Last night I fell into watching a really important show. It was called something like "The Hills: Stuff you've never seen." Since I'd never seen the actual show, but have read about Heidi and Lauren (boob job, sex tape respectively, I believe) on the covers of magazines, I was a little curious about what hadn't been seen. And apparently what hadn't been seen was a lot of drinking and crying and groping and fighting. Apparently, some pretty smart sounding people take their jobs creating a "reality" show around people being miked and taped (and scripted?) pretty seriously. What that says about reality, I just can't say.
Anyway, I started surfing during a commercial break and landed on a PBS show about George H.W. Bush. Weirdly fascinating.
Bush seems to have had an outsized sense of loyalty to his Presidents, country and the potential for his own political power. Much of this is admirable (you make some money, you serve your country), and much of it is profoundly cynical (e.g., his willingness to build the Texas Republican party and his own political footprint with white Democrats angered by Civil Rights). But honestly, it's all hard to figure out what I think of Bush because the veil of my own political opinions is so thick. I feel downright icky saying I think George H.W. Bush was not so bad all the time. And then there's the means-ends problem.
For example, while watching the show, I wanted to like the Bush who voted for the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and faced death threats for it. But I couldn't forget that he faced those threats because he had cultivated the votes of those opposed to Civil Rights in the first place.
Then there's the ickiness-means-end matrix. Because in this political climate it can be impossible to remember that reasonable people can disagree reasonably and the body politic is better for it. It's like I've forgotten that a Democrat and Republican can sit down to a meal and debate and walk away and not feel like the other person is a bad human being, but just someone with whom each disagrees.
I can think 41 is not so bad and that's not the end of the world. Except when I think he's willing to compromise too much and that's bad. I can't tell if my standards are the same all around, though. Because let's face it, nobody's perfect, and yet imperfection in the service of one's own goals and ideals is somewhat palatable, or at least sympathetic or understandable. Isn't this what we struggle with when faced with both Clintons? Imperfect choices when it comes to means when the ends are on the other side? That's some seriously bad stuff. (Witness John McCain's ethics problem. Would I feel the same way about them if he wouldn't pack the Supreme Court with as many more Alitos as he could possibly find? I think so, but I can't be sure.)
That Lauren, Heidi, Spence and Justin led me down a path to George H.W. Bush seems particularly appropriate -- the truest of American Experiences, right? Pop culture flows into political culture, and we can then examine what incites our passions. What's right, what's wrong, when do you draw the line? It gets all muddled up pretty quickly. A little like this post.