Bush Critic and Comedian Bill Maher Unspun

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Sept. 2, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly, reporting from the Republican Convention, where President Bush is coming up in a little while.

And in the second Personal Story segment tonight, I promised you I would cover the Republican Convention the same way I covered the Democratic Convention in Boston, and I believe I've kept my word.

Before John Kerry's speech, I interviewed one of his harshest critics, Boston journalist Howie Carr. You may remember that. Tonight, we have the same scenario. Comedian Bill Maher, whose program "Real Time," can be seen on HBO Friday evenings, has been a persistent critic of President Bush, and I talked with Mr. Maher a few days ago.


O'REILLY: So Maher, a girlfriend of yours told me you're going to vote for President Bush. I was surprised to hear that.

BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME": Who told you that?

O'REILLY: A girl named Lola, Sunset Boulevard... I don't know. She said Maher is a big Bush fan. Is that wrong?

MAHER: I get it. You're doing Whoopi Goldberg's act.

O'REILLY: Why don't you run down the strengths and weaknesses of the Republican Party as you see them.

MAHER: Well, obviously, the strength is their ability to turn mistruth into something people would believe -- the way they can turn anything into a wash, like they're doing now with Kerry's military record. I mean, Bush has a pretty indefensible military record, especially for someone who's running as a war president.

But they're able to muck up John Kerry's record, spin it, tarnish it to the point where people go, "Hey, you know what? There's some crazy stuff about Bush in the war, and there's some crazy stuff about Kerry. It's a wash." That's what they do well.

O'REILLY: Don't you see the same kind of smear tactics being used by the left? Come on...


O'REILLY: ... the Soros Web sites have, for a year, for a year smeared every guy and gal with whom they disagree, and I'm one of them, so I know what I'm talking about here. Isn't the tactic mud, and we're just going to fling it as much as we can -- Michael Moore (search), Stuart Smalley, whoever it is flinging the mud, hope it sticks?

MAHER: You've refused to actually even use his name, Al Franken (search). He's Stuart Smalley.

O'REILLY: He is, indeed.

MAHER: Well, you know what? No, I don't think so. I think the Republicans are better at it, that's why they win.

I honestly don't believe that the majority of the country is in line with the philosophy -- certainly, the hard right philosophy of this administration. And yet, they win election after election, because they're better at selling the product.

O'REILLY: Look, you know as well as I do that all of these politicians are self-serving. Most of them are looking out for themselves. If you look at Bill Clinton's record on the draft, on Vietnam, on education spending, on all of this, and you look at George Bush's record, they're pretty much the same, are they not?

MAHER: No. I don't think Bill Clinton really ever lied about anything important. We all know what he did lie about. But I don't recall anything that was substantive that he told me a lie that I was like, "Wow, he really did a turnaround on that one. He campaigned on this, and he became that."

O'REILLY: Well, how about welfare reform? He was against that and turned 180 degrees around and supported it.

MAHER: Yeah. I don't remember him being in the campaign against welfare reform to that degree.

O'REILLY: All I'm here to do is provide perspective to you, Bill Maher, who needs it desperately. Because you seem to be taking the side of the Democrats, when I'm telling you there's very little difference between them.

There's no difference between Kerry and Bush on Iraq. There's no difference at all. There's no difference between Kerry and Bush on education spending, on prescription drug spending. There's no difference at all. They're the same guy.

MAHER: Well, there is less difference than a lot of us would like.

O'REILLY: There's no difference. They're going to be agreeing with each other on the debates.

MAHER: Well, again, I don't think that John Kerry is going to give tax breaks to the rich people like...

O'REILLY: Tax breaks to what rich people? The rich people carry all of the federal income tax in this country. You know that, because you're rich. You pay it.

MAHER: Yeah, I pay it, and I would gladly give it back.


O'REILLY: Whoa, you can give it back. I'll send you the form. You can give as much back as you want. I'll send you the form. You want to give it back? Give it back.

MAHER: Bill, you can't honestly be telling me that you think that George Bush's tax cuts, or the tax cuts that any other politician, probably of either party, would have enacted, and you can't deny that most of the money has gone back to people who don't need it, at the expense of people who do.

O'REILLY: Wait a minute.

MAHER: You can't deny this. This president...

O'REILLY: All Americans got the tax cut.

MAHER: All Americans got a little piece of it.

O'REILLY: That's because they don't pay any taxes. That's why they got a little piece of it. I pay huge taxes. That's why I got a bigger piece. Percentage wise, I got a smaller piece.

MAHER: But what you're saying is that it doesn't matter what choice we make in giving taxes back. That's ridiculous. Of course, every tax is unfair. Nobody wants to pay taxes.

O'REILLY: I do. I'll pay taxes. I don't mind it. But if I'm not going to carry the whole ball...

MAHER: The wealthy would not be wealthy if they didn't live in a country that offered them the opportunity to make the kind of money they've been able to make.

O'REILLY: All right.

MAHER: They should be giving back a lot more. Are you kidding?


O'REILLY: Let me, let me give you one thing...

MAHER: That's why this economic program has not worked, is because you're giving money back to people who are not going to spend it, because they don't need to spend it.

O'REILLY: Listen. You are then saying that you believe in income redistribution, because you have...

MAHER: Well, that's what taxes are.

O'REILLY: Well, no, wait. You believe that because you have a lot, Bill Maher, and I have a lot, Bill O'Reilly, we're successful guys, that the government has the right...

MAHER: Two wild and crazy guys...

O'REILLY: That the government has a right to come into our homes, to come into our homes and say, you know, "Bill and Bill, you guys have really made it on your own." I don't think you had any uncle in the business, Maher. You just were obnoxious and hit it big, just like me. We're in the same pot, all right.

So you're saying to me, Maher, that the federal government has the right to come in, take our stuff, our property, and say, "Give it to somebody else." That's not what the country was founded on.

MAHER: Well, Bill, can I give you a little memo here? The country is not -- the country, in general, is not what the country was founded on. As a matter of fact, there was an interesting essay written some time ago that pointed out that the United States has adopted the 1908 socialist platform, and we have. We are essentially a semi-socialist country.

O'REILLY: And I'm fighting against that, Maher, and you should be on my side.

Let me ask you this. There was a report in Massachusetts -- in addition to the form I'm going to send you so you can send some of your money to the federal government, which I know they're going to like -- there's a form in Massachusetts where you can check a box to pay the higher income tax that was lowered, OK, a couple years ago.

Well, the reports are that John Kerry didn't check the box, even though he's one of the richest guys in the country, with the alliance with his wife. So don't tell me that there's a difference between the Republican fat cats and the Democrat fat cats. There isn't any difference.

MAHER: Yes, that's true. Years ago, I said that the difference between the two parties is that the Republicans are bought off by a slightly more scary group of special interests.

O'REILLY: I think Michael Moore is pretty scary, and so is George Soros, man.

MAHER: You know what? I think oil companies and mining companies are a little scarier than the teachers union.

O'REILLY: Last question.


O'REILLY: All right, last question.

MAHER: Iraq... what?

O'REILLY: Why are you going to vote for Bush? Can I talk you out of this?

MAHER: I'm not voting for Bush.

O'REILLY: Your girlfriend told me you're voting for Bush.

MAHER: What girlfriend? I don't know what you're talking...


MAHER: Who's Lola?

O'REILLY: You're breaking her heart, man. You're breaking the woman's heart.

MAHER: There's no Lola in my little black book, I promise you, Bill.


O'REILLY: All right, well, you'll never see that on Larry King.

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