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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bill Maher

Aired February 12, 2009 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher is back and we've got him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Oh, you bet you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he laying off President Obama after laying into President Bush?

Who's he laughing at now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: It's a new guy who is willing to mow your lawn for cheap -- your broker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We can't wait to hear what he thinks about the octuplets mother, bailouts, banks and bonds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Now can we legalize pot?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, did he really call (INAUDIBLE) a terrorist?

Bill Maher mouths off. And he's taking your calls now on LARRY KING LIVE.

We love to have you on. It's been too long between visits.

He's back. Bill Maher, he's the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." By the way, that show returns Friday, February 20 -- a week from tomorrow -- a new time, live at 10:00 Eastern. It will also air at 10:00 on the West Coast on HBO.

A big story today, Bill. I wonder your reaction to it. Judd Gregg, the senator from New Hampshire, says I will take the job. They do a beautiful little press conference. And the president announces how close they've been through the years without agreeing. And now he quits today. (INAUDIBLE)... MAHER: I was crushed because, you know, having found out who Judd Gregg was two days ago, the idea that now I'm not going to have him to talk about was just devastating to me. Judd Gregg. Wow!

Yes, whatever was my reaction. And I'm not...

KING: Well, why do you -- why would you think he took it and then didn't take it?

MAHER: Well, because it's a big Washington job. I think it probably was a pay increase and a status increase and I'm in the cabinet. And then I guess his Republican friends got to him -- you know, like the mob.

But, you know, I think Obama is learning and he certainly is the smartest guy we've had there that I can remember. But there's always a learning curve.

And I think what he's learning, first of all, is that there's no such thing as a moderate Republican anymore, is there?

KING: Yes, the lady...

MAHER: ...from Maine.

MAHER: Yes. There's three. Right. There's three of them -- Olympia Snowe and then her...

KING: Arlen Specter...

MAHER: ...her colleague and Arlen Specter. That's three out of a Congress of 535. That's pretty amazing, isn't it?

So I think what Obama has to do is adjust to that. And this is part of that learning process. And I think he probably shouldn't have offered so much, for example, in the stimulus package right away. He offered what they wanted -- the tax cuts, which really are not stimulus. And he should have said from the beginning, look, I won the election, OK? We're going do it my way now. We tried that idea -- that tax cuts solve every problem. We had that. And that's what got us into this mess.

Because now he's in a situation where he offered the tax cuts before any negotiating took place and they threw him the back of his hand. So now that when they got the compromise on whatever it was, there's still like 35 percent tax cuts in there.

KING: So, overall, how is he doing, in this short period of time, with some goofs he's made?

There's one he even called.

MAHER: Yes. He's -- well, I mean, considering the alternative, he's doing fantastic. And he's a pleasure to watch. I just watched him there talking about Lincoln. I mean he can put a sentence together. He's eloquent and he's -- he's unflappable. I mean, he's so cool and calm.

Is he on Xanax?

I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: ...sometimes I wonder about this guy. I wish my broker was that calm.

KING: Do you think he's going to solve this economic problem?

MAHER: Well, he can't personally solve anything. I mean, he needs a partner in the American people. That's -- that's the big question, I think, that's before America is, you know, does he have a partner?

Can we call it upon ourselves to do what we need to do to dig ourselves out of this mess, because there really isn't a shovel big enough.

I mean this is a mess like -- and I don't think they're telling us really how -- how bad it is. I think that's why Geithner was so vague the other day when he presented his plan, because I think he just didn't want to say it's even worse, because I think there would be more of a panic than there is.

KING: You think it's worse than...

MAHER: I think there's every possibility that that's possible. And certainly most economists don't think that this stimulus plan, as it's passed, is nearly big enough. I thought it was interesting he was -- he mentioned Darwin, you know, and...

KING: All in the same day as Lincoln.

MAHER: I think only -- I read the other day, I think only four in 10 Americans believe in evolution. It's still not a very bright country, Larry. And I think it was interesting because he -- Obama has made the point recently that although politicians are disagreeing about the stimulus package and whether we should spend money -- government money now, really, economists don't. And it reminded me the way politicians for years, when they talked about evolution, said well, people disagree.

Yes, people disagree. Scientists don't disagree on evolution. There's a consensus among scientists, just as there's a consensus, really, among economists now that the government has to spend a lot of money.

KING: Donald Trump, the other night here, said we're in a recession. They're not calling it that, but that's what it is.

Do you agree?

MAHER: I don't know. He would know better, because I'm always depressed when I watch him. (LAUGHTER)

MAHER: No, I mean, I don't know.

A depression?

No, I don't think so. But I certainly -- I'm ready to revive the songs of the Depression, Larry, if that happens.

(SINGING) Once I built a Web site, made it run...

KING: "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?"

MAHER: That's right.

