SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to and have not yet watched either last Tuesday’s episode of “This Is Us” or “Real Time with Bill Maher,” you may want to wait before reading this post.
I do not know about you, but the attraction of NBC’s “This Is Us” is its ability to remind us of the challenges we all face in relationships. For example, last Tuesday’s episode provided a tri-generational perspective on fathers and sons. We first see another backstory example of why Jack Pearson constantly vows to be better than his own father. At the other end of the spectrum, we witness Kevin Pearson telling a complete stranger about his self-imposed pressure to live up to his father’s example even though a flashback suggests Jack, at times, can emulate the same paternal behaviors he swore not to repeat.
Which brings me to last night’s edition of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” No one has made more fun or criticized Donald Trump than Maher, targeting his narcissism and his willingness to ignore facts. Yet, last night, if I had not known better, I could have sworn the host was channeling the former president. The opening monologue could only be described as “Bill Maher’s Greatest Hits.” Just like every Trump rally, the content was neither new or clever. He spent the first couple of minutes telling the audience (aka HIS cultists) how wonderful they are.
Next came an interview with Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of ten GOP representatives to vote for impeachment and, with Liz Cheney, is trying to retake the party from the Trump cultists. Maher’s response to every one of Kinzinger’s comments was, “Well, okay.” This is how you respond when you either have not listened to what someone has said or do not care. Remind you of anyone else?
But the most disturbing illustration of Maher morphing into Trump came during the panel discussion with Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of the blog Daily Kos, and former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt. First, he had to again talk about the difficulties he is having trying to activate the solar energy system at his home. In the middle of a pandemic, Maher became the “it’s all about me and my problems” celebrity.
Then, in the middle of a conversation about whether cable news only invites guests who will say what the audience wants to hear, Maher interrupts and says he has the only show that offers opposing views. He might as well have said, “Cable news is a carnage, and only I can fix it.”
The difference between Jack Pearson and Bill Maher? Jack had the presence of mind to catch himself, look at the impact on his own son, and modify his behavior. Trump just went plowing on. Ironically, the ensuing discussion about the need for a sane middle-right party resulted in TOTAL agreement among the panel despite the fact there was a counter argument to be made.
Did Maher, Moulitsas and Schmidt not watch or read the news this week? I do not want to take credit for this observation as Joe Scarborough has made the point repeatedly since the Georgia senate run-off. He contends all the GOP rehetoric about an untethered radical left is unfounded. As former red states elect Democratic senators and representatives, the moderating forces that used to be in the GOP now are the Joe Manchins (WV), John Testers (MT), Kyrsten Sinemas (AZ) and Mark Kellys (AZ). They are the ones who are proposing alternatives to better target COVID-19 relief and putting the brakes on loading up the relief bill with non-germane provisions.
Additionally, the panelists’ premise was also disproved by an exchange on “Morning Joe” earlier this week when Scarborough and a guest questioned whether the Biden administration was siding with teachers’ unions over the CDC when it came to school re-openings. The gist of the criticism? Biden said they were going to make decisions based on science, and in this case, it appears they are not. It does not matter where you personally stand on the issue. Anyone who believes that is not a legitimate question needs to check their objectivity credentials at the door.
One more data point. A day after Schmidt resigned from the Lincoln Project following allegations of sexual misconduct against co-founder John Weaver, the panelist’s introduction included no mention of his former association with the anti-Trump group. This was followed by Maher telling his guest, “I’m not here to prosecute you.” Instead Maher, who as mentioned above chided shows that play to their audiences, read a quote from New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning the use of fund raised by the Lincoln Project. Is it coincidence Maher chose AOC as the dissenting voice, as opposed to Meghan McCain who had also challenged Weaver’s and Schmidt’s motives?
To recap, Bill Maher hosted a panel during which all the participants shared the same opinions after ignoring any information that might refute their position and side-stepped the touchy issue that led to Schmidt’s Lincoln Project resignation. Could there have been an agreement (you know, an NDA) between Schmidt and Maher to not raise the subject? So much for Real Time being “the only show” with the testicular fortitude to broach unpopular viewpoints. Just as Jack Pearson sometimes reneged on his pledge not to be like his father, Maher seems to be guilty of following in an elder’s footsteps. Except it does not involve his actual father as Trump, who to my knowledge, did not sire the Real Time host, though Maher and Eric seem to have genetically similar hair.
For what it’s worth.