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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

One-on-One with Bill Maher

Aired July 11, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Fasten your seat belts, America. Bill Maher is here.

BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I'm against building mosques, church -- churches, synagogues, temples anywhere because I'm an atheist and I think these are places that perpetuate mass delusion.

MORGAN: Always outspoken.

MAHER: They gave all this money to the banks. No regulation, no strings, and these guys just basically stole it.

MORGAN: Always controversial.

MAHER: Every modern and just realized Western democracy is a hybrid with elements of socialism in it. It's not evil.

MORGAN: What on earth will Bill Maher say tonight?

MAHER: I want to feel like I broke into the studio and took over and made them mad. If I'm not doing that, I'm not doing my job.

MORGAN: Nothing is off limits on his show, but tonight he's on my show. And there'll be no limits here either. I'm going to grill him about the race for president, the government going bust and even the Casey Anthony trial.

Bill Maher for the hour. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

MORGAN: Bill, welcome.

MAHER: Hi.

MORGAN: I feel like I'm -- you are such an institutional guest for Larry before. It's the first time I've had the pleasure of you here.

MAHER: I was. It's great to be back in the timeslot.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I thought about the ways we could start this. And I think there's probably nothing more pertinent, I would say, than the state of America's debt. And I want to play you -- MAHER: A sexy topic.

MORGAN: A sexy topic. But probably, I mean, everyone talks about nothing else at the moment.

MAHER: It actually is because there's a lot of drama in it.

MORGAN: And it's a key issue to me. I mean if America go bust, that's it. So --

MAHER: It's astounding to me that we're actually having an argument over whether America should pay its bills.

MORGAN: Isn't it? I totally agree.

MAHER: It shows you where the insanity has gone in this country. I don't think people realize it because I think people follow an issue like that, I think -- especially the people who are pushing to hold the line. And so what if the debt ceiling -- I think they think it's money that we haven't spent yet.

You know? That if we just cut it off, starve the beast, everything will be fine and we'll get our fiscal house in order. No. This is money we already spent. George Bush and the Republicans, they sat down and ordered a lot of food. And then they got up from the table before the check came. Now somebody has to pay that check.

MORGAN: Well, the person in charge of trying to pay it is of course President Obama. I want to play you a little clip today.

MAHER: Well, we don't -- America does not dine and dash.

MORGAN: Well, let's see what he says today. This is President Obama today in Washington, the press conference specifically on this debt issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension. That is just not an acceptable approach. And if we think it's going to be hard -- if we think it's hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now in the middle of election season when they're all up.

It's not going to get easier. It's going to get harder, so we might as well do it now. Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Time to eat our peas, Bill.

MAHER: Great. It's good to see him do that. It's good to see him say I'm not going to budge. Because he's always the one who's budging. His motto is, you've got to meet the other guy 14, 15th of the way. That's what he seems to do every time. So I'm glad he should do what basically Clinton did in '95 when they were going to shut down the government. He said go ahead. Let's see --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: He called their bluff.

MAHER: He called their bluff. Let's see -- two people could be out. If that's the only way anything get done in Washington is by everyone being ridiculously obstinate. I mean after all, for the Republicans, of all people, to be digging in their heels on the debt ceiling.

Look, this is something that both parties have tortured each other with over the years. The party out of power always threatens this, you know?

MORGAN: But isn't the reality, that with an election coming, just as the president hinted today, I mean if I was a Republican, the way to beat President Obama, the way that the job figures stand at the moment, 9.2 percent, the state of the economy generally, turmoil around the country continuing -- the way to probably beat him is to take him on on the economy.

The best way to paralyze him is to continue doing what they're doing. It's not in their interest to do a deal, is it?

MAHER: No probably about it. That's exactly what they're doing. Yes, I -- Ann Coulter was on our show Friday night and she had written a book called "Treason Once." Treason. You know? A little love at the top. But I said as a long you --

MORGAN: I'm sorry, I mean she actually thinks we're bombing Egypt at the moment.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Yes. Well -- but on this issue, you know, as long as you're going to be the one to invoke treason, I mean, are the Republicans really doing what's in the best interest of America or are they doing what's in the best interest of their party to win the next election?

They know the economy has to stay sucky in 2012 for them to win. If the economy is doing a lot better, Obama wins going away. And I don't think they're doing anything. John Boehner tweeted to Obama the other day when he was doing his town hall on Twitter, you know, after record binge -- spending binge, where are the jobs?

Well, I don't know, you're in the Congress. Isn't it the Congress' job to present a jobs bill?

MORGAN: Well, I like this quote from Warren Buffett who says the way to get rid of the deficit, we should pass a law that says any time there's a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for reelection.

And I like that. MAHER: Well, you know.

MORGAN: But that's how a businessman would run his company.

