into to save a country. We still have 40,000 troops in Japan . We still have 75,000 in Germany , 40,000 in South Korea .

ROS-LEHTINEN: And was it not worth it in Germany and in South Korea , and in every one of those places?

MAHER: But why are we—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Do you not think that it's been worth it to have three incredible elections in Iraq ?

MITCHELL: But how do you—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] And we can dismiss it—

MITCHELL: How do you fight the war on terror? And this is the question—

BELZER: [overlapping] There's no government there.

MITCHELL: [overlapping] This is the question that is not being evaded, is how do you effectively do this? If you talk to Special Forces guys, who are extremely well-educated; they're in their thirties, their forties; they make not as much money as they could make if they were working for private contractors, but they do all right. These guys say, look, let's go in, in small units, and let's start turning - let's train the army and slowly pull out. I mean, they feel that they have something to say and that they haven't been listened to. So maybe the problem lies with the communication.

MAHER: Let me turn this a little. And I will try to control my panel a little more!

BELZER: [overlapping] Let me just - may I - let my just say one thing.

MAHER: I apologize.

BELZER: Can I just say one thing? I apologize for my outburst. But I really feel very strongly and emotionally about this. And if I, you know, go over the top once in a while, it's only because I deeply care about what's going on over there.

MAHER: Yes.

BELZER: I'm not being glib and I'm not being dismissive. [applause]

MAHER: And so - and so does - so does this one. [cheers]

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. So, in his apology, he's calling me "glib and dismissive," even though I had my—

BELZER: [overlapping] No, I said I'm not being glib and dismissive.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I - whatever.

MAHER: Okay, anyway.

ROS-LEHTINEN: You just let me know when I can answer. And then I'll be glad to. [laughter]

MAHER: I will. Let me ask you about Iran . Because that - I heard a lot of saber-rattling in the last week from Condoleezza Rice, from Dick Cheney, from the president himself. I think a lot of people are nervous about that. I know you have a bill that you're proposing, with sanctions.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, we've got 354 co-sponsors. There are 435 members of Congress, so it's overwhelmingly supported, from the most liberal to the most conservative. The White House is not in favor of our bill. They're thinking that diplomacy might take its correct course. Meanwhile, Iran is building up a nuclear arsenal. And we want to make sure that U.S. companies are not using foreign subsidiaries to get around the sanctions that we have. So we're going to close those loopholes so big companies like Halliburton and all of those others know that they're going to be part of the great future that we have for our children, which does not include a nuclear-powered Iran . And we're hoping to pass this bill. [applause]

BELZER: But isn't it - they're like ten years away from - they're ten years away from getting that kind of nuclear power. And then it has to be weapon-ized, so it's more years after that. And today, on the front page of the New York Times , there's an article about how the U.S. is talking to Iran about Iraq . I'm sure you saw that. So we have this kind of schizophrenic policy. On the one hand, Dick Cheney is playing to his base by saber-rattling, as the president of Iran is playing to his base. So the world is being held hostage by two political operatives who are playing to their base, which does not reflect the broader population. [applause]

MITCHELL: Well, also, Iran is surrounded on both sides - Iran is - on both sides of Iran right now are U.S. troops. So what do you—

MAHER: Right. Afghanistan on one side, Iraq on the other.

MITCHELL: Yeah. Right. So what do you expect Iran to do? I mean, frankly, if you're Iranians, you're getting worried about what's happening on those borders. And you're going to start developing.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Oh, so poor Iranians? And I think that we should just excuse—

MAHER: [overlapping] No, no, no.

BELZER: [overlapping] No, she's not saying "poor Iranians."

MITCHELL: [overlapping] No, I think that - no, there's nothing poor about it. This is—

MAHER: [overlapping] No, believe me—

MITCHELL: [overlapping]—serious foreign policy that has to be taken into consideration.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] This is.

MITCHELL: [overlapping] And that is one of the things.

MAHER: [overlapping] They threatened to wipe the Jews off the map.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Absolutely. This is the leader—

MAHER: [overlapping] I think you might reach Richard Belzer by reminding him of that. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: The leader - the leader of Iran has said, " Israel has no right to exist; it should be wiped off the map."

