[Update, 2:15 pm Eastern: Audio and video clips from the segment added.]
HBO’s Bill Maher, after being asked during a segment on Monday’s Situation Room on CNN to explain his recent “soulless vampire bastards” moniker of the current health care system, pushed for President Obama’s “reform” plan, paraphrasing the Democrat’s own words: “We can’t do nothing- doing nothing is actually worse.” He also stood by his consistent labeling of the U.S. as a “stupid country” [audio clips available here].
Anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Maher for two segments starting at the bottom of the 5 pm Eastern hour. Towards the end of the first segment, Blitzer prompted the HBO host for his take on the health care debate. After playing a clip from his “Real Time” program where he used the “vampire bastards” label, Blitzer complimented Maher for the “very funny stuff” as well as the “serious element” on his program and asked, “What would you want to see emerge from this whole health care debate in Washington?” Maher echoed the Democrats’s talking points on the issue:
BILL MAHER (from HBO’s ‘Real Time’): As conservatives get to call universal health care ‘socialized medicine,’ I get to call private for-profit healthcare ‘soulless vampire bastards making money off human pain.’ The more people who get sick and stay sick, the higher their profit margins, which is why they’re always pushing the Jell-O.
WOLF BLITZER: All right. It was very funny stuff, your commentary. I know you- you had a very serious element in there, as well. But what’s the point? What would you want to see emerge from this whole health care debate in Washington?
MAHER (live): ...I think everybody in Washington and most people in the country agree that- at least a starting point. Maybe this won’t be the most perfect bill, but obviously, this is something that presidents going back to FDR have been trying to accomplish in America, and as the president says every time he broaches the subject, to do nothing is a disaster. We can’t do nothing- doing nothing is actually worse. So, you know, hopefully he’ll get the Blue Dog Democrats on board and they’ll have something.
The “Real Time” host then expanded his comments to a critique of capitalism’s apparent expansion in American society:
MAHER: But if I just may address the bigger topic, you played the clips about health care. What that editorial was really about was the idea that there used to be some things in America that were not for-profit. Health care was one of them- not that doctors didn’t make money, but certainly, insurance companies weren’t in the mix like they used to be. I also mentioned prisons. Prisons were not something that we ever farmed out to private corporations, but now the correction- I forget the name of the company, but is a correctional institution- company, rather, that’s on the New York Stock Exchange. There’s a reason why the number of prisons and prisoners in this country has skyrocketed, and that we have more prisoners per capita than anywhere else in the world- because it helps the bottom line of corporations.
Also, I mentioned war contractors. We have more private contractors in Iraq than we do soldiers. They’re paid a lot more than the soldiers- they do things soldiers used to do for themselves, like laundry and cooking meals. And the fourth one I mentioned was television news, something you’re very familiar with. That used to be a loss leader- that used to be non-profit.
You know, a generation or two ago, not everything in this country had to be for-profit. Some areas were roped off and we said, that’s just too important to put the profit motive in because the profit motive always poisons everything to a degree, but we’ve changed- we’ve become a different society. Everything has to be for-profit now and some things shouldn’t be.
Blitzer followed-up by asking, “I know you feel strongly about that, as well- although you’re not saying that there should be no room for capitalism in our country. Capitalism has been good.” Maher’s reply included his standard bashing of American Christians. “Of course, capitalism is good. I am not a communist....But as a society, we used to understand that it didn’t have to go everywhere. You know, when capitalism becomes this religion- and it’s ironic, because usually it’s the- the people who are most religious in this country who believe- or at least treat capitalism like it is truly their God- unfettered- I would say capitalism is the correct economic system....But there have to be some dams and locks on the river.”
Earlier in this first segment, the CNN anchor began by asking about the resignation of Sarah Palin, and whether she had a future as a presidential candidate. Maher answered the she might have a future as such, but also took the opportunity to return to something he did during an appearance several months earlier on CNN- mocking the intelligence of the American people: “I don’t know about a presidential candidate, but I would never put anything past this stupid country- possibly. I think she certainly could get the nomination, considering what the Republican Party has become and where they are right now.”
After a commercial break, Blitzer sought a clarification from the HBO host on his “stupid country” label. Unsurprisingly, Maher stood by it, even after the CNN anchor defended the intelligence of the country by invoking the election of Barack Obama:
WOLF BLITZER: Bill, a couple little clarifications, because we’re getting flooded with e-mail already. Earlier, Sarah Palin I asked does she have a future ahead and you say- said something to the effect, I don’t put anything past this stupid country. So, people are already complaining that you’re calling the United States a stupid country. I’m giving you a chance to clarify.
MAHER: I don’t need to clarify. It is.
BLITZER: Well, tell me why you think the United States is a stupid country.
MAHER: Because Sarah Palin could be president. Please, do I need to expand on that anymore? Yeah, I do- I think this is, in general- I mean, it’s a big country- that’s the great thing about it. There’s 300 million people here. So, within this large country, there are tens of millions of very bright, intelligent people- you know, the ones who are watching us, not the ones who are writing the e-mails. But, you know, in general- gosh, you know, this country just gets dumber and dumber by the day, and I don’t think I have time on your show to list all the reasons.
BLITZER: But you- but you- this country did elect Barack Obama president of the United States.
MAHER: Look who he was running against. Yes- I mean, look at the situation. I mean, this was after eight years of Bush, which was, you know, a- pretty much, a disastrous presidency. John McCain was not a very attractive candidate, and of course, he picked Sarah Palin to run beside him. And, you know, given that choice, I think Americans- you know, came to the fore on that one, but just because they elected a bright guy doesn’t mean they’re bright.