Bill Maher makes little effort to hide his contempt for many politicians, most of them Republicans. Now, he wants to take it to the next level: finding one he might be able to help oust from office.
On his weekly HBO talk show, "Real Time With Bill Maher," on Friday night, Maher and his staff plan to ask viewers to make a case for their individual representatives in the House to be selected as the worst in the country.
After some culling and analysis, one member of Congress will be selected, and the show will follow up through November with examples of what it considers terrible work by that representative. Maher will make occasional visits to that member's district to perform stand-up and generally stir up hostile feelings toward the show's target.
"This year, we are going to be entering into the exciting world of outright meddling with the political process," Maher said in an email message.
The project - which the show is calling the "flip the district" campaign - is intended to get real results, said Scott Carter, the show's executive producer. Among the criteria for selecting a representative, other than some degree of outrageousness in statements or voting record, is that the member be in a truly competitive race. Those running unopposed will not be selected, no matter how egregious the show's fans may claim them to be.
"We want the chance to win," Carter said.
The choice may be a Republican or a Democrat, although he acknowledged, "with our viewers voting, I imagine it is much more likely we will pick a Republican."
Maher has been a frequent critic of conservatives - and a target for them.
"There are a lot of terrible, entrenched congressmen out there," Maher said. "We're going to choose one of them, throw him or her into the national spotlight and see if we can't send him or her scuttling under the refrigerator on election night."
Before beginning its campaign, Carter said, the show would make sure that the challenger in the race would not be harmed by Maher's presence.
"We will suss out whether or not the challenger might think there was reason why our participation in the effort to unseat the incumbent would not be welcomed," he said.
He acknowledged the possibility that the incumbent will play the famed "outside agitators" card and accuse "Hollywood liberals" of interfering where they don't belong.
"We do not want to do harm," Carter said, but he suggested that many people might welcome "Hollywood types" adding a little pizazz to a local race.
Of course, getting laughs out of the effort will also be a goal.
"We think there will be no shortage of nominations of incumbents who are ludicrous, who are ridiculous for one reason or another," Carter said, "and we think there is no lack of entertainment value among sitting members of Congress."
By BILL CARTER
The New York Times