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Trump the odd one out at Bush’s funeral

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No warmth between current & former occupants of White House

WASHINGTON Awkward handshakes, folded arms and a forward stare.

US President Donald Trump and living former US presidents on Wednesday commemorated the life of former president George H. W. Bush, but in a service characterised by emotion and good feeling, warmth between the current and former occupants of the White House was decidedly absent.

Mr Trump shook hands awkwardly with his predecessor Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama as he took his place in the front row of the service at the Washington National Cathedral. He did not reach out to former president Bill Clinton or former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who were seated next to the Obamas at the funeral.

Mrs Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump in the 2016 presidential election, nodded but did not smile as the one-time New York businessman and his wife Melania joined the group that included former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.

Mr Trump then proceeded to sit through the service, often with his arms folded over his chest and his eyes fixed in an intense stare ahead.

The fact that he came, however, and was welcomed by the Bush family, with whom he also has sparred, provided a glimpse of bipartisanship and political civility that many feel are lacking since Mr Trump took office in January last year.

For the late Mr Bush, Mr Trump declared a day of mourning.

He visited the 41st president's casket as it lay in state in the US Capitol and later called on former president George W. Bush and his wife Laura while they were in Washington.

Still, the bad feeling between Mr Trump and his predecessors appeared hard to set aside.

His behaviour contrasted with that of his presidential counterparts.

The Clintons chatted amiably with the Obamas before the current president arrived. The two former first ladies exchanged a long hug on seeing each other and clasped hands at the end of the service when they parted.


The younger Mr Bush shook hands with the full front row of presidents and their spouses.

The 43rd president, in his eulogy, also hailed his father's friendship with Mr Clinton, who defeated the late Mr Bush in the 1992 election. That kind of friendship is unlikely, at least for now, to materialise with the 45th president.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, a long-time friend of the late Mr Bush, spoke at the ceremony and said when he was president, "every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute and brave".