Mr. and Mrs. Obama I will return to the White House on WednesdayThe fact that it’s taken this long is the story of America’s bitterly divided politics.
The former first couple attends the official unveiling of the White House portrait. This is an honor given to all former presidents and their spouses.The 44th president is back at his old bargain Healthcare event earlier this year With President Joe Biden, Michelle Obama’s return is first since her handed over the presidential palace to Trump on January 20, 2017.
Portrait ceremonies usually take place during the president-elect’s term of office. It is typically a lighthearted event that demonstrates bipartisanship and continuity across parties. But, unsurprisingly, Obama’s portrait dedication did not take place during his successor’s White House tenure. Former President Donald Trump was not interested in sharing the presidential limelight with anyone. And Obama wasn’t going to stand shoulder to shoulder with the man who wrote the racist conspiracy theory that he wasn’t born in America. So it fell to Biden to do the honor.
Such ceremonies are also a reminder that the president serves all Americans, and that some things, like respect for the office George Washington originally held, supersede politics. Helpful. Incumbent presidents often pay tribute to their predecessors’ tenure records and go to great lengths to find areas of common ground, even if their political parties differ. At then-President Bill Clinton’s first in-term portrait, he presents his predecessor George H.W. And the president – “a whole lifetime of public service.” Bush was kind in return. And like all returning presidents, he spoke of how much he loved the White House staff, even confessing to missing reporters.
The event was particularly poignant as a show of solidarity as Clinton defeated Bush in a tough election in 1992, but they later became friends.
Nine years later, Bush’s son, George W. Bush, later returned the compliment. Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton released portraits.
“Welcome back,” the 43rd president told them. “Bill Clinton loved his job as president. He filled this house with energy and joy,” he added.
George W. Bush returned to the White House for the unveiling of his portrait in 2012, more than three years after the end of his two terms.
Obama recalled how his predecessor embodied a national resolve after the carnage of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But it’s hard to imagine Biden welcoming Trump back to the presidential palace for the unveiling of his portrait. And if Trump or another Republican hardliner wins the White House next, Biden could be left waiting as well.
Clinton longed for a younger age when the portrait of him, which hangs alongside historical figures in the presidential palace, was unveiled. “I hope I live long enough to see American politics return to a lively debate about who’s right and who’s wrong, rather than who’s good and who’s bad.” It’s more of a pipe dream now than it was when I told you.
This week’s presidential portrait – and interruption to this small portion of the Washington convention – shows just how far things are from the norm.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the Obamas left the White House on January 20, 2017.