An actual defender of the president (if not his wilder verbiage) visited the set of Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time on Friday. Dennis Prager drove the rest of the pundits a little crazy by questioning whether Donald Trump is evil, and a fascist.
Finding himself outnumbered three to one, Prager asked Maher: "You think he’s a fascist?" Maher said: “I think he wants to be, yes....The number of things he’s done that are exactly what third world fascist leader do, like talk about locking people up who are your political opponents, that’s not fascist?”
The panel discussion on Friday’s edition of Real Time focused on the impeachment inquiry; with a specific emphasis on the events in Ukraine causing it. Prager refused to concede the presence of a quid pro quo in the phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, and correctly pointed out that “the hatred of Trump is so great” that it “distorts people’s perception of reality.”
When Prager pointed out that it has been proven that there was no quid pro quo “unless you think the President of Ukraine is lying as well on behalf of Trump,” Maher jumped in and said “yes”, implying that he did in fact believe that the Ukrainian President was lying on behalf of Trump.
When former Time editor (and Obama State Department official) Richard Stengel alleged that President Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian President was “not even a quid pro quo,” Prager seemed to believe that he may have convinced him after all until Stengel claimed that the phone call was actually “an extortion.”
Maher and the panel sent much of the conversation defending the “deep state.” According to Maher, the phrase “deep state” really means “people with resumes who know something.” Maher also tried to paint former intelligence agency heads John Brennan and James Clapper as “mostly conservatives,” a point that Prager strongly pushed back on, noting Brennan had once voted for a communist (Gus Hall) for president.
Stengel, who made his contempt for the First Amendment perfectly clear in a Washington Post op-ed earlier in the week, also defended the deep state. After noting that he “worked in the deep state for three years” under President Obama and alongside Brennan and Clapper, Stengel described his former compadres as “people who deeply believe in the state, who take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.”
It’s not shocking that Stengel, who worked with Brennan and Clapper in the Obama administration, would portray the permanent bureaucracy as candidates for the sainthood, proclaiming “they will not betray the public trust, unlike the President of the United States, who betrays it every day.” It should not come as a surprise that the Real Time panel rushed to the defense of the “deep state” actors who have worked to undermine the current administration because, as Prager pointed out, “these people so loathe Donald Trump.” Birds of a feather flock together.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of Real Time is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Real Time With Bill Maher
BILL MAHER: Let me turn to this week because you know, we’re getting into lots of other…Trump says “Defend me on substance.” This is what he’s saying to the Republicans, “you’re talking about process so far.” This is from Trump, “defend me on substance.” I say bring that on, let’s have this talk about substance, this idea that Congress appropriates money to give to an ally to defend itself and then the President can get on the phone and say “No, you can’t have this Congress-appropriated money unless you do me a personal political favor.” Are we all agreeing that that’s okay; not just for him but in the future, that future Presidents can do this? Is this okay? Can you defend him on that?
DENNIS PRAGER: Our disagreement is not on whether it would be okay in the future, it’s whether it actually happened in the past.
PRAGER: There is, the…
MAHER: It did.
PRAGER: …the President…unless you think the President of Ukraine is lying as well on behalf of Trump…
PRAGER: …he denies that there was any…
MAHER: He is.
PRAGER: …quid pro quo.
MAHER: He’s in a desperate man who needs…
RICHARD STENGEL: You know what…here’s the thing, Dennis.
PRAGER: There is no quid pro quo that the Ukrainians…
PRAGER: …were aware of.
MAHER: Okay. Have you seen the testimony of all the people who…
PRAGER: You know.
MAHER: …have come so far?
MAHER: They’ve all said quid pro quo. This is what happened.
PRAGER: No, no.
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And they’ve also moved forward because it started to get repetitive because so many people were confirming…
MAHER: This is…
BELLANTONI: what actually is…
BELLANTONI: …the accusation.
MAHER: This is what…
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MAHER: This is what, we have…you’re making talking points from three weeks ago. Now we’ve had Bill Taylor, this guy…
MAHER: …you saw that.
MAHER: Vindman, you see, he was listening to the call, this guy Tony Morrison today, they all said yes he did this. This is not a…
PRAGER: No, no…
STENGEL: And by the way, it’s…it’s not even a quid pro quo.
STENGEL: It’s an extortion. He basically said unless you…
STENGEL: Unless you…And you know what, I…I was in…I was in…in the State Department, we used to do quid pro quos too and the quid pro quo was in exchange for you treat…treating people better, for you demonstrating human rights, for having rule of law, then we will help you. That’s the kind of quid pro quo America has always done; not…
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
STENGEL: …not, not “Unless you help me, you’ll get the money that Congress appropriated.”
PRAGER: All right, look, we all saw heard the exact same call or at least saw the same transcript, I did not see a quid pro quo and…and…and I don’t know how you did. You can say it is implied. You can say that they inferred it.
MAHER: It’s in the transcript!
PRAGER: It’s not in the transcript.
PRAGER: Read the transcript.
MAHER: This is…this is sad. It’s sad.
STENGEL: And by the way…
PRAGER: It is sad. By the way, this…
MAHER: It’s sad that we can’t even agree…
PRAGER: That’s correct.
MAHER: …when it’s in black and white.
PRAGER: No, no, it’s sad that we can’t agree on what reality is.
PRAGER: And the hatred of Trump is so great.
MAHER: It’s not that!
PRAGER: I think it distorts people’s perception of reality.
MAHER: I think the love is what is distorting.
PRAGER: Do you…how many people in this audience truly believe Russia undermined our democracy outright?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PRAGER: That’s…that’s my point. That is applause.
MAHER: Yes because he…because they did!
