During the online-only “Overtime” segment of his “Real Time” program on Friday, HBO’s Bill Maher asserted that President Barack Obama is governing as a moderate, and suggested he is reining in his liberal instincts out of fear that he will be assassinated.
Maher proposed to his guests that Obama has moderated to the center out of a fear of being “cut out of the picture” as John F. Kennedy was during his presidency. The claim got an incredulous response from MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.
“It seems like the people like that, Kennedy — they just seem to always, at the end of the day, either somehow get cut out of the picture — violently, or otherwise,” Maher said. “And maybe that is why Barack Obama is a little more of the centrist than we want him to be.”
Matthews, one of Maher’s guests, found that to be “an extraordinary statement” and challenged him to clarify it. But Maher insisted fear of extremists influenced Obama’s policy direction.
Partial transcript as follows:
Documentary filmmaker OLIVER STONE: It would be ironic —
MATTHEWS: You think that?
MAHER: Well, I think he knows that if he goes a little too far to the left —
MAHER: Well, yeah.
MATTHEWS: I’m just really curious that you think that.
MAHER: Well, if I were Barack —
MATTHEWS: That’s an extraordinary statement.
MAHER: What? You don’t think —
MATTHEWS: I’m just saying that’s an extraordinary statement. I’m amazed — I’m impressed you think that.
MAHER: Think what?
MATTHEWS: That his policies are driven by fear of assassination.
MAHER: Well, not by fear of assassination.
AEI fellow JAMES GLASSMAN: Is that what you said?
MATTHEWS: Then by what?
MAHER: Well, I’m saying that yeah —
MATTHEWS: I thought you just said that.
MAHER: I didn’t say it in those words.
MATTHEWS: Well, I would try to clarify.
MAHER: Well, I’m saying that, yeah, I think that’s something that probably he thinks about at night, yeah. Wouldn’t you?
MATTHEWS: That he has to change his policies for that reason?
MAHER: No look — but I think that he is a centrist. I think people saw him as what they wanted to see him. They saw a liberal and he was never really that much of a liberal. And to call him a socialist, is completely —
CNBC’s CAROL ROTH: I don’t think that anybody who is in the center or at the right would think that he is a centrist. You might think that, but everybody else doesn’t think that.
MAHER: I don’t think that is an insult to say to somebody that he may modulate his policies because he is afraid of all the hate that he sees.
MATTHEWS: He probably gets reports constantly about threats, though. That must unnerve him.
MAHER: He probably doesn’t read them. I don’t read my hate mail.
Center for Social Inclusion President MAYA WILEY: I suspect at the end of his second term, I think one of the things we’re going to learn is he has had more assassination threats than almost any president.
MAHER: I’m sure.
WILEY: And I think the other thing we will find is that he has always seen himself as the great mediator of the country who is going to try to vastly bring together you know, factions.