US President Donald Trump’s uneasy relationship with former presidents has been put on public display at the funeral of George HW Bush.
Since his swearing-in, Trump has spurned most contact with his predecessors – and they have snubbed him in return.
However the Bushes had made it known to the White House months ago that despite differences in policy and temperament the late president wanted Trump to attend the national service.
The tributes at Wednesday’s ceremony at times stood as an unspoken counterpoint to Trump’s leadership.
Historian Jon Meacham eulogised Bush by recounting his life’s credo: “Tell the truth, don’t blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course.”
George W Bush added of his father: “He could tease and needle, but not out of malice.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s state funeral for the late president, former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their spouses chatted easily among themselves from their seats in the front row at Washington’s National Cathedral.
The ex-presidents leaned over their wives to chat with one another. Bill Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama shared a quiet conversation.
But the Trumps’ arrival, minutes ahead of the motorcade carrying Bush’s casket, cast an icy pall on the conversation.
First lady Melania Trump approached first, greeting both Obamas and former president Clinton with a handshake.
The president then shook hands with both Obamas before taking his seat.
Hillary Clinton stared straight ahead as the Trumps arrived, and the Carters appeared not to recognise his arrival at all.
After that, the small talk along the row largely stopped.
Next followed George W Bush, who, by contrast, shook hands with the entire row of dignitaries – and appeared to share a moment of humour with Michelle Obama, slipping something into her hand.
Bush took his seat across the aisle from the ex-presidents with the rest of the Bush family.
The Trump-Obama handshake marked the first direct interaction between the current president and his immediate predecessor since Inauguration Day 2017.
Trump has not spoken to Democrats Clinton or Obama since that day.
“It’s unusual that a cabal of ex-presidents from both parties dislike a sitting president and that’s what you’ve got happening right now,” Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley has said.
Past presidents often built relationships with their predecessors, Brinkley noted.
“Bill Clinton would reach out to Richard Nixon for advice on Russia,” he said.
“Harry Truman leaned heavily on Herbert Hoover. It’s endless.”
To be sure, Brinkley added, those ties vary from president to president and there have been chilly relationships as well, noting, for example, that “FDR would never talk to Herbert Hoover.”
While he has struggled to set the right tone in past moments of national grief, Trump has gone out of his way to address Bush’s passing with consideration, issuing kind statements and ensuring that Bush family members have whatever they need for the funeral.