The funeral of George H.W. Bush brought together the nation’s most exclusive club — every living president.
They sat side-by-side with their wives in the front row of Washington National Cathedral, a scene made for the history books, as George W. Bush sat across the aisle with his family.
Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter chatted easily among themselves before the service began and before the arrival of President Trump and first lady Melania.
Bill Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama could be seen sharing a quiet conversation.
A few rows back, Chelsea Clinton was spotted in discussion with Ivanka Trump.
The Bush family made it known to the White House months ago that, despite differences in policy and temperament, the late president wanted Trump to attend the service, making it clear he would be treated with respect.
But tensions from the 2016 presidential race were evident.
Melania approached the group first, greeting both Obamas and Bill Clinton with a handshake.
Hillary Clinton nodded at the first lady, but gave no recognition to the president himself and stared straight ahead during the service.
Carter, seated far down the row, waved a hand at Trump.
The president then shook hands with both Obamas before taking his seat. It was the first interaction between Trump and the Obamas since Inauguration Day in 2017.
Busy with a mix of personal pursuits and charitable endeavors, the former presidents don’t get together often. When they do, they’re cordial to one another. But relations between Trump and his predecessors are frosty.
Just last week, he retweeted an image that showed his enemies behind bars — including both Clintons, who have repeatedly criticized Trump.
The Obamas have baggage with the president as well, beginning when he jumped into the birther movement, a conspiracy theory that claimed the 44th president was born in Africa and not Hawaii. In Michelle Obama’s recent memoir, “Becoming,” she writes that she could never forgive Trump for pushing birtherism, saying he “deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks” and put her family at risk.
Trump portrayed Carter as weak, mocking him for carrying his own luggage while serving as president. Over the summer, Carter described Trump’s presidency as a “disaster.”
During the 2016 GOP primary campaign Trump labeled Jeb Bush “low energy” and he criticized George W. Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq. But Trump has gone out of his way to accommodate the Bush family since the passing of its patriarch, issuing kind statements and providing the jet that carried the 41st president’s casket to Washington.
On Tuesday, Melania Trump welcomed Laura Bush and other family members for a viewing of the White House’s Christmas decorations.
When George W. Bush arrived with his family at the service, he took care to go down the line of presidents, greeting Trump first.
In his meeting with Michelle Obama, Bush recreated a viral moment from Sen. John McCain’s funeral earlier this year — he handed her a cough drop.
“And I will say they were old cough drops,” Michelle Obama joked to USA Today in recalling their earlier encounter.
“And I was like, ‘How long have you had these?’ He said, ‘A long time. We got a lot of these.’ ”
As the funeral concluded, the Trumps were the first VIPs to leave.
The presidential motorcade was heading back to the White House as the Bush family was filing out.
The Clintons and Obamas scooted off after shaking the hands of fellow mourners.
Barack Obama left with some extras — he was spotted grabbing additional programs of the historical event.
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