Excerpts from a transcript of “Real Time With Bill Maher” September 9, 2005:
MAHER: Well, I’m thrilled you’re here. When all this went down the last couple of weeks, you know, a flood is kind of biblical, and I thought, let’s get someone on here who can – who has really seen it all, and who can compare this to other – how would you compare this to other fiascos and disasters that this country has seen?
VONNEGUT: Well, this country was already financially and spiritually ruined before the hurricane ever hit New Orleans. I thought about the tsunami hitting Indonesia. Nature was a piker compared to human beings when it comes to killing people. The tsunami killed, I think, I calculated about 3% as many people as the Holocaust killed.
Vonnegut could have really made Nature look like a piker if he had cited the much larger death tolls of the Soviets (20M) and Communist Chinese (40M). If I were a socialist I wouldn’t call attention to those examples either. He opposed the war in Vietnam, so maybe he’d be interested to know that the post-war deaths there (430K) also exceed the tsunami (123K). Probably not.
This financially and spiritually ruined country sent more aid to the tsunami victims than any other and played a critical role in ending the Holocaust. Both of Vonnegut’s examples contradict his point, which didn’t even answer Maher’s question. Nobody noticed, they were so eager to get straight to the insults:
MAHER: Well, what do you, as a writer, when you see President Bush, is there something tragic there? Is that a story that appeals to a writer? Because here’s a guy, like most tragic figures, who is trying very hard to avoid something. In his case, he was trying very hard to avoid the fate of his father. And then he’s undone by a war in Iraq and a hurricane.
VONNEGUT: Yes. [scattered applause] It’s a tragedy for me that he’s president of my country. [applause] And he doesn’t – you know, my book is called A Man Without a Country. Well, I’ve still got a passport, but if I showed this now in Portugal or Spain or Italy or Germany or France, or Denmark, or Japan or even Communist China, what it would say about me is that I am not only from the richest country in the world, but the dumbest country in the world. [laughter] [applause] Is our president a tragic figure? Perhaps, but he doesn’t know diddly-squat about economics or history or science, even how to speak well. [laughter] [applause]
Is Vonnegut a tragic figure? [laughter] Perhaps, but he doesn’t know diddly-squat about economics or history or science, even how to think well. [laughter] [applause] The next time he’s in another country he might consider how they compare to the US in economics, history, or science. [boos]
Judging by the reaction in the blogosphere some of the dumbest people are Vonnegut fans.