Friday, May 24, 2013

Bill Maher: A Principled Liberal or Partisan Worshipper?

Bill Maher recently tweeted "PS, doesn't Obama have anyone on staff to toss hecklers? If you shut up lady, he's ANSWERING UR QUESTION! Maybe ONE more drone strike..."  He was referring to Medea Benjamin's interruption of President Obama on his speech this Thursday the 23rd of May.  What was Medea asking though?  She asked...

“Can you tell the Muslims that their lives are as precious as our lives?  Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activity? Will you compensate the families of innocent victims you have killed?”

Nothing like this is being asked to or answered by the president.  The speech Obama gave essentially seemed to address very little specifically, but was meant to defend his use of drone strikes and assure everyone that everything in the land of the free was just and right.  For instance...

"We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set."
"So doing nothing’s not an option."
"I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as president, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out."

The speech was an argument for ending traditional boots on the ground warfare and validating the drone program.  When Medea Benjamin interrupted the president she did so because she said,

"Sitting at the back of the auditorium, I hung on every word the president said. I kept waiting to hear an announcement about changes that would represent a significant shift in policy. Unfortunately, I heard nice words, not the resetting of failed policies... The bulk of the president’s speech was devoted to justifying drone strikes. I was shocked when the president claimed that his administration did everything it could to capture suspects instead of killing them. That is just not true. Obama’s reliance on drones is precisely because he did not want to be bothered with capturing suspects and bringing them to trial. Take the case of 16-year-old Pakistani Tariz Aziz, who could have been picked up while attending a conference at a major hotel in the capital, Islamabad, but was instead killed by a drone strike, with his 12-year-old cousin, two days later...  When the president was coming to the end of this speech, he started talking about Guantánamo. As he has done in the past, he stated his desire to close the prison, but blamed Congress. That’s when I felt compelled to speak out. With the men in Guantánamo on hunger strike, being brutally forced fed and bereft of all hope, I couldn’t let the president continue to act as if he were some helpless official at the mercy of Congress.“Excuse me, Mr. President,” I said, “but you’re the Commander-in-Chief. You could close Guantánamo tomorrow and release the eighty-six prisoners who have been cleared for release.”

Whether or not this type of political action or resistance to those in power is really effective is not in question, but rather the point is that we should respect those who stand up for those who are being done injustice.  Maher's response albeit in jest, was not only not funny, but actually provides some light into a subject that I've been wondering more and more about myself; Is Maher even a liberal anymore?  It has been argued that Obama is not a liberal and to the right of President Ronald Reagan.  However, Maher himself argued that Obama isn't actually a liberal and is "unhappy with Obama."

So why then would Maher give $1 million dollars to Obama's Super PAC for the 2012 election?  His argument is essentially that he's better than those "bat shit crazy" GOP Republicans, and that's about all Bill Maher is willing to stand up for.  In fact on a previous episode of Real Time Bill actually supported Obama's drone policy saying to Ariana Huffington that, "you'd do the same thing" if she was president when she brought up civilians being "killed again and again."  To which Avik Roy responded, "I wish you were saying that 6 years ago."  The reason was perhaps that Maher didn't support Bush's war on terror yet seems to support Obama in his war on terror.  It's funny that a guy who gets fired over saying "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly," in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks has reversed his position to essentially to "some people need killing" and "That's not to say that all drone strikes are bad."  There's not a lot of difference between lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away and ordering drone strikes and it's not like Obama has pulled using cruise missiles from the arsenal.  After all a cruise missile strike aimed to kill Awlaki was launched and killed 52 civilians before every "charge" Obama levied against Awlaki in his speech.

So if Maher is convinced Obama isn't even a liberal and yet he donates a million dollars to his campaign then I think we can finally put to bed the idea of Maher being a liberal.  He is now a partisan hack.  Maher supports the policies he once used to criticize simply because he has tied himself to a party and a president that are not principled themselves.  The response to people questioning Obama now is simply to shut up because of course Obama is "rethinking policy".  The idea that killing innocent people abroad being cowardly or even wrong is no longer up for debate, but simply it's a "bad world" now so we have to do bad things.  This is another prime example of Degenerative Party Syndrome that is destroying not only any semblance of a liberal opposition to the neo-conservative policies of the Bush era, but enabling it.  There is no question that without a Democrat in the president's office these policies would be unsupported by Maher and every other Democratic pundit.  

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