MAHER: Well, that's another fallacy.

MORGAN: Depends on the business.

MAHER: Somehow, you know, businessmen are going to be good at running the government. They're not the same thing. You can't fire the Congress the way you can fire your board.

Mitt Romney is running on that silly idea that I ran a business. I know how to create jobs. No, actually what he did was fire people. You know he knew how to destroy jobs --

MORGAN: But isn't he doing that --

MAHER: -- to create profit. That's what business does. It creates profit.

MORGAN: But isn't -- in Mitt Romney's case, and we're going to come to the candidates in a moment. But I think it's quite a clever strategy by him to focus purely on economy and present himself as the guy that understands it. Isn't that clever? But at politics by him.

MAHER: Well, it's clever for a country that doesn't pay attention and where people don't think too much about any issue. But the truth is that government is there to do the things that are not supposed to turn a profit.

I heard Tim Pawlenty say the same thing. Amtrak. Amtrak doesn't make a profit. It's not supposed to make a profit. It's like saying why doesn't the Marine Corps make a profit. That's the difference between government and private enterprise.

MORGAN: But isn't America, though -- but America is a country that, unlike in Britain, we have the class system, where depending on where you went to school and what your parents did, and who you were bred into, that is, you know, often the way you get on in life.

In America, I've spent, you know, probably four or five years now immersing myself into this culture, the class system is based around hard work, success and achievement. So it's all surprising to me that the people governing the country pander to that by this rhetoric of everything has to make a profit because that's the way you have a yardstick of success here, isn't it?

MAHER: Well, if you're talking about social mobility, yes. That is always what's been defined as the American dream, the ability of one generation to do better than the generation that spawned them. That was always something that was quintessentially American.

Well, we're tenth in the American dream right now. We're tenth in social mobility compared to other countries around the world which is like Sweden coming in tenth and Swedish meatballs or something, you know? It's just a shame.

MORGAN: And I find it interesting. I happen to be on Donald Trump. And I know your views on his presidency campaign pretty strike like many peoples. I like him. I've been on one of his shows obviously. And when he went lashing into China, I thought he slightly missed the point. I said this to him because it seems to me the trick that America should be now deploying surely as one of the great producers in the past is to produce stuff that countries like China need.

And the reason I say that again to you is there was a brilliant report this week that in China the need and demand for American crops, for example, corn, is absolutely going through the roof.

This is the way that America should be thinking. It should be identifying what these countries -- they're not emerging countries. China has emerged. What do they need that America can provide them? Put the foot on the gas. Don't say these people is a threat.

MAHER: Or a green technology.

MORGAN: Yes.

MAHER: Stem cell research. You know one of the reasons why America falls behind every year more and more is because we're a superstitious, hyper-religious, intellectually backward people at this point. Not compared to a lot of countries but compared to the leading countries in the world, we are.

If we could have had stem cell research, you know, there's so many patents for so many scientific areas that come out of that, but we're falling behind in that area, too, as we are because we don't put a premium on science anymore. Science is suspect in this country.

MORGAN: Well, China has now overtaken America in the production of unscientific research.

MAHER: Absolutely.

MORGAN: I found that staggering.

MAHER: Yes.

MORGAN: But you know, I know that, you know, in schools I've seen in Europe and so on, which are now full of, especially the private schools, of the very smart, very hard-working young Chinese who come in.

You know I played a game of soccer with my sons recently. And I managed miraculously to score a good goal. And I was doing my-dad- triumphant thing. Two of my sons spontaneously said dad, that was so Chinese. Now I thought it would be racist. This is the new school ground compliment around the world. Being Chinese is what being American used to be.

MAHER: I got to have kids to keep up with -- MORGAN: It is how you find out what the future is.

MAHER: Wow.

MORGAN: These kids use being Chinese as a compliment. This is the best compliment they could pay me. That was Chinese, dad. I found it an extraordinary moment.

MAHER: That's one of the scariest things I've ever heard in this timeslot.

MORGAN: Why is it scary?

MAHER: Because it shows we're falling behind China.

MORGAN: Yes, but it's your own way of saying embracing all these new economies now rather than seeing them as some great threat. Can America afford to see everything economically, militarily and so on as a threat in the way it has before?

MAHER: But we would have to reconfigure all of our priorities. I mean what do we spend all of our money on? Debt, paying off our debt, and the military. I mean while they're talking about all this budget stuff in Washington and dickering over $100 million here and there, they just passed and nobody even questioned it -- the new Pentagon spending bill, $648 billion, which is more than I think the next 17 countries combined or something like that.

You know we could cut this in half, I think, and still be probably safe in the world. Who's the threat that's going to invade us?

MORGAN: Many Americans, it seems to me -- I mean you say this stuff and I bet you get deluged with people calling you unpatriotic, un-American. These are not -- it's not American to admit that you shouldn't be spending money on the military, that you shouldn't be doing things the old American way.

