As the presidential primaries move into South Carolina, Bill Maher had one question for his panel on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night: Why is George W. Bush — of all people — so danged popular among the US Military?

“We all agree that the war in Iraq was a huge mistake. Shouldn’t George W. Bush be the least popular guy among the military?”

A baffled Bill Maher goes on to ask his audience:

“It’s like battered wife syndrome. Why do you like a guy who sent you to lose lives and limbs, and be away from your family to a war we now agree was not necessary.”

Maher’s panelists rapper and ardent Bernie Sanders supporter Michael “Killer Mike” Render, Bloomberg’s Josh Green, and comedian Margaret Cho seem equally baffled, but CNN’s Ana Navarro rises to former President George W. Bush’s defense:

“I think there are few former presidents who have done as much for veterans, for wounded warriors as George W. Bush.” 

As the audience jeers, Bill Maher points out that those wounded warriors “wouldn’t be wounded.” But a grimly determined Navarro presses on:

“You know why the military respects him? Because they recognize he has leadership abilities.”

Bill Maher skeptically interjects, “leadership abilities, and Ana Navarro nods and firmly insists, “yes, leadership abilities.” Killer Mike then mentions a commercial he often sees for the Wounded Warriors Project and how it makes him angry, because we shouldn’t have sent those soldiers over in the first place:

“I watch Velocity TV at home, learning how to work on cars and whatnot. There’s one commercial that comes on that disgusts me every time it comes on. My heart goes with the soldier. He’s on it and he’s shaking throughout the entire commercial, and they show you, and they give you a pitch on Wounded Warrior syndrome. And I say the same thing you said. Why don’t we stop sending poor and working class boys to war. We don’t have to have those commercials. We don’t have to have a charity. We don’t have to be angry that the VA hospital won’t see them for post traumatic stress syndrome when they come back, so they have higher suicide rates. If we do the right thing by avoiding war, we don’t have to have that.”

When the audience is done cheering Killer Mike, Margaret Cho steps in and drops a bombshell:

“I think George Bush is a war criminal. He sent all of these people to die. And some of them came back worse than dead. It’s horrible.”

Boom.

And, in fact, the nation of Malaysia actually has convicted George W. Bush of war crimes in absentia. Josh Green adds that — given the fact that George W. Bush hasn’t appeared at the last two Republican conventions, his brother Jeb Bush’s campaign must be in some serious trouble.

“[George W. Bush] hasn’t shown up at the last two Republican conventions. A lot of people do feel that way. Only, maybe, in the insular community of the South Carolina Republican party does he have some oomph. I don’t think Jeb would have him out on the campaign trail if he weren’t in some real trouble electorally.”

Ana Navarro denies that means anything, jeb Bush’s campaign is just “being strategic” and using his “assets and resources.” Green skeptically denies that the former president is “much of an asset,” but Navarro chirps “that’s where we disagree.”

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She also insists that George W. Bush has a 90 percent approval rating in the Palmetto State. What Ana Navarro doesn’t mention: Dubya hasn’t seen those numbers since the early aughts. According to The Washington Post his approval ratings among SC Republicans is 84 percent … according to a private poll.

The former president’s approval rating among South Carolina Republicans stands at 84 percent, according to a private poll commissioned two months ago by Katon Dawson, a former state GOP chairman. That would put him in a tie with Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott as the most popular Republicans in the state.

Then again, consider the source.

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