Bill Maher thinks Joe Biden is currently doing a good job. But he also warned against fan fiction as history, perhaps offering a contradiction that only he understands.
Maher started off the Real Time night strong with a one-on-one featuring country singer Trace Adkins, who is also starring in the new Fox TV series Monarch with Susan Sarandon. Adkins sat down and said that Maher occasionally told a funny joke. Maher pounced. “We’re indoors, you can take the hat off,” he said, following up with “Oh, is that shit on your shoes?”
But it was all in good fun. Adkins is well-known as a conservative, allowing that he stays away from political discussions with the ultra-liberal Sarandon to keep the peace. “We did our work and stayed away from everything else,” Adkins said, which Maher saw as a formula the rest of America should adopt.
Maher couldn’t resist one quick attempt at a gotcha, asking Adkins who won the last presidential election. “Joe Biden,” the singer allowed. “What did you expect me to say?”
Adkins is sober now, but recalled how in his dinking days, when people would force him to drink at parties, he would note that he was going to try to sleep with half the room and fight the other half, and it didn’t matter which line you got in.
That sangfroid is why Adkins said he didn’t worry about backlash on one of his new songs, “If I Was a Woman,” a song written with Blake Shelton that emphasizes traditional gender roles. “ I don’t worry about that at all,” Adkins allowed.
The panel discussion brought in founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck Julia Ioffe, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham.
They turned first to a familiar Maher topic, the splintering of opinions in the country. ”I fear that the evidence of the last couple years is that this is more like the 1850s,” said Meacham. “We disagree about the understanding of reality itself,” calling it “a total culture war.” At the root of the problem is “not enough people are willing to sacrifice,” he said.
Ioffe said that Americans are not immune to the basic human need for strongman leaders with simple explanations, saying that the frequent statements about Jan. 6th that “this is not who we are” were hogwash.
Maher seemed to stun his guests when he asked what would happen with ex-President Donald Trump’s legal problems after the midterms. There was a long silence.
If the “election deniers” win Congressional seats, Meacham said, “That’s the beginning of the end of the Constitutional order.” He predicted that would lead to “civic chaos.”
Maher filled in the gap, claiming that attorney general Merrick Garland would do something because “Trump is guilty.”
Ioffe was supportive of that notion, saying, “Eurorpean countries indict all the time.”
The talk then turned to Ukraine, where Maher crowed that Biden was doing a great job because “he had been around the block” and was patient.
Meacham agreed. “I believe if you support American democracy, you support this president.”
Ioffe wasn’t quite so ready to give credit, noting “it’s still a little too early.” But she allowed, “Biden has done an amazing job on Ukraine.”
Finally, Maher’s “New Rules” editorial noted the rise of “presentism,” where everyone in the past is judged by the standards of the present.
History books aren’t supposed to be fan fiction, Maher said. But presentism is like getting mad at yourself for not knowing at age 10 what you know now.
He then launched into a rant on how “everyone had slaves, including people of color and the Sumerians through R. Kelly. “Slave comes from Slav,” he said, “and the Slavs were as white as the Hallmark Channel.”
“I’ve said it before, humans are not good people,” he added. “The capacity for cruelty is a human thing, not a white thing, even though it’s not part of the current narrative.”
Maher also called out the Portland school system, where they plan to teach that the concept of gender was brought here by white colonists. “Not even Star Trek would try that story.”