I didn’t watch any of the funeral ceremonies for George H.W. Bush yesterday, but I did see that when Trump showed up there was a rather awkward moment when he took his seat next in the front pew next to the Obamas, Clintons, and Carters.
Trump was in the company of all his living predecessors for the first time Wednesday, and the encounter was plainly uncomfortable. By 10:49 a.m., when Trump and first lady Melania Trump stepped into the cathedral, a cool hush had come over the pews filled by American dignitaries and foreign leaders, past and present. Trump handed his black overcoat to a military aide and took his seat on the aisle next to his wife, with three past presidents and first ladies seated to her side.
First was the president Trump said was illegitimate (Barack Obama); then the first lady he called a profligate spender of taxpayer dollars (Michelle Obama); then the president he called the worst abuser of women (Bill Clinton); then the first lady and secretary of state he said should be in jail (Hillary Clinton); and then the president he said was the second-worst behind Obama (Jimmy Carter) and his wife, Rosalynn.
The Trumps and the Obamas greeted each other brusquely, but only Melania Trump reached over to shake hands with Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton did not acknowledge the Trumps, keeping her gaze straight ahead as if determined not to make eye contact with the man who continues, two years after the 2016 election, to inspire “Lock her up!” chants at his rallies.
Body language speaks volumes.