Ever since President-elect Donald Trump delivered his conciliatory victory speech early Wednesday morning, leaders on both sides of the aisle have been on their best behavior.
Despite whatever sadness or anger she might have been feeling, Hillary Clinton gave a classy concession speech just a few hours later, telling her supporters we all owe Trump “an open mind and a chance to lead.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was not exactly supportive of the business mogul during his run, quickly praised him on his victory.
And President Obama delivered a measured speech in the White House Rose Garden, stating that “we are all rooting for his success” now.
Only the faces of White House staffers as he spoke betrayed the bitter emotions underlying the situation.
Then today, President Obama and President-elect Trump met for the first time at the White House. They shook hands. They complimented each other cordially in front of reporters. And first lady Michelle Obama met with Melania Trump in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House for tea.
On the surface, all the key players were gracious and polite and appeared very much on the same page for the betterment of America. When compared to some past first meetings between the president and president-elect, however, there were a few things noticeably absent. And that fact may reveal a few cracks beneath the polished political facade.
- The traditional photo op
While President Obama and President-elect Trump did shake hands in front of reporters, symbolizing the upcoming peaceful transfer of power, they did not pose for the traditional smiling photo op outside.
2. The warm greeting
For that matter, the Obamas and the Trumps did not publicly greet each other outside the White House at all. Very little information about President-elect Trump’s arrival was communicated to the White House press corps, so one would be hard-pressed to find any footage of the business mogul even walking in. This is a major departure from transitions past.
3. The cheer
In an election season as tumultuous as this one, we should probably just feel lucky that a handshake occurred at the White House today at all. If one, however, were to compare the looks on Trump’s and Obama’s faces during said handshake, with the dispositions of presidents and president-elects in years past, there is quite an obvious difference. Rather than displaying cheery smiles and lighthearted laughter for the public, President Obama and President-elect Trump both look sort of pained.
Perhaps they’re just still transitioning from the ugliness of the campaign to the unity they’ve promised — or whatever the future holds.