On Friday night, Bill Maher interviewed the right-wing, former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro onto his "Real Time" HBO show. Maher went tough on Shapiro, but in the end it appeared that Shapiro got the best of him by simply showing himself to be reasonable.
While Maher divided the American political spectrum into black and white – “There are only two teams” – Shapiro gave a more nuanced analysis and was unwilling to give up on half the country. He claimed he was not "Never Trump" but "Sometimes Trump."
“When he does something that I like, I cheer. And when he does something that I hate, I boo,” said Shapiro.
“I’ve been incredibly critical of Republicans who have suddenly become fans of Vladimir Putin or have suddenly become fans of tariffs,” continued Shapiro. “I think all of that is idiocy. But again, I think that with regard to judges, with regard to taxes, with regard to Middle Eastern policy – particularly Iran and Israel – I’m much more of a fan of President Trump than I certainly would have been of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And, by the way, I didn’t vote for President Trump in the last election because of my concerns about him.”
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“Trump's been a lot harsher on Putin than Obama was, by the way,” Shapiro argued.
“Not in terms of his rhetoric, in terms of his actions,” Shapiro continued. “He has armed the people of Ukraine with deadly weapons, something which Obama would not do. Two-hundred Russian soldiers were killed in Syria by U.S. forces under Donald Trump, not under Barack Obama, because Barack Obama said to (former Russian President) Dmitry Medvedyev that he wanted to provide him with flexibility in 2012. Crimea was annexed under Barack Obama.”
The assertion left Maher briefly silent until he responded, "Wow."
Shapiro conceded that he may one day vote for the Democrats, if they stopped “being insane” and “present a face that doesn’t look like people shouting down people at gas stations or entering restaurants and trying to throw them out.”
“OK, well if you’re talking about the ‘civility’ thing, why don’t we start with the Republicans stop saying, ‘Lock her up!’ You don’t think that’s a worse abridgment of civility?” asked Maher. “And it’s not just ‘Lock her up.’ [Trump] talked about locking Comey up, he talks about locking journalists up. There’s a guy who said ‘Lock Tim Kaine up.’ How about we stop the ‘Lock them up'? Shouldn’t the civility argument start there before we care about who gets their entrée?”
Shapiro retorted that Americans should condemn “incivility across the board.”
Lastly, Shapiro stated: “I don’t look to Donald Trump as a thought leader,” and that he didn't believe Trump had colluded with the Kremlin because he thought he was “too ignorant.”
Marlow Stern, in the Daily Beast, observed after watching the segment, "More than anything, however, this pointless gabfest only served to boost Shapiro’s bafflingly-high profile. Congratulations, Bill: you just played yourself. Again."