How many people do you think remember that, Larry?

KING: That was a great song, though.

MAHER: It was.

Who sang that?

(INAUDIBLE) or Jolson or one of those...

KING: One of the -- one of the -- Cantor, Jolson -- one of that group.

MAHER: One of those old Jews.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: In black face, probably.

KING: What happened to Tom Daschle?

MAHER: Oh, I heard he didn't get that job.

KING: I know, but the tax thing.

MAHER: I don't know. Apparently, Obama doesn't know anybody who pays their taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: I mean this is the biggest stumble he's made so far, was I'm starting off with a clean, new administration, new ethics. And then nobody pays taxes.

You know, it's a shame. But, again, I think he's learning. First of all, I think the good lesson there is that no one person is indispensable. You know, somehow this guy Geithner was the one we had to have as Treasury secretary. And he looked not like he was ready for prime time yesterday.

Tom Daschle was the only one who could do health care. It's nonsense. You know, not any one person. Everybody has a different style. But somebody will get health care done if they can get, I guess, Republicans to come on board. And I think what Obama is doing now, going around the country, that's what he needs to do -- put pressure on this Republican Party, where there are no moderates. They don't -- they just don't get it, that we have moved on from their old way of

KING: He doesn't need their votes, does he?

MAHER: Well, apparently...

KING: I mean if he gets the 60...

MAHER: Well, he needed the three in the Senate, didn't he?

KING: Yes, he needed them.

MAHER: You know, I hope that they're looking at what he's doing, because he's going to Republican areas. He went to Indiana -- a Republican district. He went to Florida. When he read that on stage: "The stimulus package passed," they all cheered.

You know, the people, I think, are on his page. And, you know, I think we need one more election to get rid of some of these moss backs who just don't get it. I mean they're taking their orders -- their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. He is effectively the head of the Republican Party right now.

KING: Did you call him a traitor?

MAHER: I so didn't.

What -- how do these things get going?

He's the one who said I'm rooting for Obama to fail.

KING: Right.

MAHER: What I said is if you're rooting for the American president to fail, you might be with the terrorists. Remember, they said he was with the terrorists and palling around with terrorists.

Yes, I would say that that's probably what Osama bin Laden is rooting for -- Obama to fail.

KING: Do you think...

MAHER: So I'm just saying Rush and Obama are on the same page.

KING: Do you think Republicans follow Rush?

MAHER: Who else are they following?

I think they're absolutely following Rush. And that's how clueless that party is. They looked to find the future and they found radio. (LAUGHTER)

KING: The octuplets and their mother. You know Bill has something to say about them. And that's the thing you've been saying the most you want to hear from him.

It's ahead.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)

JAY LENO, HOST: And that woman there in California who just had the eight kids and has six more at home, well, today Tom Daschle proposed to her. He's not in love, he just -- just needs the deductions. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, while you were applauding that joke, another Obama nominee dropped out. Sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)

LENO: Did you ever notice that when Barack Obama nominates someone, the first thing they do is pay their taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

LETTERMAN: But here's how it works. And I was shocked. I was stunned. We don't expect Democrats to cheat on their taxes. No, we expect Democrats to cheat on their wives. That's how this is supposed to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher.

His -- also, by -- oh, his movie, "Religulous" is out on DVD. It will be out next week. It's, of course, directed by Larry Charles. And there you see its cover. "Religulous" will be available next week, the Bill Maher... MAHER: Finally, for all the people who could not see it.

KING: Who could not. Those who missed...

MAHER: Well, some -- well, you know, so many parts of the country would not play it. I read so many...

KING: Really?

MAHER: ...MySpace messages that said I would love to see your movie, but it's not playing for anywhere 300 miles away.

KING: What happened to the First Amendment?

MAHER: Well...

KING: Anyway...

MAHER: (INAUDIBLE) right, Larry.

KING: Is this true?

MAHER: What?

KING: I read this -- you are making -- you and Ann Coulter are making joint appearances March 9th, Radio City Music Hall...

MAHER: Yes.

KING: March 10th, the Wang Center in Boston.

MAHER: That's right.

KING: March 11th, the Chicago Theater.

MAHER: Right.

KING: What are you going to do, dance?

MAHER: No. It's...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Have you ever heard of celebrity death match, Larry?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What is the format?

MAHER: No, the format -- I've done this before. It's a speaker series. I did it with, I think, Bill Kristol one year. I did it with the late Tony Fox, my friend. Not Tony Fox. The one who was the press secretary...

KING: Tony...

MAHER: Tony Snow.

KING: Snow.

KING: Tony fox was my publicist (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Tony Snow. That's right. It's a -- it's a nice thing. It's a...

KING: What happens?

MAHER: Each of us speaks for about 20 minutes, I think. And then we come on stage together. I believe there's a moderator. And we wrestle to the death.

