It was an image that instantly went viral on Sunday: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and her wife were spotted at the Dallas Cowboys game against the Green Bay Packers, seated next to George W. and Laura Bush. As is inevitable in our outrage-fueled cancel culture, some malcontents, mainly on the Left, were irate that a popular and mainstream figure like Ellen would allow herself to be seen having a nice time with a Republican. For just a moment, Trump derangement was supplanted by its predecessor condition on Twitter, as encapsulated by this rant from a professional angry leftist at Media Matters:
"I feel like you shouldn’t need a flow chart to help you decide whether to go to a game as a war criminal’s guest," tweeted Parker Molloy, wrongly assuming that Ellen was Bush's guest and dusting off the old 'war criminal' slander. "George W. Bush is one of history’s greatest monsters," she went on, unironically. "Let’s be clear: Every American president has been complicit in some evil stuff. But George W. Bush is next-level." Other left-wing outlets published similar knee-jerk fury, with others making a case that the spectator pairing was somehow problematic, or demanding answers. It's all so exhausting. Ellen addressed the 'controversy' on her show yesterday, doing so charmingly and disarmingly:
. @TheEllenShow explains how she ended up in Jerry Jones’ box this weekend (she was a guest of his daughter) at the Cowboys/Packers game.— Yashar Ali ?? (@yashar) October 8, 2019
And she also talks about her friendship with former President George W. Bush pic.twitter.com/7MGIoyCba4
"When we were invited, I was, you know, aware that I was going to be surrounded by people from very different views and beliefs. And I'm not talking about politics. I was rooting for the Packers...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 we've forgotten that that's ok, that we're all different...but just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean that I'm not doing to be friends with them. When I say 'be kind to one another,' I don't only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone. Doesn't matter." (Cheers and applause).
As the kids might say, inject this sentiment directly into my veins. This is precisely the sort of message that the country needs to hear -- repeatedly -- from major figures of various political and cultural stripes. This little monologue is an important antidote to noxious tribalism. It won't appease the angriest shouters and pot-stirrers, but it will remind most viewers of unifying truths. Friendships, and basic manners and decency, must span the ideological divide. There are people on the fringes who will stomp their feet and insist the opposite is true, and that being polite and nice is tantamount to "normalizing" people who should be "de-platformed," or whatever. But with very, very few exceptions, that's nonsense. Prosaic, even powerful, partisan disagreements should not dominate or define most human interactions or relationships.
Ellen should be commended for leading by example on this, then standing up to the mob in such a way that made them seem ridiculous (I can imagine the joyless Molloy brigade cringing with rage when Ellen's audience cheers Bush and applauds the lesson she imparts), and made herself even more likable in the process. Bravo. I'll leave you with a reminder from last year that the American people's views of Bush have changed dramatically since the conclusion of his presidency:
George W. Bush has turned his unpopularity upside down. Six in 10 Americans, 61%, say they now have a favorable view of the 43rd President of the United States in the latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS, nearly double the 33% who gave him a favorable mark when he left the White House in January 2009...Bush holds a majority favorable rating among every demographic group but liberals -- including strong Democratic groups like nonwhites and people under 35 years old. [His approval among Republicans is 76 percent].
And we should never, ever forget about this legacy, which goes largely unnoticed in many circles.
Editor's Note: Benson served in George W. Bush's White House as an intern.