Bitterness Between Obama, Trump Likely Means No Presidential Portrait Ceremony

Bitterness Between Obama, Trump Likely Means No Presidential Portrait Ceremony

The two men’s political acrimony has disrupted what has become a White House tradition.

Published 1 week ago

Written by Madison J. Gray

A White House tradition that has been passed down throughout the decades may not happen this time because of the palpable animosity between Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, according to NBC News.

In a ceremony typically performed during a president’s first term in office, the Chief Executive unveils a portrait of the preceding president, even if the election contest between prior to being appointed to office was contentious. 

"We may have our differences politically," Obama said when he unveiled President George W. Bush’s portrait in 2012, "but the presidency transcends those differences."

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Well, the same sentiment is likely not to be transitioned during Trump’s tenure as president. People close to the situation told NBC News that Trump is balking at having the ceremony and has been persistent in attacking Obama in a way that hasn’t been done in other presidencies. 

Obama, for his part, isn’t exactly pressed about the situation either way, according to the familiar parties. 

Spokespeople for both the White House and Obama did not comment on the situation but presidential watchers have said the bad blood is unprecedented.

"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," presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NBC News. "It takes antipathy of a new president for a predecessor to a new level."

The official White House portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled in February 2018 and hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. That painting is separate from the presidential portrait. 

Officials unveilings of presidential portraits began in 1980 when then-president Jimmy Carter hosted former president Gerald Ford for the ceremony. However, there was no such ceremony between Carter and his successor Ronald Reagan, although it is unclear why. However, George H.W. Bush had one for Reagan, as did Bill Clinton for Bush and the younger Bush for Clinton. The tradition has gone on until now. 

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As for the possibility of Trump doing an unveiling of Obama’s portrait, that doesn’t look like it will happen until perhaps after he is out of office, which could be as far away as 2025. Meanwhile, the verbal sparring between the two men has been open and sharp in recent days.

Trump said at the White House on Monday (May 18) that Obama, along with former vice president Joe Biden, was complicit in some unspecified criminal act. "I have no doubt that they were involved in this hoax, one of the worst things ever to befall this country in terms of political scandal," he told reporters, according to CNN, without explaining what he was talking about.

On Saturday (May 16), Obama took a thinly veiled swipe at Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in a virtual address to the graduating class of 2020.

“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,” he said. “A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.”

Photo Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

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