MAHER: There you go.

ROS-LEHTINEN: "The Holocaust is a myth."

MAHER: Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I mean, and this is just part of his rhetoric. What's more menacing is what he's trying to do in the country. And he was elected, but all of the reformers were not allowed to participate.

MAHER: But - but sanctions - you know, and I know this is a point that hits home to you, because you're someone who supports sanctions against Cuba, which I know your opponents would say haven't worked for 45 years.

BELZER: Obviously. [applause]

MAHER: Why should they--?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, but let's look at sanctions on Cuba - on another way.

BELZER: It just hurts - okay.

ROS-LEHTINEN: We're the only country that has sanctions on Cuba , and Fidel Castro is still in power. But every other country has been doing business with Castro, and Castro is still in power. He has no elections. There's no free political parties. There's no dissension. You couldn't do the "Bill Maher" show in Cuba .

MAHER: Or China .

ROS-LEHTINEN: You would be in jail.

BELZER: [overlapping] Who do the - who do the sanctions hurt? They hurt the average person.

ROS-LEHTINEN: There is no - there is no—

BELZER: [overlapping] Castro has his cigars and his—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—there is no embargo on humanitarian aid or food or medicine. And in the case of Iran , the same thing. This would be investments in the energy infrastructure of Iran for the nuclear build-up. It doesn't impact any part of any other life of an Iranian.

MAHER: All right. Let me ask you about the two - I saw two trials on television this week. One was Saddam Hussein and the other one was Moussawi. These are the two guys that we put up there as " Nuremberg 2—"

BELZER: Yeah, right.

MAHER: "This Time It's Personal." [laughter] And, I mean, these two guys - it looked more like the "Jerry Springer Show," both of them.

MITCHELL: Yeah.

BELZER: To me, if those were two reality shows, they would have been canceled in the first week.

MAHER: Right. And I was just thinking, here are our two stooges that we got after 9/11, and neither one of them had anything to do with 9/11.

BELZER: Right, exactly. [applause]

MAHER: Saddam Hussein certainly didn't. Even Bush admitted that. And this Moussawi guy, you know—

BELZER: He's crazy.

MAHER: --he's an open-mic-er.

BELZER: He's a buffoon. Right. [laughter]

MAHER: He is not a - he just—

BELZER: "Open mic-er." [laughs] [laughter]

MAHER: He's not a real terrorist. They talk—

BELZER: No. He's enjoying this.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Okay, but should Saddam Hussein not be on trial for the hundreds of people that he killed in Iraq ? Are we just going to say—

BELZER: No, no. No one is saying that.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—unless you had something to do with 9/11, then you're not going to be held accountable for mass graves that they are uncovering.

MAHER: Well, but if we—[voices overlap]—Congresslady - can I call you "Congresslady"?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Sure. [laughter]

MAHER: If we went all around the world—

ROS-LEHTINEN: I'm no lady, I'm in Congress.

MAHER: [laughs] There's a sound bite. [laughter]

BELZER: You're a lady.

MAHER: If we went all around the world, and picked a fight with everybody - every dictator who had a mass grave—

BELZER: We'd be busy. [laughter]

MAHER: We'd be - we'd be busy, wouldn't we?

BELZER: Yeah, we'd be busy.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It'd be good—

BELZER: [overlapping] And Hussein spoke today for the first time at his trial where he was the actual - instead of an outburst, he spoke for 45 minutes, and he did what the Americans and the British are terrified of, he's calling people to stop fighting each other and fight the Americans. And this is what we dreaded. We didn't think this - we didn't want this to happen when we put him on trial, for him - a call to arms to his people. So it's become a forum for him.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He can continue to do that. It would be fine.

BELZER: Fine?! Okay.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It would be fine. Because the people are saying, "No."

BELZER: Then how come it's not funny—

ROS-LEHTINEN: He can say whatever he wants. That is freedom.

BELZER: [overlapping] You don't think he still has followers?

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] That is the court. Of course he has followers. And the people of Iraq , the majority of the people in Iraq say, "Death to Saddam Hussein." What they're saying is, "Why are we bothering with a trial?"

