Bill Maher interviews President Obama: Part 1 (Socialism in Government, Obamacare, Privatized Prisons, the Drug War, & Atheism in America)


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Bill Maher interviewing President Obama
Photo Credit: 
HBO/Real Time with Bill Maher


                Bill Maher sat down for a 30+ minute long interview with President Barack Obama covering a wide range of issues, including: government involvement in daily life, the Drug War, atheism, food purity, the size of the American military, and a closing call to vote (a link to the full interview is available at the end of the article!). Maher has sought an interview with President Obama for the entirety of Obama’s Presidency, and the interview was interestingly marked with a brief conversation of Obama’s general practices with regards to attempting to establish and grow official policies. However, given the wide ranging issues covered this will be reviewed and considered in two segments.

                The starting point for their conversation was exploring the role of socialism in modern American government. More specifically, it explored the reality that as Americans we do want government involvement in aspects of daily life that qualify as examples of socialism, even if the masses may officially decry this. The true standard of what we are comfortable with and accept as necessity seems to dictate our course of action. Examples here abound, but include considerations such as education, medical care, incarceration/prisons, and potentially the media. The operative question has become at what point the general public is best served by and accepting of an engaged government involvement in these causes. The questions began from these points and were applied to the obvious topics that came forth from there - such as public education, Obamacare, public versus private prisons, and the media in general. While the consensus was that government involvement in education was an understandable standard which few would deny, Obama lamented that he might have preferred a single payer healthcare system. However, Obama stressed that you have to act based on the systems already in place and the need for action, not the idealistic-yet-unrealistic endpoint goal you might imagine (separating the idea of a single payer system as something to be later pursued compared to the existing-and-changing system that is modern Obamacare).

                Both Maher and Obama agreed about the troubling nature of prisons operating even marginally as a private industry. Obama even went so far as to draw attention to the profit-motive aspect such a system places on ensuring some Americans are denied freedom to feed and continue the system itself. While Maher advocated for the media to be stripped of corrupting influences such as money – Obama was quick to retort that options such as a state-run media were just as troubling as they can act as a sounding chamber for authoritative regimes. Obama stressed a feeling that the greater cause would be increasing interest and entertainment value of genuine news broadcasting – a challenge he admitted was a daunting one.

                Maher, quite predictably, delved into issues linked to the Drug War – particularly the legalization of marijuana. Maher explored the thought that while decriminalizing or legalizing varying drugs and ending the Drug War might be a lower priority, it did draw upon the incarceration question. Obama countered by articulating that we should be concerned with the risks substances (alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and more) pose while accepting that we need to rethink the question of legal access to these substances. Obama added that in a sense he was glad to see the issue of legalization for recreational and medicinal marijuana on the ballot in so many states as that question forces federal agencies like the DEA & FBI to rethink how they address these problems. Specifically, he stressed that the idea of combatting marijuana as a national effort while recognizing it as legal along most of the Western seaboard presented challenges of how much we really wanted to hold on to outdated ways of thinking in the Drug War.

                Maher also brought up the question of religion, and the lack thereof, for many Americans. Maher would cite the growing number of Americans that identify as Atheist or Agnostic and the question of why Congress represents so little in that regard. While Obama recognized the validity of this point, he questioned how much religion factors into the daily decision-making and assessments of normal Americans. Obama continued  forward to express a desire to live in an America where such questions of faith (or lack thereof) were of secondary importance to the greater need to accomplish public good.

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