The nation’s most exclusive fraternity — the presidents club — assembled Wednesday to mourn George H.W. Bush. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was there too — and footage of her “greeting” to President Donald Trump quickly went viral.
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The uncomfortable reunion brought Trump together in the same pew with past White House residents who have been outspoken and critical of the Oval Office occupant.
But the Bushes had made it known to the White House months ago that, despite differences in policy, the late president wanted Trump to attend the national service.
Ahead of Wednesday’s state funeral for the late president, former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their spouses chatted easily among themselves from their seats in the front row at Washington’s National Cathedral. The ex-presidents leaned over their wives to chat with one another. Bill Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama shared a quiet conversation.
But the Trumps’ arrival, minutes ahead of the motorcade carrying Bush’s casket, cast an icy pall on the conversation. First lady Melania Trump approached first, greeting both Obamas and former president Clinton with a handshake. The president then shook hands with both Obamas before taking his seat.
Hillary Clinton stared straight ahead as the Trumps arrived, and refused to even look at the president — let alone greet him.
Hillary gives Melania a snarky nod, refuses to even look at Trump. At a funeral. pic.twitter.com/d9NGYnciz2
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) December 5, 2018
The Trump-Obama handshake marked the first direct interaction between the current president and his immediate predecessor since Inauguration Day 2017. Trump has not spoken to Obama since that day.
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He hasn’t been completely alone, though. Trump spoke with the younger Bush during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as the previous Republican president helped lobby for his former aide.
By virtue of health, longevity and opportunities for continued influence, ex-presidents are sticking around longer than ever and staying active in the public eye.
Past presidents often built relationships with their predecessors, Brinkley said. “Bill Clinton would reach out to Richard Nixon for advice on Russia,” he said. “Harry Truman leaned heavily on Herbert Hoover. It’s endless.”
To be sure, Brinkley added, those ties vary from president to president and there have been chilly relationships as well, noting, for example, that “FDR would never talk to Herbert Hoover.”
Busy with a mix of personal pursuits, charitable endeavors — and hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking gigs — the former leaders don’t mingle very often, making a funeral in their group a big occasion.
While he has struggled to set the right tone in past moments of national grief, Trump has gone out of his way to address Bush’s passing with consideration, issuing kind statements and ensuring that Bush family members have whatever they need for the funeral.
On Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump welcomed Laura Bush and other family members for a tour of the White House Christmas decorations. And Trump and the first lady visited with members of the Bush family at Blair House.
Hillary, it seems, didn’t get an invite.
The Associated Press contributed to this article