Bill Maher is celebrating his show’s 10-year anniversary. Every week he shows a memorable clip from a past show. In the August 31 show’s clip he was speaking to Ron Paul in May of 2007. Paul said, “The peace candidate always wins. Logic tells us we can make a better world in a much easier way than causing wars.” Paul was talking about the 2000 election when George W. Bush said he opposed Clinton’s nation-building adventures and the attempts to make America the policeman of the world. Bush had insisted that his administration wouldn’t do those things (which they of course proceeded to do but it was too late then), and that’s one of the reasons W. beat Gore.
I was struck by this comment because I have had the opinion that Americans are a war-like people. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe we’ve just been manipulated over and over again. I thought of WWI—Woodrow Wilson won because he promised to keep America out of the European war, but as soon as he won Wilson started figuring out how to get us into the war. The U.S. didn’t join in WWII until we were actually attacked. Nixon won in 1968 partly because he said he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War—he didn’t but we didn’t find that out until after he was elected. I’m sure a historian could provide plenty more examples.
In 2008 McCain was joking about “bomb bomb Iran” while Obama talked about healing our relationship with the world. Obama won. Romney just made clear in his acceptance speech at the convention that he has embraced the neocons of the W. era. Romney used bellicose rhetoric not only about Syria and Iran but also about Russia. I found myself wondering, ‘could this Republican war-mongering mean Obama will be re-elected?’
In this show’s New Rules Maher made a fascinating comment about the Republican Party’s attempts to erase the past. For a party that positions itself as the guardian of traditional values, of the Norman Rockwell-America of our dreams, in last week’s convention they worked hard to obscure their own recent past. The most recent Republican president and both the most recent view-president and vice-pres candidate weren’t invited: no W., no Cheney, no Palin.