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This Is Smart?

I'm sitting here in my hotel in Charlottesville watching Bill Maher's new show, and I'm kind of stunned. As I keep mentioning, we don't have TV in the house, and so this is all new to me. Reading about the show, the common theme that I saw was that Maher's wit and intelligence would bring back a certain kind of intelligent discussion abut politics. The only intelligent discussion I saw was from actor Sean Astin - the guy from the LotR series. WTH?? Maher is the guy (and you all probably know this better than I did) who stepped in it when he said on his old show that Atta and the other 9/11 attackers were "brave" in the form of their attacks, while Clinton had been less so for just lobbing over some cruise missiles.
The show tonight has comedian Larry Miller - an old friend of Maher's, a young woman (who never got a name label) who is a Republican strategist, and actor Astin. The crowd - or the laugh track - cheers and laughs loudly at whatever Maher says - while groaning whenever one of the panelists disagrees with him. Maher has some mildly witty comments on Administration foibles, attacks the Iraq invasion, using the relatively typical arguments - and overall, my response to him is, I've heard it all before. I've heard it at a thousand dinner parties in West Los Angeles, and Maher is a perfected example of the model. The guy I want to have dinner with is Astin - hobbit Sam - whose comments are surprising, personal, and somehow feel genuinely thoughtful. I have no idea what his politics are, but I'd like to find out.

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