But, I mean, is it time that America completely changed its philosophy on these things?

MAHER: What's patriotic is wanting your country to succeed. And our country is not succeeding right now because our military is too big. And by the way, people call it the military and then they, hands off, you can't -- you know what, it's not military. It's defense contractors.

It's welfare for people who make weapons that we don't need. Most of our weaponry is ridiculous. It's not -- it's for fighting the Russians in 1978. We don't need that. What would make this country stronger is economics. That's where the -- that's where the future is. That's what makes a country strong. If you're not strong economically you're not going to be --

MORGAN: That's where America is increasingly weak. So by any comparison -- MAHER: But this is one reason. You know we could solve this debt/deficit problem if we would do two simple things. Tax the rich like they used to be taxed. Not a hell of a lot more, just like what they were under Clinton, for example, and bring the troops home. Not just from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have half a million troops on bases in over 100 countries across the world.

MORGAN: How many do the --

MAHER: This is --

MORGAN: How many do the Chinese have?

MAHER: None. I don't think.

MORGAN: They're being --

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: They don't have troops.

MORGAN: Hardly anything. They have no imperialistic ambition.

MAHER: Right. Because they know this is not the way you achieve hegemony in this world. This is not the 14th century.

MORGAN: I did a documentary in Shanghai recently. Fascinating time to be out there. And that this dynamism that you felt all around the city. But one young -- frosting young multi millionaire. There are 125,000 millionaires in Shanghai alone. I mean staggering statistics.

MAHER: How many?

MORGAN: A hundred and 25,000 millionaires in Shanghai. A city of 25 million people. And he just talked to me, and he said, look, I don't want to kill you. I don't want to take over your land. He said, I want to sell you a duvet. And he laughed. And he said, we want to be number one in selling you duvets. I want to see you everything in your home but I don't want to kill you.

MAHER: Right. And that's how they will be number one. You know they are building $300 billion, I think, of high speed rail. This country trying to get the money to build, I think, it's $8 billion? They want to lay it between, I think, L.A. and Las Vegas, which I think it's funny that those are the two cities that have to be connected, or maybe between L.A. and San Francisco. But we have none a the moment.

MORGAN: Well, we're going to have a little break. When we come back I want to ask you which of these two people, do you think, has the best chance of putting America back on its feet? Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Well, that's what they call a Hobson's choice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Stop comparing Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann just because they're both Republican women. And crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And know nothings. And Jesus freaks. Who claim to receive messages from God who both get their historical facts wrong all the time and both give off a sound that only animals can hear and make microwaves explode.

Seriously, stop comparing them.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was of course from your show "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO. I mean, if you had a choice, gun to your head, which one is it? Palin or Bachmann?

MAHER: I would meet a gun to my head. I hope Sarah Palin gets in so that they split the MILF vote.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But I guess Bachmann, I don't know. Who could say? Because at least she's somebody who can read. You know she has a job. She was a lawyer. She's in Congress. She's not someone who just sits there and reads the prayers on her BlackBerry like Sarah Palin. I mean, you know, we're splitting hairs here.

MORGAN: Could Sarah Palin be president? Is it possible in the current climate?

MAHER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. People who say this one is a joke or this one is a joke. I remember when I was 12 years old in 1968 and Ronald Reagan was first considering running for president.

And I remember what a joke that was. Ronald Reagan? You mean the bedtime for Bonzo guy? But I think he did become president. Yes, absolutely. Because if she could get the nomination, and anything can happen with -- I mean this Republican Party is not your father's Republican Party.

Somewhere along the line they got on a short bus to crazy town and if someone gets the nomination of one of the two major parties, especially in a bad economy, with a black president, yes, she could become president.

MORGAN: Is America more or less racist now since Obama has been in power?

MAHER: That's a great question. I don't know. I think it's more sneakily racist. You know? I actually have more respect for the old school racist like Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms who are more upfront about it as opposed to the -- you know, the Rand Paul type guys who say things like, I would have marched with Dr. King.

Well, you don't get points for what you would have done in your imagination.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: You know? I would have helped Jesus escape but I wasn't around.

MORGAN: Are there other any of the Republican candidates so far that have emerged that you would see as potentially not life threatening?

MAHER: Well, you know, hopefully Mitt Romney. We depend on him to be a giant shape shifter and liar which he has always been. There's not an issue -- you can go down the line -- from when he was the Republican governor of liberal Massachusetts. There is not an issue he has not done a complete 180 on, from abortion to gun control, to campaign finance, whatever it is.

So I have to think that if he got into office, maybe he would be somewhat of a normal president, but you don't know because he has to answer to that crazy party.

MORGAN: Has there ever been a president in your lifetime who has been properly principled in your eyes?

