Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Presidents Past, Present & Future

Obama, Bush Meet Former Presidents in Oval Office:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and his successor, Barack Obama, joined all the living U.S. presidents on Wednesday for a historic meeting at the White House two weeks before the country's next transfer of power.

Bush, a Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, met privately for about 30 minutes ahead of the wider gathering and were expected to discuss the U.S. economy and the crisis in the Middle East.

Then former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Democrats, and Republican George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, met Bush and Obama in the Oval Office for a photo session with journalists.

Wednesday's event was the first such gathering of former U.S. heads of state at the White House in 27 years. After their meeting in the Oval Office, the five men were to have lunch in a chandeliered private dining room.
I had to do some digging around to see if this was correct. I recalled an infamous picture of the former presidents in what I thought was the Oval Office during H. W. Bush's presidency in the early 90's, but it turns out the picture at left was taken at the Reagan Presidential Library dedication in 1991 in the mock Oval Office.

The last meeting at the White House did, indeed, take place in the Blue Room in 1981, shortly after Ronald Reagan's first term began (fitting in that they "ushered Nixon in and out the back door" in '81; below left).

Still, wouldn't you have loved to been a fly on the wall as these guys ate lunch together?
"Though they have much in common, relations between the different presidents have not always been rosy.

"Carter has criticized Bush's presidency as "the worst in history" with regard to international relationships and Clinton, who has a warm relationship with the senior Bush, criticized the current president and Obama sharply during his wife Hillary Clinton's White House bid last year.

Pass the mustard!

These transfers of power we undergo every four to eight years may seem like so much pomp and circumstance in a society like ours which doesn't appreciate its rich historical tradition. And in tough economic times such as this, is all this pageantry really worth it? Is it worth spending the supposed $50 million on Obama's inauguration when so many people are in dire straits?

The short answer is yes, because all of this ceremony lies at the center of our system of government, the Constitution, and the men and women we entrust with the power of these offices. For better or for worse, these are the people we cede stewardship of the country to, and they certainly deserve the attention (good or bad) we heap on them by virtue of the office they hold.

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