'Real Time with Bill Maher' debuts with problems
By Stone Martindale Aug 25, 2007, 21:45 GMT
"Real Time with Bill Maher" could not catch a break last night in its debut for the new season.
The acerbic host began his show in silence, as the mic disappeared into his shirt, and a muffled shhsh sound could be heard, but no words from Maher.
A producer handed Maher a traditional microphone as a replacement until the segment switched to a live interview via satellite with Iraq war correspondent, Damien Cave.
Maher led with a volley of questions for the journalist, trying to elicit some critique of the war and the continued efforts of the American military presence.
New York Times correspondent Damien Cave, currently in Baghdad, seemed a likely person to support the idea that the surge is failing, and how things are much worse in Iraq than the Administration wants to admit.
Not so. Reporter Cave told an incredulous Maher that good things were happening in Iraq.
Maher asked, "What is the morale of our troops, because I know President Bush always says that the troops are steadfastly all behind him - uh, I have my doubts. What is your view?"
Cave's response was clear, "You know, it's actually kind of a mixed deal. I mean I talked to a commander the other day who said that the political debate at home is bizarro-land and something that he doesn't connect with at all. He's just here to do his mission.
And I think that's probably the view of most soldiers in Iraq. They're just here to do their job and they don't think too much beyond that. Morale, I would say, is probably surprisingly high in some units. And then in other units, there is the sense of ‘well, gosh, is this really working?' ‘why am I here for the third time?' But, I have to say that's probably rare.
Most of the units that I spent time with, again are just focused on trying to do the job in front of them. It's about clearing the neighborhood that they're in, or trying to get the guys that they know are there. But you don't hear a whole lot of the chatter that you might hear in Washington when you're out with the soldiers.
Maher pressed further for any cracks in Cave's positive spin.
Maher asked, "But what about the morale of the insurgents? Is there any doubt among these people that we are not going to outlast them? I mean we do have debates on how long the surge will last...Come on...these guys are gonna wait us out for as long as it takes. Isn't that the bottom line in Iraq?"
Maher also posed the question, "If Saddam Hussein were alive and running for president right now, and he used the old Reagan line, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago," do you think that would attract voters?"
Cave rebutted. "Well, I mean, I have to say that there's a lot of people who do believe that their lives were better under Saddam Hussein. But to think that they would want Saddam Hussein back is I would say probably incorrect. I mean, what they're trying to say when they say that is that "We don't want to be part of an occupation.
At least he was one of us, and at least then we knew what the rules were." I mean, in this situation, walking down the street could get you killed for reasons that have nothing to do with anything but your name.
Under Saddam Hussein it was a little more organized, and for a lot of people, that's what they'd like to return to. But the idea that Iraqis want a dictatorship is, you know, is something that's, I, I just find hard to believe.
Maher asked Cave if Americans had a moral obligation to Iraq.
"Do we have a moral obligation, you think, to this country that we're not living up to now that we've pretty much wrecked it?"
Cave responded: "...You know, it's hard to see that there is deep, there is some real deep thinking going on about what the moral responsibility is to Iraqis.
I think Americans forget often that, as I said, most Iraqis are victims of violence and not perpetrators. And, we, you know, I think the country needs to figure out a way to decide what role we need to play or what the responsibility is.
For the Iraqi woman who has three kids and has fled her house, or the college students who I talked to a few months ago who were forced out of their country because they might get killed because they have a degree.
You know, what America owes these people is something that at some point public officials and the public at large need to decide and need to think about beyond just the political debates at home."
Maher closed the segment and welcomed his panel of guests that included actorvist Tim Robbins, NPR journalist Michel Martin and writer Stephen Hayes, who penned a book about VP Dick Cheney. Martin had the upper hand during most of the exchanges, and also revealed her husband is Michael Vick's attorney, which did not sit well with animal lover Maher.
Presidential candidate and birthday boy former governor (R-AR) Mike Huckabee also appeared via video feed to defend his stance on creationism versus evolution. He also explained he was not an establishment Republican, or darling of Wall Street or K-Street.
Huckabee wants the IRS overhauled too, like fellow Republican candidate Ron Paul.
The "New rules" segment blasted everyone from Posh to the hideous foot coverings (refuse to call them shoes) "crocs": MAHER-NEW-RULES-AUGUST-24