MAHER: Not - no.

BELZER: They say, "Death to Hussein and America out," that's what they're saying.

MAHER: Not - not the Sunnis, right?

MITCHELL: Well, no.

BELZER: [a la Groucho] "Sunni or later, they'll come around, but, you know, ladies and gentlemen…" [laughter]

MAHER: I mean, I see we had a big operation - "Swarmer" - this week. There just seems to be these big operations where we take back a town that the insurgents have. But then, of course, we don't have enough troops to hold that town.

BELZER: Right.

MAHER: So the insurgents scatter and then they - it looks like a big "Whack-a-Mole" game. [laughter] And, I mean, people die. Our troops—

ROS-LEHTINEN: It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable.

BELZER: What's unbelievable?

MAHER: No?

ROS-LEHTINEN: No. What would you guys be doing in World War II. [voices overlap] What would you be doing?

BELZER: This is not - this is not World War II, as well you know.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Any operation, you would be—

BELZER: [overlapping] That's a bogus analogy. [applause]

ROS-LEHTINEN: You know, if this were World War II right now, you guys would be saying—

MAHER: But it's not.

BELZER: It's not! It's not.

MAHER: It's not World War II.

BELZER: That's bullshit.

ROS-LEHTINEN: You would be against any war, anytime.

MAHER: No, no. That is so not true. I have always - I am pro-war. I think violence solves—

ROS-LEHTINEN: You just want to be for another war at another time at another place—

BELZER: Yeah, when the—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—but not this war at this time at this place.

BELZER: Right, exactly. Exactly. [applause]

MAHER: But isn't that - but, wait a second.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I know, it's always the next one.

MAHER: [overlapping] Isn't that - isn't that—

ROS-LEHTINEN: It's always the next dictator.

MAHER: It's not always the next one. But isn't that fair? Do I have to be for every war?

ROS-LEHTINEN: You don't have to. You don't have to. But you don't have to talk about these military operations as if they're some kind of joke.

BELZER: They are, they are!

ROS-LEHTINEN: And you don't have to talk about the Saddam Hussein trial like it's a joke.

BELZER: It is a joke!

ROS-LEHTINEN: I mean, it isn't!

BELZER: That's the - that's the tragedy of it!

MAHER: Okay, all right, we all - all right, we disagree on what's a joke.

BELZER: Right. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: I mean, I—

MAHER: But, that's a fair—

BELZER: And some people on this panel are experts.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] The free elections is great. The parliament is standing up.

MAHER: Oh, come on. [voices overlap]

MITCHELL: You know what? The fact is—

MAHER: The parliament met for 30 minutes and left! The president won't shake hands with women!

ROS-LEHTINEN: In the Articles of Confederation of the United States , our country was founded overnight? It was a shake-and-bake country?

MAHER: [overlapping] No, you're right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] It takes time!

MAHER: [overlapping] That's right.

MITCHELL: [overlapping] It does. It does take time.

BELZER: [overlapping] Where are - where are—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] We don't want—

BELZER: [overlapping] Where are the Jeffersons ? Where are the Jeffersons ?

MAHER: Okay.

BELZER: Where are the Adams ?

ROS-LEHTINEN: They're not in Iraq .

MITCHELL: [overlapping] But, wait. The thing is, to point to parliament being in session is sort of a false marker of "Yay, team!" because Afghanistan has a parliament; Afghanistan has a president. Afghanistan is going to blow. And it's - that's a false sign of, like, "Yay, we're doing a good job." Because, you know what? They had six suicide bombs last Sunday. That doesn't sound to me like things are - things are going swell.

ROS-LEHTINEN: True. They had those. But let me tell you what else they have in Afghanistan .

BELZER: The best coke. [laughter] I'm sorry, I got—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] Thanks to - thanks to our guys—

MITCHELL: [overlapping] The best heroin.

BELZER: [overlapping] Oh, heroin, heroin!

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping]—and our international troops, they have women going to school.

MITCHELL: You know what? Every woman I saw—

ROS-LEHTINEN: We're going - we're going to diss that now? It doesn't matter? We have—

MITCHELL: [overlapping]—outside of Kabul was wearing a burka. And—

MAHER: Wait. We're not dissing it. We're just disagreeing.

