After the truly unprecedented ripping Obama has done of his predecessor, how awkward must it have been to be together with Bush 43 unveiling the White House portrait?
One of my favorite political traditions in our country is the unveiling of the White House portrait of the preceding President and First Lady, hosted by the current sitting President. These are moments of great non-partisanship, where we are reminded that in the end, “no matter what political party you are in, we are all in this together”. Until yesterday I had observed 5 heart-warming versions of these moments, presided over by both Democrat and Republican Presidents.
How ironic it is that on this 6th occasion, the President who was elected as a “post-partisan”, spoiled the streak. It starts with the never-before-seen criticism President Obama has unfurled on his predecessor, having accused him of being unethical, incompetent, and the cause of all of President Obama and our nation’s problems. This must have made every second of the ceremony uncomfortable for President Obama, and while I think he is a despicable man I think even his conscience must have been telling him he has been wrong to speak of Bush 43 the way he has in the past.
And President Obama, while generally gracious, couldn’t resist making at least 2 references to his “inheritance” of a destroyed nation (implied due to Bush 43). In one case he gave a backhanded compliment, thanking President Bush for his help during the transition: “The months before I took the oath of office were a chaotic time. We knew our economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans were in pain, but we wouldn’t know until later just how breathtaking the financial crisis had been. And still, over those two and a half months — in the midst of that crisis — President Bush, his Cabinet, his staff, many of you who are here today, went out of your ways — George, you went out of your way — to make sure that the transition to a new administration was as seamless as possible.”
Gee, thanks Mr. President, for the flattering compliment. “I destroyed the economy but graciously helped transition my destroyed economy to you.” How dare he take this cheap shot at such a ceremony?
He later thanked President Bush for “leaving behind a great sports TV package”. Implied here is the “inheritance” again. “You left me a tattered economy, but you also left me a good sports package.”
And then there was President Bush, acting with class and magnanimity. The contrast was so striking you couldn’t miss it. He was flattered, self-depricating, touched, held back tears at certain times, treated Obama as if he were a long lost friend who had never said a bad word about him, and he was truly funny in an appropriate way. His wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, acted with equal grace and class.
A video of the ceremony is here and it is worth watching. You will observe the Obama I have described, but you will also find yourself laughing, and likely President Bush will bring a tear to your eyes.