MAHER: Jimmy Carter was an amazingly principled president. Did what he said. Didn't fire a shot. Did not fire a bullet, a missile while he was president. He said as world superpower, we have an obligation not to attack other countries unless we're attacked.

Yes, I mean I think history has not been kind to Jimmy Carter and that is the fault of history.

MORGAN: But is that part of the problem of being the guy at the White House, is that there is a -- I was reading George Bush's book.

MAHER: It attracts criticism?

MORGAN: Well, not that, is there's a kind of expectation from this mass populace that you have to do certain things. I read about the aftermath of 9/11, for example. When I actually read George Bush's account, I was more understanding -- not accepting because I kind of share your view of what went on afterwards. But more understanding of why he is a guy from Texas, felt compelled to do what he did. He felt he had to do something for his American people.

MAHER: Well, yes, he did have to do something. He didn't have to do what he did. What he should have done is right after 9/11 when everyone was in the mood to sacrifice, ask the country to sacrifice. He told people to go shopping. That was his response and then attack the wrong country, a country he wanted to attack from the get-go to, I guess, avenge his father or whatever the hell the reason was.

But yes, he could have done something. Yes, we should have learned about it. This is the man who said, at -- you know, at the point where they were thinking of attacking the country, and they told them about Sunnis and -- Sunnis and Shiites, and he said, I thought they was all Muslims.

Really? We're attacking the country. You're the leader of this -- of our country who's attacking a Muslim country and you don't know about the Shiite-Sunni thing over there?

That's, to me, impeachable.

MORGAN: How do you think Obama is doing as president?

MAHER: You know I love him. You know you can't not. I mean coming in after Bush, first of all, you have him there, you have a guy you can relate to. He's intelligent, he can speak English. I don't think about George Bush at all anymore which is great. He's like an uncle who molested me and I blocked it out. You know?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And you could just tell, you know, you'd like to have dinner with Obama. He's an erudite guy, he's a constitutional law professor.

MORGAN: I mean he's a good front man, I think, for America, isn't he? In and around world. He's a good figurehead for the country.

MAHER: That, too. He's just terribly disappointing as a negotiator and as a liberal. You know it makes me laugh when they say he's a socialist. He's not even a liberal. He's a centrist at best. He's constantly voicing the Republican opinion.

Paul Krugman had a column about this the other day. He said why is Obama carrying water for the Republicans Party? Why if they're having this giant discussion about the debt and the deficit, why is Obama saying the stupid things that they say? We have to treat our government like a family does. Well, that's stupid. You don't treat -- a family doesn't run up a deficit whereas we know a certain deficit is good for a government.

The silliness canard about how we're -- we have to like be super kind to the rich because they're the job creators which is BS also. And that sometimes you have to, even when you have a debt, spend more money so -- to get the economy going again.

MORGAN: But what -- I mean I agree that on one level, the criticism that seems most accurate to me is that he can be dissident in decision making. And that hasn't probably helped America get out of this economic strife. But then just when you think that he's dissident, he comes out with that stunning strike with the Navy SEALs against bin Laden, which had it gone wrong --

MAHER: That's the low hanging fruit.

MORGAN: Is it, though?

MAHER: Absolutely. It doesn't cost anything. Everyone wanted to see it done.

MORGAN: But if you went wrong --

MAHER: Yes. Yes.

MORGAN: And a bunch of American SEALs has got killed. That could have cost him the election.

MAHER: No. He's got a pair on him. Obama.

MORGAN: That was audacious.

MAHER: But, you know, the editorial we did recently that got the most reaction I think was when I said it would be a shame if four years of Democratic rule came to an end in 2012 without trying Democratic policies. And that's the problem I think all progressives have.

MORGAN: What should he be doing right now?

MAHER: If a Democrat gets in and we don't attempt Democratic policy.

MORGAN: What does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: I mean crystallize that for me.

MAHER: Well, stop talking about -- stop talking about the debt and the deficit. You know when Dick Cheney was in office and they were running up all the debt, and by the way you can look this up. There are facts outside of the FOX News bubble, actual facts and numbers.

Most of the debt was run up under Bush. Dick Cheney said, quote, "deficits don't matter." Why can't Obama say that? Why is it OK when Dick Cheney says it but not when President black man says it?

I'm not saying it's all race, but it seems a little weird that suddenly he gets into office and the debt and the deficit is intolerable. I mean the Republicans have some nerve. Bush came into office. The debt was $5.6 trillion. He took a surplus and turned it into a $10 trillion debt, almost doubled it, with stuff they didn't pay for.

They didn't pay for the wars. They didn't pay for the tax cuts for the rich, which should be called tax spending for the rich, because it is spending. The prescription drug program, all of that unpaid for. And then suddenly Obama comes into office and they act like he's Newt Gingrich's wife at Tiffany's. He didn't spend -- what -- his big spending, the stimulus, was mostly a Republican spending plan.