No, I think it's going to be a lot of fun because I really have not talked to Ann in years.

KING: She used to be on your show.

MAHER: Oh, I made her famous.

KING: (INAUDIBLE).

MAHER: She was the most frequent guest on "Politically Incorrect." Thank you, everyone.

KING: What was...

MAHER: Thank you, America.

KING: What brought (INAUDIBLE)...

MAHER: I mean, you're welcome, America.

KING: What broke it up?

What -- why is she no longer?

MAHER: Well, I think -- well, nothing. We've asked her to be on. I mean she's often on deadlines. She's writing -- she writes a lot.

KING: What do you think of her?

MAHER: You know, I used to be very good friends with her. It will be interesting to -- to get old times back together again and see her. And I hope we're still friends. I have no idea what's in her mind. I don't. I tell you, I haven't talked to her in years. But I hope we're still friends and we can have a...

KING: Are you surprised at how sudden -- at how politically that far she's gone?

I think that's safe to say. MAHER: Yes, I mean -- yes, I am. I mean we never agreed on anything. I mean, we would argue about the color of the sky. But when we were friendly, you know, just hanging out and having drinks -- we didn't date.

Could I get that straight?

I mean people always say you had an affair. No, it was just a friendship.

But we had a great deal of fun because she was someone who understood that, like a lot of friends, if there's places you disagree, you just don't go there.

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Just why talk about the stuff you know we're not going to agree on?

KING: The public -- we asked the public before to send in what they want to -- let us -- blog us what they want to hear you talk about.

MAHER: Wow!

KING: Number one...

MAHER: Yes?

KING: ...is the eight kids.

MAHER: Well, I can never (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: What do you make of the story?

MAHER: I can never see that movie "Octopussy" again.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And it was my favorite Bond film. You know, I'm against it, Larry. I mean I'm not for indiscriminate spawning, for whatever reason. I'm not crazy when people are...

KING: Indiscriminate spawning.

MAHER: Right.

KING: Abreva (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: I'm not crazy when people have two kids. But, it's...

KING: Oh, no.

(LAUGHTER) MAHER: It's so ridiculous, you know. And our ideas about life and death and procreation are so all over the map...

KING: But it's a free country.

MAHER: Yes, but, not -- well, it's a somewhat free country. Ask Michael Phelps if it's a truly free country. It's freer than most. Yes. I'm not asking for the check.

But, you know, for this person, I would just, first of all, make the point that if enabling procreation is our only criterion, why not cloning?

If it's just about getting as -- just getting as many infant mouths in the world, then I don't see why we couldn't do that, either. This is certainly as unnatural -- you know, I hear a lot of this it's a miracle from God. It's a miracle from Pfizer and some very nice people in lab coats and turkey basters and you know...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: It is miraculous, but I don't think it has anything to do with, you know, the Almighty. I don't really believe in...

KING: Let me get a break and we'll pick up on this.

And you mentioned our friend the swimmer. Well, you didn't mention him by name, but...

MAHER: Michael Phelps?

KING: You did mention the bong.

Bill is taking your calls and answering your comments. Go to CNN.com/larryking and click on blog.

We'll be back in 60 seconds with Bill Maher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher.

And don't forget, by the way, Bill will be doing standup at a place he's worked for a long time, Universal City's Gibson Amphitheater on March 28th. It's a great.

MAHER: The Universal Amphitheater.

KING: A great, great room.

MAHER: It's a great room, yes.

KING: A great venue.

MAHER: Yes. Yes.

KING: And it's a great spot for you.

MAHER: Big surprises.

KING: OK. Would you do any -- would you -- what would you say to this woman of the eight?

MAHER: The octo mom?

KING: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: The octo mom.

MAHER: Well, I probably couldn't speak to her because I heard the other day on the news her publicist -- and I was like, her publicist?

KING: What (INAUDIBLE) she has a publicist?

MAHER: Well, people who have a lot of children, why is that a criteria to have a publicist?

OK, she has a publicist. And she's looking to get endorsements. Yes, kitty litter is...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: ...is going to be -- I don't know.

I would say what is wrong with you?

You know, I mean there's such a thing as a baby addict. I mean you can be addicted to a lot of things. But if you want 14 toddlers running around you, I mean that -- that's, to me, that's a weird fetish. It just is. It's just -- it's just not normal.

KING: You've long been a proponent of legalization of marijuana.

MAHER: Right.

KING: So this bong story, does it anger you?

MAHER: It does anger me.

KING: Because?

MAHER: It angers me that nobody who ever gets "caught" smoking marijuana has the guts to just stand up and say, excuse me, I'm not going to apologize. I didn't do anything wrong. The scandal isn't that I got caught with a bong. The scandal is that I have to hide having a bong, that the one drug that never killed anybody and that is more benign that almost anything in the supermarket or the pharmacy is the one that's illegal.

