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Trumps, Obamas and George H.W. Bush’s funeral

George H.W. Bush’s funeral was already a solemn occasion, but in the front row of presidents and first ladies past and present, you could cut the tension with a knife.

The awkwardness was evident in the expressions of the Obamas, Clintons and Trumps as they were forced to sit together for the former president’s funeral service.

Barack and Michelle Obama had been smiling and chatting easily with Bill and Hillary Clinton when Donald and Melania Trump joined them — and the room froze.

Mr Obama took the lead in shaking hands with the Trumps, before a grim-faced Mrs Obama followed suit.

It is well known that there is no love lost between the current and previous first couple, with Mrs Obama recently writing in her book Becoming that she would “never forgive” Mr Trump for putting her family’s safety at risk by stoking the “birther” conspiracy theory that her husband was born outside the United States.

Mr Trump fired back that he would never forgive Mr Obama “for what he did to our US military.”

Mr Clinton shook Mrs Trump’s hand but Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump’s former presidential rival and bitter enemy, simply nodded in their direction, before turning her gaze to stare fixedly ahead.

The only person who looked even vaguely comfortable was the oldest surviving former president Jimmy Carter, sat farthest away from Mr Trump at the end of the group.

media_cameraBarack and Michelle Obama chatted happily with Bill and Hillary Clinton at the funeral for former president George H.W. Bush before the Trumps arrived. Picture: Brendan Smialowski / AFP
media_cameraDonald and Melania Trump arrive at the Washington National Cathedral. Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
media_cameraThe conversation died as the President and First Lady approached and the group stared quietly ahead. Picture: Brendan Smialowski / AFP
media_cameraThe tension between the warring parties was painfully evident. Picture: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Viewers were quick to pick up on the awkwardness of the group’s interaction as world leaders and family members paid tribute to the legendary 41st president.

“Yikes,” tweeted White House correspondent Katie Rogers, sharing a photo of the front row.

“The Clintons did not acknowledge President Trump,” the CBS commentary ran. “Did not even look over.”

Mr Trump, who is known for his difficulty in responding appropriately on serious occasions, this morning announced this was a “day of celebration for a great man”. He sat with his arms crossed for much of the ceremony, at the first presidential funeral since Gerald Ford died in late 2006.

The death of the statesmanlike former president has offered an opportunity for a marked contrast with the chaos surrounding Mr Trump, who was often highly critical of the Bush family but has made an effort to show his respect in recent days.

Many federal offices were closed along with Wall Street stock markets, and Congress suspended votes in spite of a looming potential shutdown. Mr Trump declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.

The grand occasion in Washington came after three days of remembrance in the nation’s capital, with Mr Bush lying in state as dignitaries and ordinary citizens paid their respects.

His hearse was driven in a motorcade to the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday morning, slowing in front of the White House, on a route lined with well-wishers wrapped in winter clothes and taking photos.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Prince Charles; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; former vice presidents Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Joe Biden and former secretaries of state James Baker, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

The Republican president and father to George W. Bush has been remembered this week for overseeing the post-Cold War world transition and leading a successful Gulf War, only to lose re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Mr Clinton in 1992.

He was a decorated World War II aviator who nearly lost his life when he was shot down on a bombing mission, and served as a congressman, envoy to China and ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday, taking their places next to former President Barack Obama to bid farewell to former President George H.W. Bush.

Presidents assemble for Bush funeral

media_cameraThe flag-draped casket of the former president is carried by a joint services military honour guard from the hearse into the State Funeral . Picture: AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool
media_cameraDignitaries including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prince Charles attended the ceremony. Picture: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

George W., who attended with wife Laura, was at one point seen slipping Mrs Obama a lolly — something he also did at John McCain’s funeral in a sweet moment that went viral.

The pair are known to be on good terms.

George W. delivered an emotional and at times very funny eulogy, tearing up at the end as he praised his father and presidential predecessor, who died on Friday at age 94.

“He was born with just two settings: full throttle, then sleep,” said George W. “To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light,” he added in reference to his father’s signature call to volunteerism.

“When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great president of the United States.”

— With wires

Originally published as Awkward front row at Bush’s funeral

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