MORGAN: How would you describe your politics? I mean are you a -- are you a socialist? Are you a liberal? Are you both? Are you --

MAHER: First of all, every modern government nowadays is a hybrid of socialism. I mean the Post Office, the Marine Corps, these are -- the Veterans Administration. So --

MORGAN: But what tag are you proudest of putting yourself to?

MAHER: I think I'm just practical. I think I'm just -- you know I don't think I'm an ideologue.

MORGAN: Well, you are -- your ideology is you hate Republicans.

MAHER: No. No, I don't.

MORGAN: You do that. You do that. You hate their ideology, don't you think?

MAHER: Of course. That's different. I hate stupidity. And I hate stuff that doesn't work. No matter what you call yourself, it's not because you're a Republican. I mean the fact that they all fall in line --

MORGAN: Are you a Democrat --

MAHER: There are Republicans who I respect. Mostly, there are Republicans who are out of office who are criticizing their own party. David Stockman, Bruce Bartlett, lots of these people who are saying what has happened to the party that I knew? Where are these Republicans nowadays? Well, you can't --

MORGAN: But do you -- I mean you're a Democrat?

MAHER: No.

MORGAN: So you're not a Democrat. How would you describe yourself?

MAHER: I mean I'm certainly more in line with their thinking. But, you know, they disappoint me so much. If I was a Democrat, I would be resigning every other week.

MORGAN: Do you vote?

MAHER: Of course.

MORGAN: Democrat?

MAHER: Almost always.

MORGAN: Ever voted Republican?

MAHER: Yes. Absolutely.

MORGAN: Did you? When?

MAHER: I voted for McCain in the 2000 primary. I voted for Bob Dole in '96. That was a sentimental vote because my parents were both in World War II. And that was the last World War II candidate I could vote for. I mean if it was a close election, I would have voted for Clinton. But it was not.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: We'll have a little break. When we come back, I want to talk to you not about the trillions of dollars in debt. But there are a much bigger story that's gripped America in the last few weeks. The Casey Anthony trial.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: OK.

MORGAN: And what you think of it.

MAHER: All right. I'll be here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: If you can look at a crime where everything points to one answer and not see it, you're a dumbass. And if you can look at the deficit and not see that the problem is that the rich stopped paying taxes, you're a Republican.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Casey Anthony.

MAHER: -- better target.

MORGAN: Talk to me about Casey Anthony. I found this, as a foreigner to this country, bordering on disturbing.

MAHER: Bordering? What part of it is not disturbing.

MORGAN: The most disturbing was the kind of Willy Wonka moment, where you saw these crowds outside the court fighting each other to get their lucky ticket to get in, to watch this reality television, which is what it became.

MAHER: I would put that about seventh or eighth on the disturbing list. Number one I think would be that a jury in this country cannot seem to convict anybody, no matter how overwhelming the evidence is. We just see this time and time again in high profile cases.

MORGAN: Why is it, do you think? Is part of it television cameras in the court?

MAHER: Part of is that jury, trial of your peers. People are not that bright. We just get stupider and stupider. They also talk about the CSI phenomenon, that people watch "CSI" and they think that every case -- there should be this DNA evidence.

Somehow this notion that circumstantial evidence got to mean phony evidence -- no, circumstantial evidence is usually all there is. Very rarely do murderers videotape what they're doing. Although this lady came close.

MORGAN: Also, I thought this thing about not really understanding what "beyond reasonable doubt" means. "Beyond reasonable doubt" means do you all really doubt she did it. That's what it means. It doesn't mean where is the absolute hard evidence here.

MAHER: That was the point of our editorial. Some paper printed the headline today, "Bill Maher blames Casey Anthony on Republicans." No, no, that's not what I was saying at all. Just because I had them both in the same editorial --

MORGAN: But that comes down to your thing about stupidity. People don't even get that, right?

MAHER: They cannot appreciate nuance. They just can't do it. It's like my dog cannot tell the difference between a hard rubber toy and the door stop, which is hard and rubber and on the ground. I had to get metal door stops because I cannot get the idea in his head that a rubber toy and rubber door stop are two different things.

That's who I would compare the American public to.

MORGAN: The whole phenomenon of Casey Anthony, again, struck me -- let's change the word from disturbing. It was fascinating to observe a country getting gripped with every machination of this trial. I saw, going into CNN makeup rooms, everyone in there just gripped to the live streaming from the courtroom. I couldn't believe it.

MAHER: It was gripping. It was also -- what I kept thinking was it's also very hypocritical to be so concerned in this country, which treats children, I think, horribly. You know, just turn the channel over from the Casey Anthony trial and you can watch toddlers in tiaras, where we celebrate this, mothers dressing up their four-year- olds like whores and spraying a can of hair spray in a six-year-old's face for 20 minutes.