KING: Or the liquor store. MAHER: Certainly the liquor store. Absolutely. So, you know, this is a guy who, first of all, who -- who deserves to just sit back and have a bong more than Michael Phelps?

I mean, for the last eight years, he's done nothing but marinate in chlorine.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: You know how dangerous a drug chlorine is?

That is a really nasty chemical, chlorine. That's why drinking water is bad. It really is. Because it's just bad -- chlorine is bad for you. And he's been just in it.

KING: So his swimming was worse than his bong?

MAHER: Absolutely. And certainly anything made by Kellogg's -- you know, I was on Jay's show the other night and I was kind of ragging on Kellogg's. And people said, oh, you're kind of hard on Kellogg's.

KING: They banned him.

MAHER: All right, let me...

KING: They stopped his...

MAHER: Let me broaden it out. It's not just Kellogg's. It's everything on the, probably, on the plate for the all-American breakfast is probably not good for you. But certainly Fruit Loops. You know, a lot of kids in America have diabetes now and it's not because they're smoking marijuana.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be right back...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: ...with more of...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: He has a unique way of looking at things.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

LETTERMAN: Strange weather today. I mean it was warm and cloudy. It was like an Alex Rodriguez urine sample.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)

LENO: The economy is so bad, A-Rod had to switch from steroids to Flintstone vitamins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

LOTHIAN: Sonny, it's so nice. Listen to how nice is it. It's so nice outside that Alex Rodriguez was being injected with Jamba Juice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)

LENO: He said he was on performance enhancing drugs, but not all the time. He said he always made sure to get off of them just in time to choke in the post-season so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK, they're giving it pretty rough on the man who apparently doesn't hit in October, but may be the best player ever, A- Rod.

What do you make of that story?

And this is metabolic steroids. This is not pot.

MAHER: Right. Pot, obviously, is not a performance enhancing drug.

KING: Right. The opposite.

MAHER: Although, I think if you're going to take any lesson away from the Michael Phelps story, it's that, obviously, you can smoke pot and still be at the very top of your game.

KING: What about the A-Rod story?

MAHER: He did win 14 Gold Medals.

KING: Yes, right.

MAHER: You know, can you imagine if he had a six-pack every day?

If he...

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Do you think he would have performed at that level?

I don't.

A-Rod -- you know, I happen to be someone who thinks that Americans -- and especially American men -- care a little too much for sports. I mean I'm a sports fan. I watch the play-offs and stuff. But I just think it's so important to their lives whether, you know, they're cheated or not.

Who cares?

First of all, I think that there are so many variables in the game of baseball.

KING: Sure.

MAHER: That...

KING: It's a hard game to play.

MAHER: No, I mean, from era to era. That this idea that, oh, Alex Rodriguez's records and Roger Clemens and whoever else is guilty, we should wipe them out. Barry Bonds now can't be in the Hall of Fame. His records are suspect.

Well, yes, things were different because they took steroids. I don't think that's more than when we didn't have night games...

KING: (INAUDIBLE)

MAHER: Or when there we're not...

KING: It's just (INAUDIBLE) throwing spit balls.

MAHER: Spit balls.

How about that there weren't black people in the game?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: I think that changed things a little.

KING: Right.

MAHER: Or the fact that they used to wear little mittens. I mean it was called a baseball mitt because it was only fitting over your hand.

KING: Yes.

So what does that say we should think about A-Rod?

Should we be angry at him?

Should we feel that he -- while he didn't break a law, then, it was anti -- it was illegal to use anabolic steroids, but not in baseball. MAHER: It's a game. It's an exhibition. It doesn't really mean anything. It's not a news event. It's grown men hitting a ball with a stick. Don't take it so...

KING: You're paining me now.

MAHER: Don't...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Just -- I just think they take it too seriously -- and all sports. I mean, you know, football, I see them coming into the stadium and they're all wearing the jersey of their favorite player. They think they're so macho. Hey, you're wearing another man's shirt.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: That's not very macho to me.

KING: Do you -- so you -- you live in Los Angeles, right?

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: You don't care if Manny Ramirez comes back to the Dodgers?

MAHER: Well, I certainly wouldn't root for the Dodgers. I root for the teams that I grew up with, which is the New York teams.

KING: Oh, so you don't care if he comes back?

MAHER: No. I don't care -- although I liked to watch him play.

KING: Yes.

MAHER: He was interesting in the play-offs. I know you care because you grew up with the Dodgers.

KING: That's correct. And I care because like to see great players perform from my team.

MAHER: Yes, absolutely. But I mean I wouldn't watch baseball during the regular season.

KING: Why not?

MAHER: It's...

KING: It's a great game.

MAHER: It's a little slow.

KING: It's a great game.

