Man, this strike stance is getting harder and harder to adhere to. Bill Maher has made it unbearable.
As commenter phric wrote on the HBO Real Time website, "It seems like shopping at Wal-Mart and feeling bad that I'm hurting the community."
Last week Maher became the last of the late nighters to cross the line, and immediately, the line he crossed became even murkier than what was wrought with the other shows. Not because his HBO Real Time isn’t a Writers Guild signatory, but because the show’s structure more befits a news, non-written show.
I’ve been pretty adamant that a strike is a strike and when you cross the line at a signatory, you’ve crossed the line.
But let’s just say I never said that.
Give him and his producers credit. Last week Bill didn’t try to carve out the same show Real Time had been with his usual writing staff. No "New Rules." No mid-show funny pictures and captions. Except for the monologue, that perhaps revealed pretty strong evidence he able support team was missing, Bill produced an entertaining and informative hour that offered what we certainly never get in your typical White House Press Conference - a holding of the feet to the fire.
Bill’s panel included White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, journalist and journalist Catherine Crier, entrepreneur/Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, and the extremely brave former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, plus a satellite hookup with the only known living conservative satirist, P.J. O'Rourke.
While most WH press secretaries get to deliver the boss’s line with reporter followup limited to one, "c’mon Tony..." Friday night exposed Snow’s defending the administration comments to a barrage of the facts that I surmise most of the 75% of the country not thrilled with this President’s handling of...well, of everything, have been dying to bring up.
The four to one odds facing Snow might have been a bit much - Crier herself would have done nicely - but with the years of the Lord of Loud in talk radio and at Fox pushing out the Right Wing distortion, promoting and protecting White House policy and misdirection that has resulted in so much blood and tears, stacking the deck for sixty minutes seems fair.
Snow: When it comes to the war, everybody – it’s great to be a backseat general, and everybody gets it wrong at the beginning of a war.
That’s been the mantra since the "everybody" Bush got it wrong...dead wrong. How many times did you want to shout back at the TV or radio, "Everybody did not get it wrong! Only the people Bush decided to listen to, got it wrong!"
I once pondered the idea that during each White House Press Conference, one ordinary American got to ask a question and a followup. Well, last Friday night Bill and the Real Time panel provided that opportunity...in spades.
MAHER: What does that mean? "Everybody…"
SNOW: What I’m saying is that anybody who tries to say, "I knew exactly what was going to happen" at the beginning of a war on the ground, they’re wrong. It’s simply impossible.CRIER: They told us we’d be greeted with hearts and flowers. They – they told us exactly what would happen. They were sure they knew.MAHER: Well, wait, there were people who said we need more troops. That was not exactly something you needed Kreskin to see.
CRIER: Including the generals.SNOW: You have a debate – it wasn’t all generals, Catherine.CUBAN: What about when they dismissed the Iraqi military?
SNOW: No, they didn’t. Actually, they didn’t. That was one of the problems is that they all melted away.
CUBAN: They dismissed them! They said, "We don’t need you anymore."
SNOW: The problem – they said they dismissed them, but they were already gone.
CRIER: Bremer didn’t dismiss them?
CUBAN: Where did they go? They couldn’t get paid. They had no food. They had no money. They had nowhere else to go. And we said we weren’t going to pay them.Everytime Snow threw out a talking point, the panel, speaking for so many of us who had no say for so many years, knocked it out of the doublespeak park.MAHER: And there were people, lots of people, who said to the president way back, "You have to have security first." He dismissed that notion. And again I say to you, people died while he got on-the-job training.
Snow explained how the system works.
SNOW: ...the president says to the people who are in charge at the Pentagon – and there are debates. And, guess what? When people lose a debate and then they’re vindicated later on, they say, "I told him!" But the fact is, they had a debate with plenty of people on both sides. He ended up trusting the people who were in charge. If they made wrong decisions, that’s something you learn from. Yes, I know that people died. But on the other hand, you can sit around and be snarky, you can sit around and second guess. If you’ve got the way to win on the ground right now, please dispatch it right away. We’d love to hear it.
Me: (Not on the panel, but feeling like it): Yeah, and you’ll listen to me like you listened to General Shinseki.
CUBAN: Do you think the American people are fully informed to make complete decisions about whether this is a good war or a bad war?SNOW: I think it’s impossible for anybody to get their arms around the whole thing. Anybody.
CUBAN: Including the administration.
SNOW: Including you, me, yeah.See, if you get to ask the real questions, sooner or later, even this administration ends up slipping in an honest answer.
And finally, Bill pulled it all together to tie the ominous tone of the WGA strike to ominous tone of the White House.
MAHER: What I do not love – is the atmosphere that has taken a grip on this town, an atmosphere of witch-hunts and threats. And that’s coming from the union, and I don’t like that. And, you know what? I’ll make an analogy, because writers live by analogies; they are the life blood of a lot of good writing – when liberals – and most of the people who are in the union, I would imagine, are liberals – when liberals criticized the conduct of the Iraq war and questioned whether that was the right move to fight the war on terror and questioned the way it was fought, the Bush Administration tried to conflate that position with saying that you don’t support the troops. And that was a lie then; it is a lie now.
Whew. Right or wrong, Bill brought it home with the on deadly reality that makes his voice ever necessary, strike or no.
In a deference to writers, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert renamed their shows, A Daily Show and The Colbert (non- French accentuated) Report.
My recommendation to Bill is to shelf Real Time and just begin a new show, "Real Thyme*," a spicy news and interview show. That way I can actually enjoy Maher’s piercing the White House wall of disinformation without undo adaja.
Tonight will be the second strike show. Short of bypassing HBO and Bill bringing it door to door, it will be another crossing-the-strike-line hour.
Anyone know if Walmart has a deal on a 50" flat screen so I can watch it?
*Knowing Bill, that won't be thyme he'll be cooking with.
Steve Young is an award-winning WGA writer who doesn't expect to get hired on staff at Real Time....even after the strike is over (www.greatfailure.com)