Since 2017, it’s been fashionable among critics of Donald Trump to call him a uniquely terrible president — in particular, it’s common to compare Trump negatively to George W. Bush, often due to how people think Bush did a good job after the 9/11 attacks.
One person who doesn’t agree with that assessment is Bill Maher, who on Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” used his “New Rules” segment to talk about what he sees as direct similarities between Trump and Bush. Specifically, he thinks the Trump administration has responded to the coronavirus pandemic about as well as the Bush administration responded to the 9/11 attacks.
And no, he definitely was not giving Trump a compliment.
“I’m all for rallying around the flag but let’s not rally around the guy who missed all the red flags,” Maher began.
“Yeah, America has been slow and inefficient in responding to this crisis. And yet our leader’s approval rating is up. Because that’s what we do. In times of crisis, our leaders get a bump in the polls, whether it’s justified or not. Because a crisis is no time to think. And rallying around the president is just one of those irrational things we do in a crisis like hoarding Charmin or praying. Especially if the President says he’s a wartime leader, which this President says he is,” Maher said.
“Unfortunately, that is a war on science. You know Americans have made this mistake before,” Maher continued, before bringing up Bush.
“On September 11, 2001, as President Bush was reading ‘My Pet Goat’ to school children, an aide whispered in his ear, ‘America is under attack.’ And he sat there looking like he forgot to turn off the stove,” Maher said.
Maher continued: “His response was, ‘The attack can wait, let’s find out what happened to the goat.’ And then of course, because this is America, Bush’s approval rating went up. After the attack, the Bush people, much like the Trump people now, said, ‘Who could have imagined this?'”
“Well in both cases, experts,” Maher said. “Yeah, experts did. Bush was repeatedly warned that al Qaeda could crash a plane into the Pentagon, and the FBI reported that weird holy men were training at U.S. flight schools practicing the flying part — no interest in landings. And then there was the famous memo entitled ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.’ Veronica Mars could have put this together in 40 minutes. Al Qaeda did everything but send Bush an email that said ‘September 11th, save the date.’
“Now, was this current crisis preventable? Not all of it, of course, but we could have done what South Korea did,” Maher continued. “Their nightmare started the exact same day ours did but while Trump shut up experts, happy-talked and lied his ass off, South Korea put a strong testing program into place. Tracing people. And today, they have 21 times fewer cases and 30 times fewer deaths. They didn’t have to do a big lockdown, like we do. So their pets aren’t always looking at them like, ‘Don’t you have someplace to be?'”
“If this is a war, Trump lost it in January. He’s not FDR or JFK, he’s LOL,” Maher joked. “So it’s more than a little disturbing that he’s getting a bump in the polls from all this. A bump which tells us we’re once again entering into rallying-around-the-leader time, around the guy who made it worse. Come on, toilet paper is now more valuable than the dollar.”
But, Maher continued, “We do have actual heroes here. They’re working in hospitals, doctors on the front lines. Stockers at grocery stores and cashiers at weed dispensaries. But not Trump. Let’s stop doing this thing where we delude ourselves into lionizing someone just because they were there when the s— hit the fan.”
Maher then made the point that in his view, the problem isn’t just Bush or Trump, but Republicans in government generally, noting that then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani overrode recommendations by NYPD and “put the city’s emergency command center in the one place it was most likely to be wiped out: in the World Trade Center, after it had been bombed the first time.”
“The root problem we got here is Republicans are better at politics and so they get elected but once in office they can’t do anything because their idea of government is dismantling government,” Maher concluded. “So let’s also skip the ‘we need to be less partisan’ virtue signaling when it’s obvious Republicans have a proud, proven legacy of government dysfunction syndrome. Yesterday it was Bush and Giuliani. Today, it’s Trump and McConnell and Ron DeSantis, and we can only be safer when every last one of them is voted out.”