MAHER: I had a writer who worked for me once. He had the greatest line. He said, if baseball were any slower, it would be farming.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: That's because he didn't understand it.

MAHER: No...

KING: If you understand it, it's never slow to me.

MAHER: Actually

KING: Never slow.

MAHER: Really?

KING: And those 42,000 fans there every night, it isn't slow to them.

MAHER: Right. Well, they're drinking, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: They're on beer, you know.

KING: All right.

So we -- A-Rod, we forget it. That's OK, nothing...

MAHER: It's not OK. But I just think they make too big a deal of it. And, also, a point I try to make as often as I can, you know, if you're so upset about steroids, you should realize that almost everyone in America is on steroids...

KING: (INAUDIBLE) the time.

MAHER: ...because...

KING: It's a legal drug in many areas -- in many facets.

MAHER: No, I'm saying -- no, because they shoot up the farm animals with steroids.

KING: Oh, in the food they eat.

MAHER: Right. Growth hormone. They're so upset about all the players on growth hormone. You are on growth hormone if you eat chickens or pigs or cows -- any of the factory farm animals in America. You know, a chicken goes from like an egg to your plate in six weeks.

KING: You told me you eat nothing that's sold in the supermarket.

MAHER: Right.

KING: OK.

Bondville, Vermont, as we go to some calls for Bill Maher.

Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill, a question.

MAHER: Yes?

MAHER: Given the fact that our new president has been in office less than a month, what's your sense of what the press might be saying, say, six to nine months from now?

And what do you think world leaders will be saying?

KING: In other words, how is he going to do?

MAHER: How the -- how can I answer that?

KING: Well, but do you...

MAHER: What am I, Kreskin?

What am I, Nostradamus?

In...

KING: Be a predictor.

MAHER: In six to nine months...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: OK.

MAHER: I have no idea what's going to go on in six to nine months. Hopefully, this recovery package, the stimulus package, whatever you want to call it -- I guess they're going to pass that in the next day or two.

KING: Hey (INAUDIBLE)...

MAHER: It will have...

KING: I think they have agreed now on what it's going to be.

MAHER: Right. I mean, I think it's a watered down bill. I mean it's half of an old crappy Bush economic tax cut bill and not enough of what we really need -- the kind of stimulus they were looking for.

So, you know, most economists -- again, you know, the experts, those idiots -- they say it's not big enough. So I thing he's going to have to come back and ask for another bill like that.

But, you know, what's he going to do?

I don't know. I just think Nancy Pelosi should stop saying if this doesn't work completely, throw us out of office in two years.

You know, you and Biden, shut up. You don't always have to be voicing your interior monologue.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Sarah Palin is still around.

Is she good for the country or a few more laughs?

We'll ask Bill after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: New rule, if you still think Obama is a Muslim, you just might be a redneck. A Christian church in South Carolina has a sign out front that says "Obama Osama, hmm, are they brothers." No, in fact, they're not even related, which is more than I can say for the married couples in your church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Bill Maher at his best, on HBO's "Realtime With Bill Maher." The show returns Friday, February 20th at a new time, live at 10:00 Eastern. You can also see it at 10:00 on the West Coast. You can also see it 7:00 on the West Coast. You can also see it 11:00 on the East Coast.

MAHER: Well, 7:00 if you have every HBO channel.

KING: That's right, if you have the whole Direct TV --

MAHER: The whole package.

KING: From our blog at CNN.com/LarryKing, Michael writes, as a supporter of the arts, how do you feel about the recent cuts in funding to education in the stimulus packages affecting music and arts programs in public schools?

MAHER: You're assuming things about me that I don't know. I'm not a supporter of government funding of the arts. I have been for abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts. Government has absolutely no business or need to be funding of the arts. I consider what I do to be an art of types, stand-up comedy.

KING: How about young artists, pianists?

MAHER: How about pianists? They play the piano.

KING: You don't like them in the public schools training? Do you like music courses?

MAHER: I guess it could be part of the curriculum. I took music in school, but that's school. If you're talking about the National Endowment for the Arts, no, I don't agree with that. I don't think --

KING: Because? MAHER: Because it's way out of the purview of government. It's mission creep. It's the very definition of that in government. There's no reason for it. I don't know why government has to do that. First of all, you cannot stop artists. If people want to create, they are going to create. Let the marketplace decide what people want to patronize of that creation. Why should government do it? Why should we spend our money on it?

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for Bill Maher is: what are your thoughts on companies like Merrill Lynch giving out billions of dollars in bonuses despite major losses, and then getting billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money. It seems like we're rewarding bad behavior.

MAHER: To say the least. I think it's disgusting. It makes me so angry, like I think every other American. And for people who are wondering which approach is correct now, Obamas or what the Republicans in Congress are suggesting, it wasn't that long ago -- it was only a few months ago that the Republicans were running the show. And this is what happened.

