Bill Maher took to the stage of Real Time in a good mood, touting the news of the Biden administration’s move to pardon all federal offenders who had been convicted of simple possession. “Joe doesn’t know anything about pot,” Maher said. “He thinks THC is that channel that shows all the old movies.” Still, it was in keeping with one of the themes of this season — namely, that Joe Biden has gotten more done than he’s given credit for.
The aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the war between Ukraine and Russia were also topics of discussion; the former prompted Maher to return to another one of his preferred themes of the season, namely, that it was encouraging to see President Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis able to work together on disaster relief and recovery efforts.
Which isn’t to say that Maher held off on referencing either man in jokes at various points in his monologue. This included the aforementioned Biden/THC joke, as well as commentary on DeSantis’s choice in boots.
Chris Wallace, who’s now hosting a show on CNN and HBO Max after many years at Fox News, was Maher’s first guest of the night. The two men discussed a half century of broadcast news — as Maher pointed out, Chris Wallace has been immersed in that world for most of his life. Maher observed that Walter Cronkite, for whom Wallace worked at the beginning of his career, was arguably the last news figure who had near-universal trust.
“It has gotten so siloed,” Wallace observed — speaking of the rise of partisan media over the years. Though Maher countered by arguing that much of the nation’s population wasn’t interested in the news, period. Hearkening back to an earlier time, Maher proposed that one reason that the business of news had changed was its prior role as “a loss leader.”
The two men spoke somewhat candidly about their relationships with their audiences. Maher admitted that he had lost some “woke” viewers and that he hoped that they would return — but he drew the line at changing things just to make them happy. Wallace alluded to his departure from Fox News, but stopped short of being critical of the network’s current direction, preferring to speak about his current show.
Maher was a bit critical of this. Near the end of the segment, Wallace observed that it had sped by. “It goes quickly when you avoid questions,” Maher replied.
Journalist Katty Kay and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined Maher for the night’s panel. Christie shared memories of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and how his bipartisan relief experience there compared to the Biden/DeSantis efforts in the aftermath of Ian. That led to a discussion of whether or not DeSantis would run against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024 — or possibly seek to be his running mate. Christie was skeptical. “You can’t put both of them on the same room, on the same ticket,” he said.
Maher shifted from there to recent reports that there’s been increased talk of a new civil war on various corners of the internet. Kay cited some of the people she’d spoken with who felt that way — including a story about a couple in their 70s who seemed to have planned things out to an alarming extent.
Eventually, Maher returned to the subject of marijuana, quizzing Christie about his staunch opposition to any sort of legalization during his time in office in New Jersey. Christie stood his ground somewhat, and argued for changing the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. That segued into a broader discussion of the flaws inherent to the current system, where fentanyl is effectively considered less harmful than weed. (“Someday, I’m going to get you high, and you’re going to thank me,” Maher told Christie later in the episode.)
Speaking of recurring themes: Maher brought up the case of fired NYU organic chemistry professor Maitland Jones Jr. and the student effort to get him fired. Maher argued that it was a case where “the inmates have taken over the asylum,” and returned to his ongoing frustration with the state of colleges and universities today. Kay argued that parents were responsible here as much as students were.
New Rules involved Maher commenting on a host of recent news items, from Scooby-Doo to Aaron Judge. The bulk of the segment found Maher commenting on the bizarre and alarming phenomenon of candidates for an office in which they will oversee elections who don’t believe in the validity of elections.
It led to one of Maher’s more resonant lines of the night, regarding a candidate in Arizona who had never met a Biden voter. “I’ve never been to a BTS concert, but I believe K-pop exists,” he said. This looped back around to yet another recurring theme of Maher’s — that more people need to engage with other people outside of their ideological bubble.
Wallace returned to the stage for Overtime. Christie said that he wouldn’t rule out another campaign for the Republican nomination — which led Maher to ask whether he thought that he could win in a primary. Kay discussed the Queen’s funeral, which prompted a broader debate over whether or not the United States needed a royal family of its own.
Talk of Russia, Ukraine and the potential use of nuclear weapons brought the segment to a close — which, given the subject matter, had an especially fraught air. It made for an ominous conclusion to a night of political analysis — and, sometimes, analysis of the state of political analysis. It was that kind of episode.
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