News and Commentary

‘No Interest’: Obama Won’t Join Trump For Unveiling Of His Presidential Portrait
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Former President Barack Obama walks by his presidential portrait as he and former First Lady Michelle Obama have their portraits unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on Monday February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The former President's portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley while the former First Lady's portrait was painted by Amy Sherald. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

For 40 years, the former president has joined the current president for a portrait unveiling ceremony at the White House.

But it looks like that tradition is kaput in the hyper-partisan political climate of 2020.

“[T]his modern ritual won’t be taking place between [Barack] Obama and President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter,” NBC News reported.” And if Trump wins a second term in November, it could be 2025 before Obama returns to the White House to see his portrait displayed among every U.S. president from George Washington to Bush.”

Trump is unconcerned about shunning yet another presidential custom, and he has attacked Obama to an extent no other president has done to a predecessor. Most recently he’s made unfounded accusations that Obama committed an unspecified crime.

Obama, for his part, has no interest in participating in the post-presidency rite of passage so long as Trump is in office, the people familiar with the matter said.

But the NBC piece doesn’t say who shunned the event first: Did Trump say he wouldn’t host Obama, who then said he had “no interest” in attending anyway, or did Obama say he wouldn’t come, making Trump say, “You weren’t even invited.”

Trump has been known to slap down those who say they don’t want to come to the White House, especially athletes on teams that have won their sport’s championship. He famously uninvited the 2018 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from the customary White House visit after several players said they would not participate.

“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump said in a statement at the time. “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”

Trump has also said that Obama might have broken the law in seeking to “unmask” former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying in a tweet simply, “He got caught, OBAMAGATE!” For his part, Obama has soured the soup by ramping up his attacks on his successor, which would make any face-to-face meeting extremely awkward.

“This pandemic has fully, finally, torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” Obama said last week in a commencement address. “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NBC that Trump’s “antipathy” for Obama is at a whole new level.

“You’ve got a president who’s talking about putting the previous one in legal jeopardy, to put it nicely. We have not seen a situation like that in history,” Beschloss said. “It takes antipathy of a new president for a predecessor to a new level.” And the predecessor’s antipathy of his successor is off the charts, too.

Obama attended the unveiling of his portrait (pictured above) at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2018, so he’s OK with that. But neither Trump nor Obama seem able to rise above partisan politics, as Obama and George W. Bush did in 2012.

“We may have our differences politically,” Obama said to Bush at his unveiling ceremony, “but the presidency transcends those differences.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘No Interest’: Obama Won’t Join Trump For Unveiling Of His Presidential Portrait