You know, just a few months ago, it was Bush and Paulson at the wheel. What did they do? They gave all this money to the banks, no regulation, no strings. And these guys just basically stole it. Citibank lost 10 billion dollars in a quarter and they took that as a green light to buy a private jet. They let the foxes guard the hen house. And then the foxes ate the hens. And then we gave them money to go eat at KFC. Go eat some more hens.

KING: Citicorp has named new stadium in New York, where the Mets are housed, like an old Ebbett's Field. It's a beautiful place. They give the Mets 20 million a year.

MAHER: Right.

KING: For many, many years.

MAHER: That's another thing. Why are we subsidizing sports teams, as we do, to build stadiums? Cities always do that. It's a private enterprise. If you want to build a ballpark and put a ball team in there and have people pay to see them, they'll do it. Why should the government be involved in that? We have had this idea for so long in this country that the Republican idea of trust in the goodness of rich people. Just give them all the money. They always do the right thing with it.

How the Republicans at this point can have the nerve to sit up there and talk about how we should run this country financially; who drove the car into the ditch? Talking about fiscal conservatism, they're the ones who in the last eight years gave Bush the Medicare entitlement program. That's a trillion dollars in money that was urgently not needed. The Iraq war, there's another trillion dollars. That's why we don't have money. Bush blew a giant hole in the budget. Who was the last guy to do that before him? It was Reagan. Who is this fantasy fiscally conservative Republican who left the country more fiscally sound than he found it? I think it was Bill Clinton.

KING: Michelle Obama. What does Bill think of our first lady? That's ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Don't forget, "Religulous" goes on sale on DVD next week.

(CROSS TALK)

MAHER: They finally can't stop you from seeing it.

KING: You can get it now, even in South Dakota. What do you think of Michelle Obama?

MAHER: I love her. She's great. I mean, you know, it's so interesting to watch not just her, but him, too. It's so different than what we're used to. They're real. You know, they have this confidence that they don't need a teleprompter. They don't need to have a clack of hired people to talk to.

You know, for years, Bush only talked to the people who weren't onto him, who at some point became only military bases and toddlers. And the toddlers were catching on, Larry. The idea that Obama, the other day, went out and talked in that town hall setting to a crowd of whoever, you know. They weren't hand-picked. They weren't picked by party or, you know, loyalty.

And she's the same way. She's off the cuff. She's real. When you see them together, you know, they have eye contact, as opposed to frozen smiles. You know, when you see them, you don't get the feeling that it's anything different than who they really are. Whereas the last many presidents, you get the feeling, OK, this is the facade; this is what they're putting out in public. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors with George and Laura or Bill and Hillary. But whatever we're seeing in public, it's not what is going on.

These two, I feel like there are some real people there.

KING: Is Sarah Palin going to be a force?

MAHER: I hope so.

KING: You want her to be a force?

MAHER: Of course.

KING: Because you're a comic.

MAHER: Yes, because I'm a comic and because I think she's a real gut-check for that Republican party. A lot of them still like her. OK, if that's the road you want to go down, please go down that road. That's more of the know nothing road, the people you want to have a beer with. And I think this is what we need to find out about her.

KING: She's been critical of some conservatives lately.

MAHER: Really?

KING: Gone against the grain a little, critical of the way she was handled by the McCain campaign.

MAHER: Why doesn't she just go away for a while? She's like a reality show contestant who just lost and they're always like, you know, you haven't heard the end of me. I'm not going. Yes, you are, Sanjaya. Good bye. Just lay low for a while, Sarah.

KING: But she was good for you guys.

MAHER: She was good and she will be good, because I could do an entire program called "Another Thing Sarah Palin Doesn't Know." Because the list just went on and on. She couldn't name a Supreme Court case. She thought Africa was one country. I mean, she made Bush look like a professor, this girl.

KING: What do you make of our friend Joe Biden?

MAHER: Well, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, he needs to, you know, not always speak his mind.

KING: But that's good. You want someone who speaks his mind.

MAHER: Come on, this is politics. It's a rough town. They're going to seize on anything. This is twice now he's done this. He hasn't been vice president long. That 30 percent comment; even if we get everything right, we'll probably get 30 percent of it wrong? What kind of a thing is that to say to inspire confidence?

KING: Joe has been doing that his entire career.

MAHER: Yes, he has, but he has to -- but now he's really on the big stage. And I love Joe. Joe is a frequent guest on our show. And I'm sure now he won't be. That's what happens to our show; once they get their ass up in the tree, they forget about us, because we might ask the tough questions.

KING: Oh, Bill.

MAHER: It's true. You know, Rahm Emanuel used to do our show all the time. I doubt we'll see him again.

KING: What do you like more, performing or hosting "Realtime."