MITCHELL: Yeah. We're just - yeah—

BELZER: This is a conversation.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Yeah, these are real - these are real progress that we're making.

MAHER: I know, but—

BELZER: She was just there and saw women that are—

ROS-LEHTINEN: I was just there, too.

BELZER: Okay.

MITCHELL: I'm just saying - I was also outside—

ROS-LEHTINEN: We see different things.

BELZER: Well, where were you and where was she? [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: My glasses - my glasses must be different than yours.

MITCHELL: All right, "Geographic Smackdown!" Here we go. [applause] No, the fact is that girls' schools are being burned. If you're going to cite girls' schools as a great landmark in the progress of Afghanistan .

BELZER: The Taliban just burned one down yesterday.

MITCHELL: It's not - the Taliban are burning them down. The Taliban are - they're going to have an enormous spring offensive. It is coming. You know, there are a lot of people who are getting popped. Women are wearing burkas.

MAHER: Were you outside of Kabul .

ROS-LEHTINEN: I was in Jalalabad. And let me tell you what was going on in Jalalabad.

MAHER: [laughs] "Everything is up to date in Jalalabad." [laughter]

BELZER: They've got cable!

ROS-LEHTINEN: We are building roads.

MAHER: They've got a Starbucks. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: The incremental progress. These are women in a USAID project.

MAHER: Okay.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Women leaders meeting with the tribal elders.

MAHER: All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Meeting with the town leaders. Making things happen.

MITCHELL: I have—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Before, there was death, destruction and the Taliban.

MAHER: All right, I—

ROS-LEHTINEN: It was worth it, and it's worth it now!

BELZER: The Taliban are back.

MAHER: Okay, I've got to go to Lou Dobbs because it's eleven-thirty on St. Patrick's Day. He's probably already had a few. [laughter] He is the managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight." Please welcome Lou Dobbs! [applause] [cheers] Lou, how are you tonight?

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

MAHER: Anyway, you know, when I was a kid, I used to ask my parents, "Why are you Democrats? Why are we Democrats?" My father would kill me if he found out I wasn't a Democrat now, but so be it. But they said, "Because the Republicans are the party of business." And I just want to ask since there is so much corruption - stories that we hear every week about the Republican Party, is it something about being a Republican and being tied to big business that makes them more corrupt? Or is it just--? [Belzer holds up his hand] [laughter] Yes?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well…

BELZER: You go first, and then I'll go.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Okay, okay. Well, I tell you, I know that Tom DeLay is the poster boy for the Democrats and other folks to say this the culture of corruption.

MAHER: He's not alone.

MITCHELL: Wait a second—

ROS-LEHTINEN: But, if you could see the list of all of the members who are under investigation or who have ethics cases - and this is a bipartisan problem, and I think it behooves us, as a nation and as a body, to clean up our own act. But it is not a Republican problem tied to big business. [Belzer earnestly holds up his hand]

BELZER: Bill, ah! [voices overlap]

MAHER: [overlapping]—want to say something here.

MITCHELL: That's right.

BELZER: I go next.

MAHER: You go next.

MITCHELL: All right. Well, first of all, I don't think either party can be the angel here. But the Jack Abramoff story is very much a Republican story.

ROS-LEHTINEN: 42 out of 45 Democrats got money from Abramoff clients!

MITCHELL: I'm sorry. I think you have great hair and you're really cool, but I've got to tell you—

BELZER: Before.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I like that. I'll take that.

MITCHELL: [overlapping]—I did this story, and it was solidly Republican. And the fact that all Tom DeLay got was a little slap on the wrist was very sad. [applause]

ROS-LEHTINEN: At the dressing room, let me give you some clips about the Democrats.

MAHER: Okay.

MITCHELL: But - but - no, I'm going to—

BELZER: Go ahead.

MITCHELL: --I'm going to jump in and I'm going to be with you on a Democrat thing, all right, because I think both parties have a very sad recent history of taking a lot of money from not just corporations but from a lot of folks with special interests. And it has not helped what democracy is supposed to be. [applause] So, frankly—

BELZER: Right.

