Thank you for your thoughtful reply. (And for following me!)
I think you are right about the “Gordian Knot” aspect of the problem. I have mixed feelings about GWB as a person, and I hope that came through. He is sort of the “Chance the Gardener” of the Republican party in the 2000s. While I think he’s probably incapable of “extraordinary evil”, he didn’t have the sound practical judgment to recognize it when it appeared in the person of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al. I cannot let him off the hook for that but, I would be civil and maybe even friendly to him in the elevator — while small talk is something I have never been particularly good at, I would do my best to talk only about the Texas Rangers etc. (I am not sure I would be stuck in an elevator with Cheney or Trump, who ARE capable of extraordinary evil. I would walk out as soon as they walked in.)
You are right about the “judge not” maxim. I cannot peer into the depths of GWB’s soul, although its surface bothers me insofar as he couldn’t think for himself and smell a rat when it was right under his nose. (I could not peer into the depths of Trump’s soul in principle: I find it hard to believe he actually has one.) I can judge his efforts as POTUS, and they are miserable, and involved a lot of unnecessary death and destruction. Thus: keep it light when stuck in the elevator.
Finally “innocence by association”: something that should indeed be added to our dictionaries! I probably should fully disclose the fact that I hate television with the fire of a thousand suns, so I might have been predisposed to look at Ellen’s sunniness with a jaundiced eye. Her TV persona might be real or fake — you can’t tell, and that’s the problem. It was either George Burns or Oscar Wilde who said “if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything.” And the problem with TV as a medium is that it is SO passive, SO undemanding of the viewer, that the fake/sincere distinction fades into the background. And that, to me, is a ethical and cultural tar pit.
Many thanks again. — — LMN