MAHER: That's a hard one. It's like asking what child of mine -- I have children, as you well know -- I like better. I do love stand-up comedy. It's where I started. It's the golden goose from which everything else blows. It's very pure, just me and the audience. I can get stoned for it. No, I'm kidding. KING: I'm guessing Bill has a few choice words about Rod Blagojevich. We'll see in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: David Theall is in Washington with the latest from our blogs. David, what's on folks' minds tonight.

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Bill, Larry, listen, we're all over the place in the blogs tonight. We're talking politics. We're talking Michael Phelps. We're talking octuplets. But most people are talking about the stimulus bill. They're still talking about it.

Jane is one of them. She says this, Larry, "please, please, please stop this madness. I didn't sign on for this pork filled bill. I thought we were getting an infrastructure, green economy and education bill." She asks what's going on.

Allison has a comment for Bill. She says, "I hope Bill continues to be tough even on our new president." She says, "I don't agree with everything he says, but completely agree with his right to say it."

Back to the stimulus bill, Larry, we heard from Doug. We had to include his question. He says, "Larry, Bill, can someone, anyone tell me who will be accountable for the billions paid in this stimulus bill? Politicians, CEOs, contractors, local bureaucrats. Am I really the only one who doesn't trust any of them to do what is right?"

We're going to continue the conversation, CNN.com/LarryKing. Click on the live blog link. Larry?

KING: Thanks, David.

MAHER: First, thanks Alison for backing up my right to speak my mind. I think I don't need you for that. And Jane, who thinks the bill is full of pork, this is a lie. This is just an out and out lie. This is what they get from listening to Rush Limbaugh all day. It's not a pork bill. I loved the other day when Obama was taking McCain to task for calling it a spending bill. He said, yes, duh, that's the point. What do you think a stimulus bill is? It's a spending bill. We're spending money to get the economy going. We knew that going in.

KING: It's not supposed to be a savings bill.

MAHER: It's not a pork bill. That's just something they made up out of thin air.

KING: More with Bill Maher, more of your calls when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: New rule, celebrity colognes must actually smell like the celebrity. Tim McGraw's cologne is, quote, a lush combination of lavender, amber, patchouli (ph) and sandal wood. While the actual Tim McGraw is a spicy combination is beef jerky, Pabst Blue Ribbon and WD- 40. And make way for the newest celebrity cologne, McCain, with its alluring combination of flop sweat, creamed corn and Preparation H.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Bill Maher at his best.

(NEWS BREAK)

MAHER: Let's hurry, Larry, because I do want to see that. I want to hear what Angelina Jolie has to say about that.

KING: Minneapolis call, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry and Bill. My question is, Senator Leahy has said he want to form a commission to investigate crimes that may have happened under the Bush administration. What do you think of that? And did you Vincent Googliosi's (ph) book "The Execution of George W. Bush for Murder."

MAHER: I didn't read it, but I have a table that -- where one leg is shorter. It's under there. It's doing a heck of a job. It was a big text book. I remember I got and I should read it. I won't, but I should.

Of course, he should be prosecuted. If everything was equal, the crimes he committed, yes, certainly deserve that. But I don't think anything is going to go forward, because Obama has made a calculated political decision, which is his job to do, by the way -- I'm not criticizing him for that. I think it's probably the right decision. It's a tough decision, because it sends a terrible message that you can get away with these things. But what could get done -- I mean, look at how bad the situation is now in Washington with the lack of bipartisanship. If they went after Bush, the atmosphere in that town would be absolutely poison, and we are just in too much of a crisis now for that to happen. I think that's his position.

KING: How did this, Bill -- how did this all start, this economy downturn? Was there an incident? What happened?

MAHER: No, I think -- well, first of all, wages have been basically stagnant for 30 years. But this is America. And just because wages are stagnant, people don't think their lives should be. They wanted to continue to have a lifestyle that got better, and so they had to do it on credit. I mean, that's really what happened. You know, the idea that we could continue to have this disparity in wealth, where the rich got richer and everybody else did not advance at all, that was always going to be a ship sailing toward an iceberg.

If you look at the Bush recovery, you know, from 2002 to 2006, it's something like 800 billion something dollars increase in wealth, like three quarters of it went to the top one percent. You know, FDR's Fed chief talked about this during the Depression. He said, when there's an inequality of wealth, it eventually is going to lead to a Depression. He said, it's like a poker game, where more and more wealth goes into the hands of one player, and everybody else has to borrow just to stay in the game. And when their credit runs out, the game's over.

KING: Some people are calling Afghanistan Obama's Vietnam. Do you buy that?

MAHER: It could be. Yes, I've been very critical about him for that. I don't understand why we always have to have a war going. I know wars are great, but we're winding one down. And I guess on the campaign trail, he had to talk up Afghanistan, because otherwise the Democrats would look like wimps not being for any war. But we've been there seven years.

