Last week, I watched the return of Real Time with Bill Maher. I always approach each episode of that show with trepidation, because I never know whether Bill's actually going to show up and give us a provocative hour of good commen sense observations or whether he's going to phone in his apt impersonation of a Class A cockhead in desperate need of a condom to cover his face.
I was neither pleased nor disappointed with this week's show, apart from the fact that one of his panel guests was the ludicrous Chrystia Freeland, who sounds like Megan Mullally, trying to be serious after admitting to having smoked two packs a day. Bill sat her between the Democrat James Carville and the Republican Mike Murphy, and I've yet to ascertain anything either of the two men disclosed, because they were constantly being interrupted by this woman. Later in the show, Martin Short appeared, and the latter third of the panel discussion section disintegrated into a frenetically childike dialogue between Freeland and Short, which amounted to Freeland jumping gleefully up and down in her seat as she and Short discussed how much better Canada was than the States - ne'mind the fact that both probably earn much more money here than in their own home country, but there you go.
What disappointed me the most occurred during Bill's initial interview with Elizabeth Warren, when he asked her if he thought anything was achieved by the President "caving" to the Republicans' demand to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the country. I thought it was a pretty stupid question, especially to ask a woman who is a special advisor to the President and, therefore, part of the Administration, itself. It's almost as if Bill thought Warren a pretty smart cookie, but a cookie who was book-smart and lacking in common sense, taking advantage of the fact that Warren apparently likes Bill and feels comfortable on his show, thinking she'd offer an opinion that would garner him a gotcha moment on which he'd feast for the rest of the season.
Of course, Warren gave a safe answer. Whatever she thought of the extension of the tax cuts, she's the sort of person who would see the benefits the President got from this situation that would favour the demographic Warren champions: the fabled Middle Class.
It just stuck in my craw that Maher and many like him are still pushing the myth that Obama "caved" on the tax cuts. He "caved" to the Republicans' demands. He's weak. He has no backbone. He is, as Maher rather self-righteously proclaimed on national television at the end of last year, a "pussy."
As if the only thing that mattered, the be-all and the end-all to people supposedly "in the know", the pundit crowd, were those damned tax cuts. Nothing else mattered, not the unemployed, not the working classes or even the working poor, to whom Maher later tipped the wink as being the bulk and majority of that demographic collectively known as "the Middle Class," the politicos, the pundits, the dittoes following their leads in the blogosphere all wanted that one almighty point scored against the Republicans - right, dead and square in their big, fat, white belly.
A woman in California, a union official and activist for the ILWU, who happens to be an amateur political wonk to the extent that she's constantly tweeting her thoughts, opinions and attitudes to the likes of Lawrence O'Donnell, Bob Cesca and Keith Olbermann and who screams at the television to such an extent that she scares her young son, went into abject meltdown over these tax cuts for the rich, without a thought for any of her fellow proletariat who just might be long-term unemployed or the chances her children gained for financial help in their quest for post-secondary education.
It's the fashion to follow the tax cut craze, which means, more and more, that the Democratic Party is abandoning its championing of the working classes.
Bill Maher is an intelligent man, and he should know better. He's followed government and government procedure enough to know how things work. He knows a compromise when he sees one. This is all just the language of the moment, the game of "Piss on the President," better known amongst older Democrats as "Shooting Yourself in the Foot." The Democrats do that a lot and never learn from it.
Obama caved to the Democrats, so now we have to find someone to mount a primary challenge, never ever remembering the events which occurred after the primary challenges of 1968 and 1980. The first brought us Watergate and introduced us to the Three R's of the Republican brand: Ratfucking, Roger Ailes and Karl Rove. The second brought us 12 years of Republican rule, credit and financial deregulation, trickledown, phony wealth which felt good at the time but came back to kick us all in the ass, and the first Gulf War.
And after all is said and done, with all the legislation passed during the lame duck session of Congress and after the horrific events in Tucson, after the President held it together for us on all those occasions, Bill and his ilk are scurrying about, furiously searching for the next stick with which to beat the President. Social Security? Tackling the tax code? The State of the Union speech? What he should say? What he shouldn't say?
In the year that's the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War - yes, the one which was fought in order to end slavery - I have a hard time taking the Democratic Party seriously, when its most liberal proponents insist on treating the President of the United States like Miss Scarlett treated Prissy, and that's said as someone who was weaned on the Democratic Party.
And if that's not enough, I have to sit, watch and listen to Sean Hannity facilitate the very public unraveling of Sarah Palin for all to see on Monday evening, in a typically incoherent, Biblically-inspired rant, filled with the obvious lies, which just happened to shift the blame for all the violent rhetoric she started and subsequently inspired, back to the Democratic party and liberals in general. Somewhere, somehow in Governor Palin's parallel universe, the Democrats put up crosshair maps, identifying innocent Republican candidates as targets to be taken out, Democrats were the moral, emotional and political scourge of this great, free country, Democrats have been issuing death threats against Madame and her spawn and CNN has been bullying poor Willow Palin, who does a fair job of bullying, herself, if her recent antics on her Facebook page are anything by which she can be measured. In that respect, I fear for CNN's safety, because I would imagine that Willow has pretty much had to bring herself up, what with Mommy prancing about the Lower Forty-Eight, being adored.
Thing is, and not being one to push the envelope of false equivalency, people believe these talking heads. Some poor bastard conned into voting against his own interests and living in a modular home someplace is going to believe Palin when she paints the Democrats and anyone liberal as a danger to the lifeblood of a nation; just as there are adoring scores of people on the Left, slurping up the lattes from the superior sections of the Left Coast, who follow every word Bill Maher says, even when he contradicts himself from one week to the next, whilst ignoring the fact that he looks increasingly more comfortable in the company of Darrell Issa and Bill Frist than he does with anyone of the Democratic persuasion.
And so it will go on and on, with civility as much of an illusion and a pretense as anything else about our sick and sordid political system. Palin's pets will buy into the myth of deranged and unAmerican coastal elites trying to change Brand America to their own socialistic and godless liking, and Maher's minions will continue to believe that the only America that matters is found along the West Coast or in the Northeast, and everything else is Flyover Country or the unreconstructed neo-Confederacy inhabited by a race of racist, illiterate, inbreds who pronounce the word "shit" as having two syllables.
Speaking of the Confederacy, do you know the story of how California tried to secede in 1861 to form the Republic of the Pacific? Their state flag today is almost an exact replica of their intended "republic's" flag, which is more than a bit like those Deep Southerners who want to incorporate the Confederate battle flag as part of their state's emblem.
Maybe the two extremes have more in common than they think. At least they can always share their Obama hate.