One of the left's knocks on conservatives has been claiming they're demagogues that play on emotion to push a certain point of view. It's been said about Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement.
However, HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" host Bill Maher doesn't seem to take issue with using trumped up emotions to push an agenda. The difference - he is approaching things from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Maher appeared on MSNBC's March 10 "Countdown" and defended his demand from his own March 5 program that President Barack Obama quit smoking. The reason - so he would get angry and use that emotion to promote his agenda.
"No, what I was - you know, the point of the rule was that when people quit smoking, they get angry," Maher explained. "And I like my president angry, because, you know, considering how much in this country people are poisoned, ripped off and lied to, we should all be angry, but especially that guy, who has to deal with Congress every day in trying to get this health care bill through and all that. And you know, I like him when he's out on the stump in a sort of a partisan mode. I think his biggest mistake, that he has made, in his first year, was to out put bipartisanship ahead of fixing the country. He spent all his political capital on getting three damned votes for that stimulus bill instead of coming in with all the energy from the election and saying, ‘You know what, we're in a crisis mode, I won this election by a sizable mandate, here's what we're going to do. If you don't like it, Republicans, you can suck on it.'"
"Countdown" fill-in host Lawrence O'Donnell asked what else Obama could do to push this initiative - having given numerous speeches both in public and on TV. According to Maher, the legislation now has to stand for itself.
"Well, there's nothing more he can do, because he's sort of made his bed already with the plan that they have," Maher said. "You know, I mean, again, I think he made a big mistake, not from the get-go, not supporting a public option and standing up for that because I personally do not believe that this plan will save money the way that they say it will."
Maher lamented that in his view, the legislation was weak. However, he suggested the issue of health insurance should be viewed as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are occurring to given people the perspective the United States' medical system is "failing."
"I think they wussied out on standing up to the things that will actually be cost cutting," Maher said. "So, I don't believe that part of it. And so he's stuck with this plan, which I think is - it's not a great plan. I mean, yes, it accomplishes some things, and I guess I would call it a quarter loaf is better than none. But, you know, we asked this question on the show a couple of weeks ago. You know, 45,000 people die every year because they don't have health care. Can you imagine if that many people were dying in Iraq or Afghanistan? Why is the, that that's an impossibility in the country, that that many people can die, or in a terrorist attack, but it's OK that they die from a failing medical system?"
Maher also faulted Obama for framing the debate that if you preferred the status quo, then you would not be affected. However, had Obama taken a different tack and employed fear - making it seem that the public had no choice but to alter their health care coverage, it could have spurred more action.
"I don't know why they framed the debate the way they did, or rather, that they didn't," Maher said. "They should have framed it in a moral sense like that and they should have framed it for people who are more selfish thinking, that this is a -- that you are going to go broke. Democrats need to use fear the way the Republicans use fear. And it's true. I mean, health care costs keep going up."
And what would this fear entail? According to the "Real Time" host, Democrats should have manipulated people into thinking financial calamity was on the verge of occurring without so-called health care reform.
"They should have scared the American people into thinking, look, I know you think you like the plan you have now, but it's going to slowly drown you in debt," Maher said. "He started out all wrong by saying, ‘If you have - if you like the plan you have, you can keep it.' And everybody went, ‘Well, then what's the problem? Why are we spending all this money?'"