KING: Would you get out of Afghanistan?

MAHER: Maybe not tomorrow. But at a certain point, you have to ask yourselves, do these people want freedom as much as we want it for them? Do they want this? They don't seem to. On top of which, we consider Afghanistan and Pakistan two countries, but they don't, these Pashtun people who live on the border. You know, they're like, oh, great, the British drew a line between these countries 100 years ago. Why didn't Alexander the Great think of that 2,000 years ago when we were kicking his ass? I just don't think we're going to prevail in Afghanistan.

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Could nude photos of Madonna jump-start the economy?

MAHER: Wow! Talk about a tease, Larry.

KING: Talk about breaking news. Wait until you hear this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we get to the Madonna question, which I know you're breathlessly awaiting, Blagojevich, what did you make of that whole story?

MAHER: Well, I think it shows that it's going to take some adjustment to get used to Democratic scandals, right? I mean, when a Republican tried to sell his seat, it was in an airport men's room. That was a lot easier to deal with.

You know, I thought it was blown out of proportion, if you're asking me seriously. Because, wow, they found a corrupt politician in Chicago, gee whiz. And as we were just talking about a minute ago, compared to what Bush did, you know, melting the economy, trying to appoint his cleaning lady to the Supreme Court, the illegal war, you know, all that kind of stuff, you know, but they're not impeaching him. Blagojevich, you know, yes, he did some --

KING: Apparently something.

MAHER: Well, it's on tape. So, yes, they got a corrupt governor. Yes. Well, that was about a thousandth on my priority list.

KING: OK, here it is. Nude Madonna: a nude photo of Madonna sold today for 37,500 dollars. Could that be the start of an economic recovery? You want stimulus in the market.

MAHER: I've got a hint for whoever bought it. She has whole books that she put out where she's nude. You can buy them in the used bin at Barnes & Noble for about 8.50. Who hasn't seen Madonna nude?

KING: Would you pay 37,000? No?

MAHER: No. Not my type.

KING: Not your type?

MAHER: No. I mean, she's a great --

KING: Dick Cheney seems to be -- he was in a wheelchair at the inaugural, and he had that problem. And then he criticizes -- before things get going, he already said that we're not going to be well defended.

MAHER: Well, you know, he had that because they have to defend the policies that they upheld for so many years. And what would be a shame is if there would be a terrorist attack now, because then people would say, oh, well, you see, while Bush was president, we didn't have an attack, I mean, other than 9/11, which was on their watch, and they should have known about. OK, but other than that, that one mulligan, and then we were good for the next eight years. And now look what happened, Obama takes over --

But that's not the way al Qaeda thinks. They plan years in advance. So I don't think anything the Bush administration did in Iraq prevented us from being attacked. If anything, I think that probably increased it, because it took our eye off the ball from where they really always were, which is that area we were just talking about, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

KING: From our blog, Chris writes, "Bill, what is your silver bullet for health care?"

MAHER: Well, eat right would be a good start. Stop eating that crap in the supermarket. I think most health problems are from lifestyle choices. This is something no politician ever talks about, because no politician is going to say, get off the couch; you're fat; you know, ask the doctor if getting off your ass is right for you. But that really is the key to it. People don't catch a cold, they hatch a cold by things they put in their body. We have way too much toxicity and too few nutrients.

KING: Do you get a flu shot?

MAHER: Never. Never.

KING: It's a vaccine against the flu? MAHER: First of all, that's a huge scam. Even if it worked, and I don't believe it does, by the time the actual flu came around, it would have mutated from whatever they shot into you. That is a good example of the corruption --

KING: You eat nothing in a box or in a can?

MAHER: Things that are in boxes or cans generally are not good. But have some peanut butter tonight if you like, Larry.

KING: Is what you eat boring?

MAHER: It probably would be to most people. I'm not a foodie (ph). I will admit, it's a lot easier for me because it's never been what floats my boat is food. But like anybody, I enjoy food. And I think you can have food that's, you know, good for you and tastes --

KING: It's Valentines Day. You like girls better than food?

MAHER: Larry, you have once again silver tongued it. That is the actual truth. And this is the perfect gift for Valentines Day, Larry. You know why? Because religion is not real, but love is.

KING: Thank you, Bill.

MAHER: OK.

KING: Bill Maher. And don't forget, "Realtime" returns a week from tomorrow. The always outspoken Dolly Parton and Hollywood power player Tyler Perry will be here tomorrow. And tune in Saturday, our big Oscar special. A bunch of the nominees will be here, including Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, Ron Howard, Marisa Tomei, and the cast of "Slumdog Millionaire."

Keep up with us anytime, CNN.com/LarryKing. Now we turn it over to my man Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?

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