Should anyone be friends with George W. Bush? | The Tylt
Should anyone be friends with George W. Bush?
DeGeneres addressed the scandal during her daily monologue on her television show, urging her viewers to be more kind. Per Vanity Fair:
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay.... Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna be friends with them. When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter.”
Many of DeGeneres' famous friends rushed to her defense, saying the country needed more of the openmindedness she was showing. Per People:
After DeGeneres, 61, defended her friendship with the conservative politician on her talk show, some of her famous friends like Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Bell praised her for preaching kindness to others.
“I have friends who don’t think the same things that I do. When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean ..Be Kind to Everyone,” DeGeneres’ quote read.
Witherspoon also commented “exactly” alongside the bullseye emoji on DeGeneres’ Instagram post where she defended the friendship.
Bell, on the other hand, posted a side-by-side picture of Bush and DeGeneres on her Instagram, calling the talk show host her “queen.”
Presidential candidate also voiced her support for the comedian.
Many critics, however, pointed out that theirs was not merely a difference of opinions. As New York Magazine notes, Bush's policies have been disastrous for thousands of people.
There are people in the world, after all, whom it is better not to befriend. Consider, for example, the person of George W. Bush. Tens of thousands of people are dead because his administration lied to the American public about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and then, based on that lie, launched a war that’s now in its 16th year. After Hurricane Katrina struck and hundreds of people drowned in New Orleans, Bush twiddled his thumbs for days. Rather than fire the officials responsible for the government’s life-threateningly lackluster response to the crisis, he praised them, before flying over the scene in Air Force One. He opposed basic human rights for LGBT people, and reproductive rights for women, and did more to empower the American Christian right than any president since Reagan.
George W. Bush’s presidency wasn’t just morally bankrupt. In a superior reality, the Hague would be sorting out whether he is guilty of war crimes. Since our international institutions have failed to punish, or even censure him, surely the only moral response from civil society should be to shun him.
...DeGeneres isn’t a role model for civility. Her friendship with Bush simply embodies the grossest form of class solidarity. From a lofty enough vantage point, perhaps Bush’s misdeeds really look like minor partisan differences. Perhaps Iraq seems very far away, and so do the poor of New Orleans, when the stage of your show is the closest you get to anyone without power.
Celebrities did not uniformly take DeGeneres' side, with actor Mark Ruffalo roundly criticizing her on Twitter.
Some argued DeGeneres was not just trying to understand a benign difference in viewpoints, she was trivializing the massive suffering caused by the former president. Per Vanity Fair:
Throughout her address, DeGeneres reduced this history to a difference in “beliefs.” She compared their would-be tension to that shared between Cowboys and Packers fans—or those who enjoy wearing fur coats and those who oppose them. But when one person has historically believed other people should not have the same basic rights as another, it’s hard to treat these differences as benign—especially when that person once exercised their power to help make their beliefs a reality.