That's OK? I'm the last one who should be going to bat for children. I don't have children. I don't particularly like children. But even I'm appalled at what we do to children in this country.

MORGAN: There's no denying that if you look at the ratings for HLN, for example, they've been stratospheric for the last month. I want to play you a clip about Nancy Grace that you may recall saying recently. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: Nancy Grace has to prove she was somewhere else the day of the murder. Any murder. I'm not saying she did it. I'm just saying who is always around and clearly capable of cold blooded murder without remorse?

I think most Americans are relieved to see Nancy Grace on TV, because it means she's not hiding in the back seat of our car with piano wire and those cold black eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I want --

MAHER: Don't make me go there. She could be right down the hall.

MORGAN: I have a lot of affection for Nancy. In fact, she's coming on the show later this week. But there was a clip I saw the other day which was I think a bit of a lightning strike on a tree near Caylee Anthony's grave. Nancy was just exploding on air, saying this is God's way of saying tot mom did it.

At that moment, even I sat back and went Nancy, you need to rein it in a bit.

MAHER: Again, what other modern country would that go over, where everything can be this is God, this is God. Did you see Michele Bachmann? We found out last week, every decision she's made in her life is because God told her to do it.

She wasn't in love with her husband. She didn't want to go to law school. She didn't want to run for Congress. She thinks God is talking to her.

When I was a kid, if someone thought God was talking to them, you called Bellevue.

MORGAN: You are an ap-atheist.

MAHER: That's a term I stole from somebody.

MORGAN: This is an apathetic, atheist, right?

MAHER: It's a combination of apathy and atheist, yes. I don't happens what happens when you die, and I don't care. No one is ever going to know.

MORGAN: You were raised by an Irish Catholic. And yet you became Jewish. Is that right?

MAHER: No, that's not right at all.

MORGAN: Is it bordering on any form of accuracy? MAHER: No. My mother was Jewish. My father was Catholic. Like many mixed marriages, especially of that era, they picked one. It was Catholic. And I was raised Catholic.

MORGAN: Then what happened?

MAHER: I was never Jewish. I have never set foot in a temple.

MORGAN: You are still a Catholic, in your eyes?

MORGAN: Of course not. Who is writing these cards for you? What is on this? I'm Bill Maher. Hello. Nice to meet you, Piers.

MORGAN: Can you stop being a Catholic?

MAHER: Yes. Yes. I'm hopefully one of America's most famous atheists.

MORGAN: You're not an atheist. You're an ap-atheist. It's a crucial distinction.

MAHER: It's very hard to -- there's atheist. There's agnostic. People -- you know, I'm OK with us not splitting the difference on those. If you're just not a super religious person, for me, you are on my team. It's very hard to say -- even Richard Dawkins says it in his book, if we put it on a scale of one to seven, one being absolutely certain that there is a God and seven being absolutely certain that there is no God, even I'm only a 6.9. He says, because we just don't know.

MORGAN: Where are you?

MAHER: I'm with him, 6.9.

MORGAN: A tiny fragment of you thinks there might be.

MAHER: As he says, it could be God or it could be a spaghetti monster out there. Again, the apathy part, we just don't think about.

MORGAN: How did your parents react to your ap-atheism?

MAHER: When I was a kid, we went to church. When you're young, you don't -- I was scared to death of the whole process. It was all I could do to just keep it together in church and catechism and those things we did.

When I was a young teenager, thankfully, my father stopped going to church. And that was the end of it. I was no longer any sort of Catholic. Then I went for many years where I didn't really think about religion all that much.

I kind of believed in God, because like a lot of people,. it was like when I was in trouble, I would bargain with him. God, if you get me out of this, I promise I will quit smoking, stuff like that.

MORGAN: Do you still do any of that? Do you ever pray? MAHER: Pray? No. Praying is trying to telepathically communicate with an imaginary friend. I wouldn't do that. Of course not. Atheists don't pray.

So for the past 15 or 20 years, that's been my view.

MORGAN: If you had prayed, would you have prayed for the kind of news cycle we have had, from Weiner-gate to Schwarzenegger-gate?

MAHER: It has been -- if there was a God for comedians, he may have been raining down upon us, yes.

MORGAN: Hold that thought and we'll come back to it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BRAEK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: In a world of politicians doing everything from having babies with the maid, leaving their wives on their death beds and hiking the Appalachian Trail, you're guilty of the most humiliating indiscretion of all. You didn't get any.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's more from HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

MAHER: Here we are going after Democrats. We are an equal opportunity --

MORGAN: Exactly. Essentially, you are hard. You're a comedian.

MAHER: Absolutely.

