Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bill Maher Buys Indulgences

Forget about Rick Santorum. Bill Maher proves, indubitably, that you can take the boy out of the Catholic Church, but you can't take the Catholic Church out of the boy (pun definitely unintended).

Yes, Bill Maher ceased being associated with any political party when his donation of $1,000,000 to the Obama SuperPAC.

Comedian Bill Maher became the latest member of the seven-figure "super PAC" donors club Thursday night when he announced during a comedy special that he would donate $1 million to the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action.

Maher, the liberal host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," revealed the donation at the conclusion of his hourlong special "CrazyStupidPolitics," which was streamed live on on Thursday night.

"I would like tonight to announce a donation to the Obama super PAC, which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name Priority [sic] USA Action. I know, it was named by Borat," Maher said. "But tonight, I would like to give that PAC one million dollars," prompting cheers from the audience

The donation -- manifested onstage in the form of an oversize check -- will provide a significant boost to the super PAC's coffers; the group raised less than $59,000 in the month of January and $4.4 million overall. Earlier this month, the Obama campaign announced a more friendly posture toward the group, allowing administration and campaign officials to appear at the super PAC’s fundraising events. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of cash to support political causes, but are not permitted to coordinate their activities with candidates they favor.

Maher said that an Obama victory over any of the Republican contenders was "worth a million dollars" and described the donation as "the wisest investment I think I could make." He encouraged other wealthy donors to give to the group as well.

A Priorities USA Action official did not immediately return requests for comment.

This is a particularly significant act on many levels - a nuanced act, as Maher would likely say. Firstly, it puts to bed immediately any claim that Maher is not a Democrat. He clearly is now, so let's dismiss any claim that he's a libertarian. I think Maher assumed, like many liberal-leaning people, that libertarians were something that they aren't - ueber liberal people, instead of the opposite. He is vehemently against a lot of Republican rhetoric (but not some, as he is a strong supporter of the death penalty, amongst other things.

Maher has often been quick to insist that he's not a Democrat, but it would appear now that he actually is.

On another level, this can be interpreted as that sublimely Catholic act of contrition after buying an indulgence to absolve himself of any sin. Bill, like me and countless others, including Rick Santorum, was raised Catholic. If he knows any history of the Church, he'd be well familiar with that old (discontinued) act which enables a practitioner actually to buy forgiveness for sins committed. Of course, what Bill's actual contrition will be remains to be seen, but a cool million in the PAC of a Democratic President seeking re-election might just go a long way to ensuring forgiveness for Maher's past sins against the Democratic party - like voting for Bob Dole in 1996 because Dole was "a real war hero" (so why no vote for John McCain?), or trolling the airwaves in 2000, with the message that Gore and Bush were one and the same and endorsing (and pushing) a Nader candidacy.

Then, there are the assorted high-profiled undermining of the President's message in which Maher has participated regularly since 2009, including his subtle suggestion that maybe people really should think about not voting in the 2012 election.

But now Bill's back on the blue side of the fence, and a big lot of the reason for this has to do with his own moral cowardice. His audience has changed in the past four years. When there were Republicans at the helm, liberal listeners and viewers were all too ready to accept the words of Maher and others of his ilk (Olbermann, Uygur and Michael Moore) as voices which spoke "the truth." However, in the wake of the 2010 Midterm fiasco and the hissy-pissy way the "Professional Left" reacted to Robert Gibbs's comments about their wanton criticism of the President, Maher and Co experienced pushback from the vast majority of pragmatic Progressives, who read the President's agenda far better than the celebrity talking heads. The PragProgs cast blame firmly at the Gucci-shod feet of Maher and his buddies, and many of us let them know, on their social networking sites, where the blame would continue to lay if the Democrats lost control of the White House in 2012.

Many of us plebs got banned and blocked from the Twitterfeed/Facebook musings of these rather patrician know-it-alls, complete with requisite ad hominem remarks, which were, more than anything, puerile and highly unprofessional. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Joan Walsh).

So on a different level, this is an expensive way of saying "sorry," at the expense of fully branding himself firmly not only in the liberal, but also in the Democratic camp - in hopes that that million will wipe a lot of Maher's indiscriminate remarks (many of them borderline racist) from the minds of people who've effectively turned off, turned away and tuned out the whole of the perfidious Professional Left.

Suffice it to say, it hasn't ... because there's also another level to Bill's generosity, a level based on fear (and not without a little bit of connected guilt - the type of guilt on which every Catholic, lapsed Catholic or atheist Catholic has been weaned).

Like every good Catholic boy, Bill recently experienced an epiphany.

His decision came about, he said, after attending Grammy parties a couple weeks ago.

"All the liberals were talking about how the election is in the bag for Obama,” Maher recounted. But the election is competitive primarily in 12 states, he added. “He could absolutely lose. It's a different world than it was in 2008. We live in the age of the Super PACs. Unless the rich liberals get into the game, Obama will be horribly outspent. If if he is outspent, he stands a good chance of losing." Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, each hoping to take on Obama eventually, are battling for the GOP presidential nomination.

Maher said he decided to help the pro-Obama group "partially out of fear -- fear of Santorum and Romney, watching the Republican field and the 20 debates they've had and the bubble of insanity they live in. Half the country is nuts, and Obama could very well lose. He may not have been the best president in his first term, but given the alternative, I feel there's a clear choice."

Of course, it also helps that “Real Time” returns with new episodes next week. Since disclosure rules are loose for Super PACs, Maher may not have needed to be identified. And his gift certainly didn’t have to be revealed publicly during an hourlong special, “CrazyStupidPolitics,” which was streamed live on on Thursday night. Maher even brandished a gigantic prop check for the occasion.

Maher said the move was about principles more than PR. His bank account isn’t exactly A-list: "For me this hurts,” he said. “I'm not the kind of person who can toss around that kind of money and not feel it." But he hopes the donation will nudge liberals with far fatter pocketbooks.

"For years I've never done anything overtly political for either party,” he said, adding with a chuckle: "But c'mon. Who's kidding who at this point? It's not even close.... I decided to put my money where my mouth is."

The emphases are mine, and the article exposes two other levels of thought behing Maher's action. Taking the end of the article first, where Maher explains that a donation of the sort which he gave is something which he will feel financially taps right into the old Catholic doctrine of good works, which would normally buy a Catholic less time in Purgatory. In this instance, such a "good work" would buy Maher, perhaps, the forgiveness of a skeptical viewing public (and up his ratings and assauge his conscience), but it would also cement his standing, not only amongst the liberal Hollywood contingent, but also amongst the liberal punditocracy.

Bill has now crossed the Rubicon from comedian to bona fide political commentator. He may find he won't have his comedic mask as a shield for controversial remarks anymore, which leads us to the ultimate level of his contribution.

Quite simply, Bill wants, Bill desires, Bill craves an interview with the President. A cool million isn't a vast price to pay if it accomplishes that, should the President win a second term. And with that may come his long-coveted Emmy Award.

Ego te absolvo ... and all that.


  1. I did not watch him as I do not think he is funny. His whole routine is bashing people of faith, Conservatives, Repub.'s and anyone else who is not an atheist or liberal. I really have no use for this man or ANYTHING he stands for

  2. Well, if he was trying to buy forgiveness for "borderline racist" remarks he should not have made them in the portions of the show I saw wherein the president should "stop trying to get everyone to like him" and "be the angry Black man," like Maher,I suppose. Oh, and a permutation on his usual doozy (I praphrase): "In the first term we got the White man, in the second term we can get the Black man." And that final homage to one of his Black friends "grow your hair out!"

    What a penitent!