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James Lileks shows how little he thinks of Bill Maher.

Thursday, September 20, 2007
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HH: Joined now by James Lileks of www.lileks.com. You can read everything you want about James there or at www.buzz.mn. James, what do you make of Maher’s comments?

JL: Oh, why do I have to think one second about that little twerp? I can’t look at him without seeing some sort of dissolute alcoholic version of Speedy Alka Seltzer. 40 years ago, guys like that would be ranting in a small club in Greenwich Village while somebody in the corner played the bongos, and the place smelled of reefer smoke. And now, he’s got himself a spot late night on HBO, and says what he says, and I don’t have to listen or particularly care. It’s, if nothing else, he’s made his, he’s helped the contributions that the hard left has made to our culture in the last few years, contributions such as if an election is lost, it must have been stolen. And if a military officer speaks, he must be lying. That’s such a dear, old, familiar trope from the Vietnam War, it must warm the cockles of their collective heart, emphasis on collective, to see that that old Vietnam idea, the lying general, is back with them again. No, enough of him. I’ve wasted breath just in this little segment.

HH: I don’t want to let him go, because he’s not the problem. The problem is the Situation Room and Drew Carey. By that, I mean why does Wolf, who’s a good journalist, though he may be left of center, care to book him, and why does Drew Carey care to appear with him?

JL: Well, it’s just that small, little world of the chattering nabobs, if you will. I mean, they’ve got their rolodexes, and if you’re on a television show, and you’re on one of the webs, you get on these things. You just get rotated in and out. It must have popped up in their little tickler file that it was time to have Bill Maher on to say something stupid again, and there he is. I know, I’m with you, too. I would prefer that we actually have a culture that didn’t marinate in this sort of bitter defeatism, but it’s simpatico to a certain extent with what they want to put out, and how they see the world. So there it is.

HH: What is the attraction, though? He’s not funny, he’s not smart, it’s not original, what…

JL: I’ll tell you what it is, I’ll tell you, Hugh, he speaks truth to power, don’t you know, and I’m sure that that’s his selling point. Now he used to be a comedian. He actually used to be a comedian, compared to somebody like Dennis Miller, who Dennis came out of the closet on his own particular political beliefs, but managed to remain funny.

HH: Yup.

JL: And as angry and as dark as I’ve heard Dennis Miller on some of his political rants on his radio show, he’s still funny, and he’s also got more intellectual incandescence than Maher would ever have if he packed ten Spock brains into his small skull at once. So yeah, you don’t have to lose your sense of humor when you go political, but there’s something about Maher that just got twisted and bitter and dark and compacted. And it’s never a personality that I found particularly attractive, and now with the humor of his act gone, it’s really something I don’t spend a lot of time on.

HH: Did you ever listen to Lenny Bruce? People made that…they don’t make it anymore, I think, because they revere only Bruce’s memory. But was he this repugnant?

JL: He was more interesting. He was a little bit more, he was more hepped up, shall we say. He was throwing so much stuff at you that there was something in there bound to tickle your funny bone. Toward the end, when he sat on the stage and read excerpts of his trial, he was in Maher territory. But at his best, he was funnier than Maher, yeah.

HH: Okay, now let’s go to the debate today…well first, Michael Totten, I had him on today. Your reaction to his dispatch?

JL: Oh, it’s just extraordinary stuff. Without the web, we wouldn’t know. And you know, give him credit when he was saying the journalists who were out there, they are looking for the story of the moment, and that’s true. But what is 60 Minutes going to do? Is 60 Minutes going to do the story that Totten just did? Or are they more likely to do an interview with somebody who says that the 787’s are going to crash, or that Dan Rather was owed $70 million dollars because of the lawsuit that he’s filing? I mean, it’s a question of priorities. That ought to be a story that we’ve seen, that some of the major networks have taken the time to do the boring stuff, because the boring stuff is actually the important stuff, too.

HH: But wouldn’t you watch a doc…or even 20 seconds or five minutes of cameras in Ramadi not getting blown up?

JL: Yeah, not getting blown up, and the kids coming up, picture, Mr., picture, Mr. That stuff is fascinating. And it tells you the whole hearts and mind narrative that we supposedly lost. If they put that on the evening news, of course, they’d be accused of being shills for the administration, because the real narrative, as we know, is defeat and withdrawal.

HH: How frustrated are the Democrats tonight because they’ve tried again, and they ain’t got the votes, and their never going to get the votes until after the elections, if then, of November, 2008?

JL: Well, they’ve got to be pretty frustrated, but you know, on the other hand, as long as they keep trying, that’s a little sot to be thrown to the base to say we’re trying to lose as hard as we can. Give us some help here. It’s extraordinary. I read an interview today with Representative Keith Ellison. And Keith Ellison said essentially that we’ve lost, and that there was nothing that the military can do, nothing. And he said that a couple of weeks ago in the interview, and I was just thinking of Totten’s piece when I was reading that transcript of the Ellison interview, because there obviously is something that the military can do, and that’s rescue a town from fiends, and give kids a chance at an actual life. But in Ellison’s world, that is impossible. And it’s not just impossible, it didn’t happen. So I mean, the disconnect between those two particular worldviews is just stunning, and they’re irreconcilable at this point, unfortunately.

HH: Well, that is also, it brings me to a point with about a minute and a half left, it’s a big one, but the left and the right have so divided over what they see and what they believe to be true that the vote next year, no one should have trouble making up their mind, period.

JL: No, they shouldn’t, and that’s the problem. I’m sort of worried about…well, let me put it this way. I saw a car today with two bumper stickers. One bumper sticker said impeach now, and it was actually parked, so I got to look at the fine print, because there’s nothing like a bumper sticker with fine print to get the message across in traffic. And it said impeach now, only you can prevent war against Iran, as though Iran was just simply this lone little planetoid out there in no particular orbit, that we for no reason whatsoever were going to decide to whack. The other bumper sticker said think outside the box, and the box on the bumper sticker was the United States. Now I thought the likelihood of that person driving this car to think inside the box, in as much as he or she blamed the United States for nearly every ill in the world, is quite likely, and that anybody who’s thinking inside the box, it’s the person who sees us as the sole bad actor, and fears, somehow, that poor, innocent, little Iran is going to get whacked and deprived of its toys. That’s the sort of person who I don’t necessarily think is going to be making a decision about international politics that has the long term strategic interests of the country at hear.

HH: But we know how they’re going to vote. We know how that…

JL: Oh, we know very well, and Bill Maher is grinning and applauding as we speak at the very thought of it.

HH: But I have to think there are enough people who want to survive in the middle, James, who will not go there. Do you have any concurrence with me on that?

JL: Yes, I do. If you’re a hoping and praying man, you have to.

HH: Thank you, sir. www.lileks.com.

End of interview.

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