I was reading the L.A. Times last Friday when I came across an op/ed by Bill Maher entitled “Enough with the Obamathon.” Thinking the comedian would write something funny like Larry David’s New York Times pieces on undecided voters and “Brokeback Mountain,” I read on. There was some good material that I’m sure will make it into Maher’s stand-up act, but I was surprised this 53-year-old, skirt-chasing pothead of a comic thinks he’s qualified to offer advice on public policy to our Columbia undergrad, Harvard Law Review, elected in a historic landslide, chief executive. By the time I finished reading, I realized two things: the L.A. Times is so desperate to sell papers that they’ll publish just about anyone and Bill Maher’s perception of himself has gotten so out of whack that he actually thinks he’s smart.
Before we get to his criticisms, let’s consider the source. Bill Maher isn’t a journalist or even a pundit, he’s a clown. I don’t care that he’s been hosting a political talk show with a comedic edge since 1993, he’s still the same guy who’s been on the road doing jokes about ganja and genitalia for three decades. Just because the guests on his show are knowledgeable about politics doesn’t mean he is, but he’s been in Hollywood for so long that he’s starting to buy his own shtick.
He’s the kind of person who thinks people suck up to him because he’s special, not because it’s their job — and he probably believes the models and video vixens he dates are attracted to him and not the power of his position. So when it comes to something like public policy, I’ll call Bill Maher to get his thoughts just as soon as I get off the phone with Sarah Palin.
Not to put too fine a racial point on it, but from my experience, Bill Maher’s idiotic rant is the perfect metaphor for what it’s like to be a minority in the workplace.
We’re barely halfway through the first year of Barack’s first term and the host of a comedy talk show wants to know why he hasn’t fixed the systemic, long-term problems of the financial services, energy, and health care industries yet.
Even when facing multiple crises, each of historic proportions, being capable and competent at his job isn’t good enough; Obama has to be perfect. Whenever Maher wants to start solving some problems himself, he’s got the cash and the name recognition to run for national office and win — though I’m sure he’d rather stay in L.A. and smoke joints at the Playboy Mansion.
He expanded on his critique later on his HBO show when he said, “If you can’t shove some real reform down (the Republicans’) throats now, then when? Folks, Barack Obama needs to start putting it on the line in fights against the banks, the energy companies, and the health care industry. … What he needs in his personality is a little George Bush. He needs to stop worrying about being loved and bring out that smug, insufferable swagger that says, ‘suck on it, America.’ I’m glad Obama is president, but the audacity of hope part is over. Right now, I’m hoping for a little more audacity.”
Let me tell you something about our president, Bill. Unlike you, he’s got class. He’s not going to shove anything down anyone’s throat (a cute line you’ve been wearing out lately — it must work great at Hef’s), pick fights with people whose help he needs, or be insufferably smug.
Making policy deals in Washington is an art, not a science, and nothing is ever more than an election cycle away from being undone. Banks, utilities, and HMO’s make a lot of money doing business as usual and use it to buy votes in Congress. Their lobbyists have controlled the system for a long time, and they’re as interested in giving that up as you were in marrying Coco Johnson, buying her a house in Beverly Hills, and raising a family with her.
Remember that you’re not a commentator, you’re a comic. And the fact that you’re befuddled by ballot questions means you should stick to doing bits where you pretend to soil and pleasure yourself and leave public policy discussions and analysis to those of us who are smart enough to understand it.
For me, the best moment in the HBO show on Friday came right after the Obama critique.
In case anyone was thinking of taking Bill Maher seriously, he followed it with, “I’ll be at the blah blah hotel in Vegas,” plugging his next stand-up gig and proving that despite his embarrassing attempt at editorializing, he’s really just a clown who’s here to make you laugh.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider living in Santa Monica who hopes to bump into Bill Maher so he can relay this message personally. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org