MORGAN: You do see the absurd in almost everything.

MAHER: Yes. But a comedian with a point of view. I do point of view type of comedy. Other comedians do different kinds of comedy. Some have no point of view at all. It is just observation. That was never what I found interesting.

I was always a guy who had to have a point of view. When I was younger, it very often didn't resonate with audiences, because they were like you are a 25-year-old kid. Why should you be telling me about politics. You have to get a little order to have some gravitas.

MORGAN: A lot of stand-ups I've interviewed have fairly tormented backgrounds. You don't seem to have that.

MAHER: No. And I think that's overrated. Yes, there are lots of comics who do. There are also lots of comics who don't. Comics, it goes across the board, I swear. There's great ones who are completely sane and then there are insane people who use that as fodder for their comedy.

MORGAN: You've been doing stand-up for several decades. MAHER: Thirty years.

MORGAN: Do you get as much fun of that now as you always used to?

MAHER: Much more, because I'm good at it now. And the audience comes to see me and specifically knows what I do. When you start out, that's when it's tough, because you stink at it. You're learning. You're learning something in front of people who are judging you and not giving you the reaction you want.

It's got to be the hardest thing to learn. You know, you learn the computer. It's not in front of a group of judgmental people at 2:00 in the morning, who are drunk and heckling you.

MORGAN: Do you feel the pressure to always be on your game? The reason I ask you, I follow you on Twitter. You're a great Tweeter, @BillMaher. You are a great Tweeter because you make me laugh very consistently.

MAHER: Good.

MORGAN: It's like an extension of your show and everything else. But do you feel a pressure, even when you're doing that, to be endlessly funny?

MAHER: I don't understand Twitter when people just tell you what they're doing. That's so boring. You know, what do I care that you just had lunch or what you had for lunch. To me, that's insane.

But to use Twitter to say something when you -- if I don't have something to say, I don't say it. That's the great thing about Twitter.

MORGAN: You don't troll for the ladies like Mr. Weiner?

MAHER: No. My trolling days are over.

MORGAN: I read a great thing you said, when you said that when you got near 50, just past 50, you realized you couldn't keep doing a certain type of joke, which basically made you look like a sort of dirty old man. You had this moment of awakening.

MAHER: Right. And also, I changed. Up until that era, I drank a lot more. When you drink, your life is different, because you can just keep the party going all day -- all night, not day. I didn't drink in the day. That's a drunk. I didn't drink in the day.

But I certainly had a great time all over this town and all over this country for at least 20 years. Drinking, when you can have a whole bunch of drinks in a night, you can go from one place to the next place. You know, it covers up a multitude of sins. People who are not that bright seem more interesting.

People who are boring don't seem boring. You yourself are half in the bag, so if they're rude, it doesn't matter. It just changes your life completely.

MORGAN: One of the smartest things you did as a Hollywood lothario was not get married, I would argue. When we come back after this break, I want to ask you about how you have managed to avoid that pitfall, and what you think of people like Charlie Sheen, who just plunged in all guns blazing.

MAHER: I will be happy to answer that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MORGAN: My special guest, Bill Maher. Bill, how have you avoided getting married? I say avoiding because so many entertainers plunge into pretty awful marriage and go through the inevitable breakdown, the expensive divorce. They end up living in misery.

MAHER: Aren't you going to get in trouble with your wife for talking about marriage this way?

MORGAN: She would expect me to ask these kind of questions.

MAHER: You're talking about it like, you didn't get caught.

MORGAN: I guess what I was saying is you've managed to preserve the right to behave how you like.

MAHER: I've never been a liar. There are lots of people who don't like me, and that's fine. I never say anything purposely to piss people off, but I say what I feel. And that will piss a lot of people off. But they can't say I'm a liar.

To me, not getting married was part of that. Some people just have a very strongly strong libido. You just have to deal with it. If I had gotten married any time before now, I couldn't have been faithful. So I just lived the life where I could be true to myself and true to other people.

MORGAN: Have you reported on being a sexaholic.

MAHER: First of all, there's no such thing as a sexaholic. That's something Dr. Drew made up to explain Andy Dick. There's no such thing.

No. What I will say is that people, especially men -- I can't really speak for women. But I know men have very different libido levels. Some people just hornier. Andrew Weiner I think is just at a stage of his life where he is very horny. And that will subside.

I found it subsided a bit after I turned 50, or in my early 50s. And it was a great relief. It was like getting a monkey off your back. Not that you can't still have a good sex life, but it's not like this constant urging that you have to take care of.

I had Ray Kurzweil on the show recently, and I love Ray. He said he's taking testosterone. He said, you should take some. First of all, I wouldn't do that, because I'm not sure what the repercussions are. But also, I said, Ray, I just finally got to the point in my life where I have not so much testosterone coursing through may veins, running my life. I'd like to keep it that way.

