HBO’s Bill Maher thinks the Department of Homeland Security has outlived its usefulness.
On Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” Maher and his guests debated the DHS’s usefulness during a discussion of the debate between Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
“There was a huge verbal slap by the Republican Party this week between Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, and Rand Paul,” Maher said. “And it was sort of I think a fight for the soul of the Republican Party — where they’re going to go because, OK, next month is the 12th anniversary of 9/11. Some people in the Republican Party are saying let’s move on. That’s Rand Paul. He is saying, you know, we spy on each other too much. We spend too much on defense. So Chris Christie is from the neocon-wing, fired back and said come to New Jersey and tell that to the widows and orphans. He played that Giuliani card, which I think is sleazy. And then Rand Paul made a fat joke. But who’s going to win this battle is my question to this panel in the Republican Party?”
Later in that segment, Maher suggested just eliminating the Department of Homeland Security.
“Do you think we could get rid of the Department of Homeland Security?” Maher said. “This is one of those monstrosities that came out of 9/11. It has, I think, 240,000 regular employees. Janet Napolitano quit at the top. The top 15 jobs there are vacant because no one wants to work there. It’s thankless because some shit is going to happen and it’s mostly luck whether or not you’re there when it happens. You can’t stop everything. No one wants the job. Why don’t we just get rid of it?”
Maher’s guests, the Nation magazine’s Alexis Goldstein, former Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and Business Insider’s Josh Barro generally agreed with Maher about the usefulness of the Department of Homeland Security, with Frank conceding it shouldn’t be eliminated, but downsized.
GOLDSTEIN: We unequivocally should. And I think this was an organization formed in the wake of 9/11. We had to do something. So what do we do? This big bureaucracy —
MAHER: It was a Democrat idea. Republicans were against it. It was the last thing the Republicans were right about and then they went, ‘Oh, wait, we’re Republicans. We can’t be right about something.’ So they joined the Democrats. But they said it was going to be a giant bureaucracy.
FRANK: I would not like to have it abolished for this reason. It could be substantially diminished. There’s still going to be an immigration service. There’s still going to be the Transportation Security Administration. I think it should be substantially downgraded. But here’s the issue. The argument for staying in Afghanistan, I will continue and return to because it is a dominant argument now — are we going to continue the overspending by tens of billions of dollars? A trillion over a decade fighting a threat that really isn’t there very much?
GOLDSTEIN: Then it creates this beast you keep having to feed.
FRANK: But here’s the deal. They say we have to keep Afghanistan because we have to keep it from being a haven for terrorists. But if it’s not Afghanistan, it will be Somalia or it will be Mali or it will be Niger. The point I make is we can’t plug every rat hole in the world. What we can do is protect ourselves at home. So there is a certain important political value in having the department. We’re trying to deal with terrorism here. We have enormous amounts of money overseas.
MAHER: But you know better than anyone — no program we ever start ever ends, whether it’s mohair subsidies…. We still have 50,000 troops in Germany. Is Hitler a threat? If we can’t get them out of Germany, I don’t see —
FRANK: They went after Stalin, be fair.
MAHER: They were there for Stalin, who died in 1953, That’s right.
GOLDSTEIN: And they have all these private interests who are in Afghanistan doing surveillance and they need to keep up their profits. We pull out of Afghanistan, they come home and say you need to have surveillance at home and they feed the profit motive.
MAHER: Right, that’s it.
BARRO: And this is why I disagree with Barney and why I think getting rid of the department is a good idea — whenever you create a department like this, you don’t just create bureaucracy. You create an internal lobby in the government. We’re doing more things on this. So, we need responses to terrorism but the risk of an American dying of terrorism is —