It's one thing for average Joes or even average celebrities to jump with both feet into the overflowing pool of our degenerating pop culture.
But when the president of the United States and the three candidates who hope to succeed him do a high dive, it's equal parts perplexing and off-putting.
Last week, President Bush appeared on "Deal or No Deal" by video. Sure, it was a gesture grounded in a good cause — Bush offered his personal thanks to a contestant who has served three decorated tours in Iraq.
After watching the segment on YouTube, I have to admit, it was a nice moment, despite my personal discomfort at seeing the president of the United States making merry on a game show with Howie Mandel.
Still, shouldn't the presidency carry quite a bit more dignity? Like him or not, this is our head of state, after all. Should the president's giant head be projected next to over-coifed models in low-cut dresses on a show that celebrates greed and going too far?
OK, one could debate whether the greed and going too far part is kind of like old home week for George W., but it's still not a particularly decorous moment in American presidential history.
But Bush's game-show moment seemed almost state dinnerlike compared to what the three front-runners to take his place did.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain each taped clips for "Monday Night Raw," flexing their political muscles with clever little smackdown barbs aired for the World Wrestling Entertainment's cable broadcast. Again, YouTube enlightened me:
"Tonight, in honor of the WWE, you can call me Hillrod."
"Do you smell what Barack is cooking?"
"Whatcha gonna do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you?"
Oh, holy decorum, Batman, what's going on here?
Blame it on Hillrod's husband. This whole pop-culture-presidency thing really took off when Bill Clinton played his saxophone on the "The Arsenio Hall Show" during his campaign against W's daddy.
I never begrudged Bill his rock-star moment because it was somewhat unchartered territory. Sure, Nixon deadpanned his "sock it to me" on "Laugh-In" a million years ago, but both managed to stand as refreshing, special moments in time when uptight politicos metaphorically loosened their ties and showed their human sides.
Of course, today, once someone does anything new that creates a stir and leads to success, it is then done to the point of dry heaves in baser and baser ways that only can be cooked up within the murky minds of PR representatives.
Now, presidential candidates fall all over themselves trying to tap into the ever- devolving pop-culture zeitgeist.
It's all so much pandering. And, yes, pandering is pretty much all that any candidate does on the campaign trail.
But the WWE? That's several steps below pandering. Heck, that's several miles below pandering.
There are entire countries between pandering and appearing on the WWE.
I probably wouldn't have given much thought to Bush's goodwill message on "Deal or No Deal" had the story about the WWE debacle not appeared soon after. But on the heels of each other, it made for a sobering realization of the state we find ourselves in today.
Really, McCainiacs? This is what we've come to?
What's next? Will we see pictures for the next four years of our president delivering a big box of red roses on "The Bachelor?" Or maybe each will tie a bandanna around his or her head and help Bret Michaels find his new main squeeze on "Rock of Love."
Such cavorting surely would bring the candidates ever closer to "the people."
But it's so not presidential.
Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.