MORGAN: When you look at someone like Charlie Sheen, what do you honestly think of his behavioral pattern?

MAHER: I know Charlie a bit. We've socialized a couple of times. I like the Charlie I knew then. I don't like the one that I've seen lately. But that's mostly probably the cocaine talking. I don't like the braggadocio. That's what I don't like. I don't like a rich guy, who was born on third base -- and he was, the good-looking son of a movie star, sort of rubbing it in other's people's faces that I'm winning.

That's what I don't like about this Charlie Sheen. I also think he should probably, and I'm not -- I'm a libertarian when it comes to drugs and stuff like that. But at the moment, I got him ahead of Gadhafi in the dead pool. He really needs to watch out. He could wind up in a body bag.

MORGAN: Are you still attending the Playboy Mansion on a regular basis? And is it true that you honestly believe you only go there for the food?

MAHER: I said that, it was a joke. First of all, I never, ever went to the Playboy Mansion more than a few times a year. I went when they had parties. They used to have parties -- everything Hef does is like clockwork.

MORGAN: I want to one. I went to the Midsummer Night's Dream one. Unbelievable. Going back to Caligula times.

MAHER: Yes, and no. I've never been in the grotto. Doesn't that say something for me.

MORGAN: I have.

MAHER: You went in the grotto?

MORGAN: I went in the grotto.

MAHER: I wouldn't get in there on a bet.

MORGAN: It was fascinating.

MAHER: There must have been diseases in there from when Columbus --

MORGAN: Every cave.

MAHER: Are you kidding? No, I -- but I went when they had a party. New Year's Eve, very often I went. I went Hef's birthday in April, the Mid Summer Night's Dream, Halloween. That's when I went. They make it sound like I lived there. I didn't go to the Playboy Mansion that much. Bill Cosby is there more than I am. Why don't they get on his case.

MORGAN: You are beginning to sound a bit defensive about this, Bill.

MAHER: Because it just never, ever doesn't come up. Whatever interview you do.

MORGAN: I don't think of you as a lesser guy for going to the Playboy Mansion all the time.

MAHER: Of course I'm not. But the fact that it obsesses people that I've been to the Playboy Mansion parties. By the way, they're just good parties. It's just a guy with a nice, big backyard, who's very generous with his liquor and there's lots of hot chicks around. I've been to other parties that could be described the same way.

MORGAN: We're going to have a final break and come back and talk to you about this job and whether you wanted it.

MAHER: This job?

MORGAN: Yeah.

MAHER: I have a job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back with Bill Maher. Bill, I was quite moved when you took part in Larry King's final show. It was quite moving. I've been a huge fan of his for years. I could see for you it meant quite a lot, actually.

MAHER: It meant so much to me that he wanted me there. It also meant a lot to me that he wanted me to be the one who he announced that he was stepping down to. I got that call like the day before. It was like a secret, Larry's going to say something. I knew what they were talking about. They couldn't say it.

Yeah, I was telling you before. I was on that show so many times, it was almost like my therapy. Every couple of months, I would show up here and sort of unload and vent for an hour. And I felt a lot unburdened when I left.

MORGAN: Is this part of the trick of show business, knowing when to leave the party?

MAHER: Yes, absolutely.

MORGAN: Being able to choose it -- have your own destiny?

MAHER: But I didn't think Larry was diminished in any way. I think this is a youth culture. And they -- especially in television, especially with high definition television. MORGAN: See, I --

MAHER: They're going to throw everybody out to pasture at some point. You can only do it for so long. And also, every generation has to find its own, you know, person to fill that role. Johnny Carson, I don't think was a diminished performer either when he left.

MORGAN: I heard you were tempted to possibly go and do it yourself, this show, because you hosted it before? Is that true?

MAHER: Never. I've never had -- what's that?

MORGAN: Would it appeal to you, this kind of thing? You used to do a nightly show.

MAHER: It would appeal to me more than like working with a leaf blower. But I love the job I have. I find the job I have completely unique, completely challenging every week. The news changes. The guest changes. And I'm on HBO.

I am a person, more than most, who needs to be on HBO, where you can say anything, where there aren't sponsors. If I was doing a show here, every second day --

MORGAN: You be off air. Let's face it.

MAHER: That's exactly right. I would. Corporate overseers.

MORGAN: May you remain gloriously uncensored on HBO.

MAHER: Thank you. I appreciate it.

MORGAN: Love the show. And I loved you coming on.

MAHER: Thank you. You're doing a good job. You're a noble successor to Larry. I'll tell you that.

MORGAN: I appreciate that. Coming from you, that means a lot.

MAHER: I mean it.

MORGAN: That's all for tonight. A fascinating hour with Bill Maher. Now here's Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."