The passing of George H.W. Bush brought thousands together in the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday to mourn and celebrate the former president’s life and service.
Those in attendance included all four living former presidents and first ladies, as well as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania.
But the tension ever-present between Trump and his predecessors, while muted, was nonetheless present, and according to White House officials, the president was not pleased that attention had fallen on someone other than himself.
As he took his seat in the front row, Mr. Trump awkwardly shook hands with Barack and Michelle Obama but otherwise did not interact with his presidential peers, recite the Apostles’ Creed or sing the hymns.
For Mr. Trump, it was a chilly encounter with his fellow presidents, the first since his inauguration. As he shook hands with the Obamas, they forced polite but palpably strained smiles. Mr. Trump did not reach past them to shake hands with Bill Clinton, who appeared open to it, much less with Hillary Clinton, who avoided looking at him. Sitting on the other side of the Clintons were Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
Though the eulogies were not blatantly critical of Trump, there were some tributes that likely vexed the president — particularly those praising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has railed against repeatedly, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), along with those mentioning Bush’s well-known phrase “thousand points of light”, which Trump has previously mocked.
There was less of an overt sense of rebuke to Mr. Trump than in September at the funeral for Senator John McCain, to which he was not invited, but the implicit contrasts between the former and current presidents were hard to miss. While speakers talked about Mr. Bush’s civility, his commitment to the institutions of government and his faith in alliances, Mr. Trump was sitting feet away, his arms tightly crossed, as if in defiance.
The overall occasion of Bush’s passing apparently irritated Trump, as the focus was placed squarely — and with great admiration — on someone else.
Due to his contentious relationship with the Bush family, Trump was not even given a speaking role at the funeral.
Mr. Trump has been snappish with aides most of the week, according to administration officials, miffed in part by so many ceremonial events not related to him. He was impatient for the memorials to end but expressed pride in himself for remaining publicly civil. People close to the president called it a course correction after his peevish reaction to Mr. McCain’s death.