Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
Perhaps HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher doesn’t realize the seriousness of such a charge. On his Friday program, Maher elaborated on the suggestion he made in a tweet that President Barack Obama’s opponents are guilty of treason for blocking his economic initiatives.
Maher set up his explanation by reminding viewers of a gaffe Obama had made earlier in the day, when he said the private sector was “doing just fine,” and how his Republican opponents will use that statement against him from now until the election this fall.
“So, the president had a press conference today, and he kind of pulled a Biden,” he said. “He’s not usually the one who makes the gaffes, but he said the private sector is doing fine. You know, the complete sentence was — he was talking about how after losing jobs for 25 straight months, for the last 27 months, while he’s been in office. He said, ‘We created 4.3 million jobs. The private sector is doing fine. What we’re seeing is problems with state and local governments.’ Of course, the Republicans are going to hit him over the head with this from now until November. But you know, you can’t blame him for being a little frustrated because, let’s be honest, the Republicans are stalling every effort that he has tried to make to create jobs and help the economy.”
Maher then brought up the subject of treason, asking a panelist whether behavior by congressional Republicans qualified for the charge.
“I tweeted this while we were off last week,” he said. “First of all, I refuse to take tweets seriously. They’re brain farts, so maybe I used too strong a word. I said, ‘Is it treason to purposely block any help for the economy so voters blame the president and turn to the other party? … It’s at least unpatriotic, is it not?”
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, author of “Our Divided Political Heart,” then referenced the United Kingdom, where the government is administering austerity but the country still finds itself struggling economically.
“Even more reason to know it’s not the right thing to do, because we have evidence that it didn’t work,” Maher said.
Maher argued that political opponents of the Iraq War who benefited from the conflict were not treasonous because, in his view, they did not create the problems caused by that conflict.
“It’s one thing to root for failure — it’s another thing to cause failure,” he said. “You can say that in 2004 when Iraq was falling apart, and there were bombings all [over] Baghdad, that every time there was a bombing, maybe some Democrats secretly applauded? But the difference is they didn’t cause the bombings. They’re actually causing the bombings here. That’s why I called it treason.”