MITCHELL: --I think that neither party can run and say, "Hey, I'm the angel here." They both suck right now. [laughter] [applause] [cheers]

BELZER: All right. First of all, the Republicans, as you well know, have thrown every Democratic lobbyist off of K Street . They totally control every piece of legislation, every special interest group. The Republicans pride themselves on being the business party. They have utter contempt for the government, so they put hacks in to head departments and eviscerate the government's role. So it's definitely mostly Republicans that are so tempted because they're in positions of power now. You have the Senate, you have the Congress, you have the Supreme Court, you have the presidency, you have K Street . So it's just temptation. They're all on the - you know, virtually every one of them has some shady dealing. Period. [applause] [cheers]

ROS-LEHTINEN: All I ask - all I ask is that our two guests, when we go out - and I will give them the clips from all of these—

BELZER: Oh, do you then deny what I just said?

ROS-LEHTINEN: --research saying that Democrats and Republicans equally, and Abramoff, Democrats and Republicans - I know that the media doesn't put that story out.

BELZER: They do put it out and it's not true! [voices overlap] The Democrats—

ROS-LEHTINEN: I'll give you the clips! These are independent—

BELZER: [overlapping]—the Democrats that got donations from Abramoff got them before all these scandals started, and had nothing to do—

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] That's when he was a good guy, okay, yeah.

BELZER: He was never a good guy.

MAHER: Okay, let me ask you this philosophical question. The approval rating for Congress is 32%. Slightly below the president, but slightly ahead of Dick Cheney. [laughter] Their re-election rate is 99%. How come a body that is approved by only 32% is returned to office—[Belzer holds up his hand again] [laughter] [applause]—at a rate of 99%? Yes, Mr. Belzer?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Maybe it's the good hair.

BELZER: Yeah, it's the good hair.

MITCHELL: Exactly.

BELZER: Two things. It's like when, you know, people say, "Schools are bad. But my kid's a genius."

MAHER: Right. [laughs]

BELZER: You know, it's like, "Congress is shitty, but my congressman is okay." People—

MAHER: Yeah.

BELZER: --you know, take it personally. So they slam everyone else, but their own personal thing is okay. I think it's delusional. People - most people in America are deluded into thinking that their guy is okay. [applause] Their kid is the smartest. But everybody else is in trouble.

MITCHELL: It's also - it's also that a lot - and I'm offered job security, and there's a lot of good people in Congress, so there's a lot of people who work very, very, very hard, and a lot of Republicans actually step forward to scream and yell about the Abramoff case, I want to go ahead and say that - one of the dirty little secrets about the way politics is now is that a lot of members have been gerrymandered into very safe districts.

BELZER: Right.

MITCHELL: You're going to see maybe three or five seats actually change.

ROS-LEHTINEN: That's it. That's right.

MITCHELL: And that is because there's been - and this isn't how—

MAHER: So - so what do we really have left of Democracy?

MITCHELL: Well—

MAHER: If 99% -- those are the kind of numbers, we used to laugh at the Kremlin for getting.

BELZER: Right, right.

MAHER: Ninety-nine - Saddam Hussein got 99% of the…[laughter] Well, what are we laughing at?

BELZER: Yeah.

MITCHELL: This is where I have to say that you turn to - you turn to Americans every election and you get the government you deserve. Ben Franklin said it. And if you - and if you feel that you're not being adequately represented, then start a grass roots movement. Don't be some lazy person sitting on the couch going, "Gee whiz, I wish I was better represented." [applause]

BELZER: Right. You know, that's right. What you said before—

MAHER: You're right.

BELZER: Yeah, she's right. The problem is—

MITCHELL: Sorry.

MAHER: I've been exposed as a fraud! [laughs]

BELZER: Get off your couch!

MAHER: On St. Patrick's Day, no less.

BELZER: But the problem is - is that, like you said before, Perot and Nader came in - whatever we think of them, in other countries, there's 14-15 political parties. There's a labor party, there's a right, left, a middle.

