I had the misfortune of watching a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. For those who are not familiar with the show, it is an HBO weekly one hour long feeding frenzy consisting of a series of rapid fire overwhelmingly progressive half-truths cheered relentlessly by a select audience that is constantly engaged in hooting and jeering while giving the pollice verso to any designated victim who finds himself targeted by a smug Maher. The episode I saw was filmed on July 29th, shortly after the conclusion of the Democratic convention. Guests included Matt Welch of Reason magazine, Alex Wagner of The Atlantic, Professor Cornel West and former Congressman from Massachusetts gay activist Barney Frank. The episode can be seen on HBO on demand for those who have that service and bits of it are also available on YouTube.
Openly expressed hatred of Donald Trump by a mainstream media that has de facto become part of the Hillary Clinton campaign is one of the more interesting aspects of the current electoral cycle. One might therefore have expected that the Real Time ridiculing of Trump would be a constant, driven mostly by Maher himself but also picked up on with some alacrity by the others. Even though I knew in advance that the show would be blood sport targeting Trump, I had tuned into the program because I have a great deal of respect for Cornel West who, to me, maintains some of the best traditions of the old and now nearly dead type of liberalism that was such a powerful force in America in the 1950s and 1960s. West is genuinely anti-war and pro-people and not afraid to stick by his guns when confronted by the powerful, metaphorically speaking. He recently went to bat for the Palestinians while serving on the Democratic platform committee and on the Maher program dared to mention the repression taking place on the West Bank, which produced a stone faced response from the progressive-except-for-Israel Maher.
To his credit West, when asked his opinion of Hillary Clinton, opined that she had vast experience in government but is completely lacking in integrity, an assessment that was poorly received by Maher, who had spent the early part of the show eulogizing the Democratic candidate. So to hear what else West had to say I put up with Frank’s blathering and Maher’s invective as well as the occasional interjections by Welch and Wagner, who played secondary roles in the proceedings.
Inured to hearing a load of old codswallop I was nevertheless really blown away by Barney and Maher’s launch into an explanation of something that had occurred at the Democratic National Convention. For those who have not seen it, the July 28th prime time speech by Hillary national security adviser General John Allen is positively Strangelovean, pledging to rid the world of “evil” and declaring that “America is great because America is good.” Reportedly intended to bolster the Dems national security credentials and possibly to welcome into the fold disenchanted neocons, it is as red blooded, American-exceptionalism-laden a presentation as anyone is likely to witness anywhere, replete with a backdrop consisting of a stage full of American flags. It is available online and is highly recommended to anyone who doubts that Hillary and her entourage are as nutty as fruitcakes in their own way, more than eager to assume the mantle of American global military dominance without any hesitation or reservations.
When Welch and Wagner expressed surprise at the Democrats embracing such a chauvinistic display, Frank explained emphatically though somewhat oddly that the speech by Allen and the rhythmic chanting of U-S-A U-S-A by the audience that accompanied it were all due to Donald Trump, who has embraced that vicious thug and “one of the worst men in the world” Vladimir Putin. The highly charged nationalistic Democratic crowd reaction was per Franks both a warning about Trump and a direct challenge to Putin to keep his hands off those wonderful little democracies springing up everywhere in Eastern Europe. Trump’s “encouragement” of Putin, per Franks, has made the United States complicit in Putin’s “brutality” and the Democrats were responding to that challenge.
When Cornel West attempted to object to the militarism implicit in the Allen speech and interject the failed project represented by Libya into the discussion Maher and Frank made sure that everyone understood that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was also a “horrible dictator” and thug who fully deserved to be overthrown and subsequently killed by having a bayonet inserted in his anus. If Hillary Clinton had been present she might have added with a laugh, “We came, we saw, he died.”
So this is what passes for progressive thought on war and peace as seen by the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank and Bill Maher. I would prefer to describe it as Democratic Party Derangement Syndrome. And, of course, there is a back story to it all that Maher chose to avoid. The chanting of U-S-A was apparently organized by Hillary’s team on the Democratic National Committee, which clearly connived at rigging the nomination process in favor of Clinton before focusing on marginalizing and silencing Bernie Sanders’ supporters at the convention. That the “Bernies” would stage a significant and disruptive demonstration on the convention floor was particularly feared. There were white noise speakers placed inside the hall to make incomprehensible unauthorized chanting while Bernie supporters had their signs taken away from them before entering the venue. It has also been reported that many Bernie delegates coming back to the convention hall on the second day found that their seats had disappeared, being replaced by blocked off reserved seating where no one was actually allowed to sit.
When Allen got well into his speech and his message became clear, Bernie supporters began to chant “No More War.” The technicians running the light and sound for the event immediately followed their instructions and killed the lights and microphones in the area where the chanting was coming from so that the media present around the floor would be unable to film the disruption. Meanwhile Clinton’s team converged and surrounded the Bernie supporters, holding up previously distributed USA signs to block the protesters from camera view while themselves chanting “U-S-A” to drown the dissidents out. By some accounts, Hillary’s people in the hall were supplemented by an organized group of counter-demonstrators who were in this case responding to instructions on what to do if anyone attempted to disrupt the proceedings. If all of that is true it was a shameful episode, reminiscent of what was done to Ron Paul at the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa.
And there is also a bit of a back story on retired Marine Corps General John Allen. Allen, one recalls, became mired in the same security investigation regarding the mishandling of classified information that brought down philandering CIA Director and former General David Petraeus. And, ironically, Allen’s own path to an early retirement was the result of an email problem, curiously reminiscent of the issues that have plagued the woman he has so enthusiastically endorsed for President of the United States of America.
Allen reportedly became heavily involved with someone else’s wife, in this case Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Kelley, an “honorary ambassador” to U.S. Central Command, hosted numerous parties at her waterside mansion for the CENTCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command senior officers, including both Allen and Petraeus. While subsequently serving in Afghanistan as commander in chief, Allen’s many hundreds of “inappropriate emails” to Kelley cost him both his job and his expected nomination to become the commander of U.S. military forces in Europe (EUCOM).
The investigation of Allen’s email contact with Kelley did not result in any formal charges by the military but he was forced to resign his commission in February 2013. Obama subsequently rewarded the feckless Allen with an appointment as Special President Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in 2014, a position he held until October 2015. He was largely unsuccessful in that role, witnessing on his watch the conquest of much of Syria and Iraq by ISIS. He now has a sinecure position at the Brookings Institution in its Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, and apparently came to Hillary’s attention when he rounded up a group of military retreads who were willing to support her for president.
Bill Maher’s Real Time is certainly real, but it is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with the American media. It has plenty of one-liner joking, laughter and mugging for the camera but is astonishingly light on content and heavy on pretense. In the episode I watched, it largely consisted of saying Donald Trump followed by either a laugh line or an expression of disgust. Serious discussion regarding what Trump is saying about out of control immigration, endless wars in the Middle East and why a reset of relations with Russia is imperative appear to be of no interest.
The Donald Trump candidacy might well be regarded as a joke by many of the punditry but Hillary Clinton is arguably worse in that while The Donald has undeniably said terrible things she has actually been the driving force behind some horrific policies, most notably regarding Libya and Syria. And then there is her persistent dishonesty and readiness to lie to conceal her mendacity. She continues to dissimulate about her emails, saying in a recent interview that “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.” That is a lie from top to bottom and one has to wonder why Real Time with Bill Maher doesn’t seem interested in giving a little equal time to that story if only as a brief respite from his incessant pillorying of Donald Trump.