US leader at Bush’s fu­neral, ‘awk­ward’

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump joined the group of liv­ing ex-US pres­i­dents on Wed­nes­day to com­mem­o­rate the life of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush, but in a ser­vice char­ac­terised by emo­tion and good feel­ing, warmth be­tween the cur­rent and for­mer oc­cu­pants of the White House was de­cid­edly ab­sent.

Mr Trump shook hands awk­wardly with his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, and for­mer first lady Michelle Obama as he took his place in the front row of the ser­vice at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral.

He did not reach out to for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton or for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, who were seated next to the Oba­mas. Hil­lary Clin­ton, who lost to Mr Trump in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, nod­ded but did not smile as the one-time New York busi­ness­man and his wife, Me­la­nia, joined the group that in­cluded for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and his wife, Ros­alynn.

Mr Trump then pro­ceeded to sit through the ser­vice, of­ten with his arms folded over his chest and his eyes fixed in an in­tense stare ahead.

The fact that he came, how­ever, and was wel­comed by the Bush fam­ily, with whom he also has sparred, pro­vided a glimpse of bi­par­ti­san­ship and po­lit­i­cal ci­vil­ity that many feel are lack­ing since Mr Trump took of­fice in Jan­uary 2017.

The pres­i­dent did not at­tend a ser­vice that was sim­i­lar in scale at the cathe­dral for Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor John McCain, who died ear­lier this year, and had to be talked into keep­ing the Amer­i­can flag at half­mast over the White House.

Mr Trump and Mr McCain had feuded re­peat­edly and at his ser­vice, the sen­a­tor’s daugh­ter Meghan McCain re­buked Mr Trump in an emo­tional speech.

For Mr Bush, Mr Trump de­clared a day of mourn­ing. He vis­ited the 41st pres­i­dent’s cas­ket as it lay in state in the US Capi­tol and later called on for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush and his wife, Laura, while they were in Wash­ing­ton.

Still, the bad feel­ing be­tween Mr Trump and his pre­de­ces­sors ap­peared hard to set aside.

Mr Trump has sharply crit­i­cised Mr Obama and worked to roll back sig­na­ture achieve­ments of the Demo­crat’s White House ten­ure on health­care, cli­mate change and for­eign pol­icy.

Michelle Obama, who re­cently pub­lished a mem­oir, wrote about not be­ing able to for­give Mr Trump for his lead­ing role in the “birther” move­ment that ques­tioned whether her hus­band was born in the United States. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

Mr Trump’s be­hav­iour con­trasted with that of his pres­i­den­tial coun­ter­parts. The Clin­tons chat­ted ami­ably with the Oba­mas be­fore the cur­rent pres­i­dent ar­rived. The two for­mer first ladies ex­changed a long hug on see­ing each other and clasped hands at the end of the ser­vice when they parted.

Ge­orge W Bush shook hands with the full front row of pres­i­dents and their spouses, and in a re­play of a scene that went vi­ral dur­ing Mr McCain’s fu­neral, handed some­thing to Michelle Obama, pre­sum­ably candy.

The 43rd pres­i­dent, in his eu­logy, also hailed his fa­ther’s friend­ship with Bill Clin­ton, who van­quished his fa­ther in the 1992 elec­tion. That kind of friend­ship is un­likely, at least for now, to ma­te­ri­alise with the 45th pres­i­dent.

For­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney, a long-time friend of the late Mr Bush, spoke at the cer­e­mony and said when he was pres­i­dent, “ev­ery sin­gle head of gov­ern­ment in the world knew that they were deal­ing with a gen­tle­man, a gen­uine leader, one who was distin­guished, res­o­lute and brave.”

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, for­mer first lady Michelle Obama, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and for­mer first lady Ros­alynn Carter par­tic­i­pate in the State Fu­neral for for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush, at the Na­tional Cathe­dral in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day

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