MAHER: Also—

BELZER: America has two parties, the "Remocrats," that are, to one degree or another, are owned by corporate interests. And it's really not a Democracy anymore.

MAHER: Listen to this. Chile just swore in a woman president, joining such countries as—[applause]—it's largely an audience from Chile that we bring in here. [laughter] The Chileans. And their sea bass is fantastic. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: Either that, or—[voices overlap]

MITCHELL: And the wines.

MAHER: But also there are women presidents in Ireland , Latvia , Liberia —[applause]—which just—

ROS-LEHTINEN: She spoke to us just two days ago in Congress. Wonderful, wonderful leader.

MAHER: Okay. Pakistan , which is, you know, cuckoo, rioting over the cartoons and the crazy Muslims—

BELZER: Right.

MAHER: --they had a woman president. India , Indonesia . America really isn't that progressive. And let me tell you something, this - Michele Bachelet is her name in Chile - she is a single mother, a socialist and an agnostic. [applause] [cheers] In this country, not only could she not be elected president, but her phone would be tapped. [laughter]

BELZER: [overlapping] She'd be arrested. Yeah, right.

MAHER: By the FBI. I mean—

ROS-LEHTINEN: But, pro-business. And that's been—[laughter]

BELZER: God - oh, there is a god. Ah, pro-business. [voices overlap] [Belzer crosses himself] Oh, pro-business.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] What if the Chile - the people of Chile were looking for somebody who was not going to put their economy in the tank.

BELZER: [overlapping] Ah, the invisible hand of the marketplace.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] And that's true. That was one of her selling points.

MAHER: But - okay, but listen to this. She speaks six languages. She studies military history and she strips at the Spearmint Rhino on Thursday. [laughter] No.

BELZER: Now, wait a minute!

MAHER: She—

MITCHELL: She also—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Richard was there. She was not.

MITCHELL: [overlapping]—some of her ministers have no - some of her ministers have no party affiliation, which is also really different and rather refreshing, I thought.

MAHER: So I guess what I'm asking, because you face this on a personal level, why do Americans put our political people, the people who run for office, in such a straitjacket that they have to look alike, sound alike, dress alike? [applause] You know, sometimes they say we should have more women. And I say, what difference would it make. Because when we elect women, they act just like the men anyway? [laughter]

BELZER: Most of them.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I think we have - we have a tremendous diversity. And when you look at Congress, I know that we all look like cookie cutters to you. But we have great leaders like John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement; John Dingle, who has served in Congress for so many years—

BELZER: [counting examples on his fingers] Two. [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: We have - we have Henry Hyde, a wonderful statesman.

BELZER: A wonderful statesman?

ROS-LEHTINEN: He is. He is a great diplomat. He's a—

MITCHELL: [overlapping] People who always win elections.

BELZER: [overlapping] All right. Two. Go ahead. Two.

ROS-LEHTINEN: [overlapping] And Speaker Hastert, who is - speaking of reform - putting together a great reform package so we can clean up our home, our House.

BELZER: Hastert?! He's Tom DeLay's towel boy! What are you talking about? [laughter] [applause] Come on. [cheers] This fuckin'—

ROS-LEHTINEN: We've got great leaders.

BELZER: Jesus Christ!

MAHER: What - about great leaders—

BELZER: Great leaders!?

MAHER: [overlapping]—what do you think about the fact that all the Republicans now who are sniffing around to run for president, none of them are talking about Bush. They're all saying, "I'm a Ronald Reagan Republican." [laughter] How come they have to skip over all - both the Bushes to go back to "I'm a Ronald Reagan Republican"? [laughter]

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, why do the Democrats skip over Jimmy Carter? I don't know. What are the Democrats—

MAHER: Well, they admit he was a loser.

BELZER: That answered - that sure answers the question.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Too many generations.

MAHER: Well, okay. All right. Anyway, thank you so much—

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

MAHER: [to Ros-Lehtinen]—for being a yeoman of the guard. This was not an easy one for you.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. [Belzer kisses both panelists]

MAHER: Ah, look at that. On camera. [applause]

MITCHELL: Thank you so much.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

http://www.safesearching.com/billmaher/transcripts/t_hbo_realtime_031706.html

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