PRAGER: They did nothing essential; nothing. They can’t undermine…
PRAGER: … our democracy. It’s a way too strong democracy. They took out ads in Facebook? That undermined our democracy? Do understand how pathetic you sound? That’s pathetic.
PRAGER: We’re not a pathetic country.
PRAGER: Hello, hello.
MAHER: They did more than that.
PRAGER: That’s all they did.
MAHER: And we’ll see…
STENGEL: Yeah, so, what do you call it, Dennis, when a political candidate, i.e. Donald Trump, asks for help from a hostile foreign power and then that foreign power gives that help? Isn’t that collusion?
PRAGER: What are you…what are you referring to?
STENGEL: The internet research agency.
PRAGER: Oh, the…okay, the internet research…
STENGEL: I mean…
PRAGER: …agency. Okay.
STENGEL: …the, the…I dealt…I dealt with all of this disinformation…
STENGEL: …at the State Department.
STENGEL: It was a tsunami of disinformation that they put out.
MAHER: Let me ask a different question because that’s going to get in the weeds. When you see people like this Bill Taylor…
MAHER: …okay, this is the deep state, which really means people with resumes who know something; people who have been in public service for decades, this Vindman, who is…was a…he came here when he was three; Ukrainian, served this country, purple heart in Iraq, Harvard, when you call…when you see people like this and he’s done it before to Brennan and…and to Clapper, these people, these lifelong public servants, by the way, mostly conservatives because that’s who gets those kinds of jobs.
PRAGER: Well Brennan…
MAHER: Does that kind of job.
PRAGER: For the record, Brennan…Brennan had voted communist in his earlier years; just for the record. He is not a conservative, please, let’s…let’s return to Earth. Brennan is as far left as ever served in his role in the…in the United States…
MAHER: This is the first…
MAHER: …I’ve, I’ve heard.
STENGEL: He’s a liberal.
MAHER: He’s a communist?
PRAGER: He was. He was. I’m not saying he is. I said he was.
MAHER: I…I don’t even remember…I don’t even remember…
when they were on the ballot…
PRAGER: All right.
MAHER: …quite frankly.
MAHER: What…what election was that? Was that…
PRAGER: No, no…he was…
MAHER: …oh yeah, Clinton…
MAHER: …and Ross Perot, right…and, and Mao. Okay, so…
BELLANTONI: But here’s the…those deep state people, what we’re talking about. Remember before the 2016 election, there was a letter that came out from national security officials saying they were so alarmed by Trump as a person; they felt that he was going to be a dangerous President and that he would put the…
BELLANTONI: …nation’s national security at risk. That’s a big deal and that’s a lot of these people. And then a lot of them went to work for him anyway because they put good of the country…
MAHER: What do you, what do you…
BELLANTONI: …ahead of that.
MAHER: …think about these people being trashed? These patriots? These…
PRAGER: Right. So, I’ll tell you how I…Okay.
MAHER: Let’s take the communist out of the…
PRAGER: Okay. All right.
MAHER: …equation and some of these other ones.
PRAGER: This is what I, this is what I…
MAHER: They are called scum…
PRAGER: Right. Right.
MAHER: …and they’re…
PRAGER: I’m not…
MAHER: …not patriotic?
PRAGER: I’m totally opposed to him calling them scum.
MAHER: Wow. Great, we can agree on that.
PRAGER: Yes. We do.
MAHER: What a place to start.
PRAGER: Okay so…
MAHER: Lifelong public servants shouldn’t be called scum.
MAHER: Thank you, sir.
PRAGER: Right. No, no, no. No, no. That’s…
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
PRAGER: No, I have a different…No, I have a different take. There…no one would…no one would deny that there are scummy people anywhere in the world but a President of the United States should not use that language with regard to political foes.
MAHER: But Vindman…
PRAGER: So, I…
MAHER: …you can’t say Vindman isn’t scum?
PRAGER: All right. No, no, no I’m just…I’m just saying. I’m…we’re in agreement.
MAHER: Okay. All right. Okay.
PRAGER: All right. But I…but this is my take, I believe these people so loathe Donald Trump, so deeply loathe him…
PRAGER: …that they have, they have worked out in their mind…and I understand this…he is so evil.
STENGEL: It’s so wrong what you’re saying.
PRAGER: Oh, they don’t think he’s…they don’t think he’s evil?
MAHER: Yes because he does shit like this!
STENGEL: Here’s what they do.
MAHER: It’s not like we made it up.
STENGEL: Here’s what they do, Dennis.
PRAGER: You think he’s a fascist?
MAHER: I think he wants to be. Yes.
PRAGER: You do?
MAHER: Of course.
STENGEL: The deep state…
MAHER: The number of things he’s done that are exactly what third world fascist leaders…
MAHER: …do, like talk about locking people up who are your political opponents, that’s not fascist?
STENGEL: And here’s what these…
MAHER: Lock them up?
PRAGER: No, no, no.
MAHER: Encouraging to lock up your political opponents?
PRAGER: Did he go lock them up or is it his usual hyperbole?
MAHER: But if…that’s okay?
PRAGER: Oh, come on, folks.
MAHER: That’s okay for an American President?
PRAGER: No, it is not! I agree with you. His…
MAHER: Okay, great.
PRAGER: I don’t like his verbiage but he’s not a fascist.
MAHER: His verbiage?
PRAGER: And what’s going to happen is if there were a real fascist in America, you will have cried wolf.
STENGEL: What’s so wrong, Dennis, with your assumption about these people is the deep state…I worked in the deep state for three years. The deep state is composed of people who deeply believe in the state, who take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s what those people are doing and they’re…and they’re doing it at…at great risk to their…to themselves, to their livelihoods, to their careers because they care about that and they will not betray the public trust, unlike the President of the United States…
STENGEL: …who betrays it every day.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)