Such outcries overlook the close quarters in which [they] work
December 12, 2013 6:37 AM   Subscribe

A recent great pull from White House photographer Pete Souza shows Bush and Obama seeming to not just tolerate but actually enjoy each other's company. This is nothing new, however. Not only have Presidents always still been just as human as anyone else, but they occasionally cross the aisle to have close relationships that can be not only shocking, but endearing - including Barbara Bush referring to Bill Clinton as their "adopted son." Ridiculous conspiracy theories abound, but a simpler explanation may serve: that even the most partisan of politicans have more in common with each other than they would like us to believe - a common background, and often, common professions.
posted by corb (103 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
On a variety of levels, I love the photo of W showing his paintings to Hillary.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:40 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love the picture of George W. Bush showing everyone his paintings. Hillary seems to be enjoying it, but it's objectively really weird in the best way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:41 AM on December 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


God, this pic of LBJ with the puppies and the kid.

Clearly the guy could be an asshole at times, but you can see with the expression on his face and the way he's down at the kid's level that he started out as a teacher.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:45 AM on December 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


more in common with each other than they would like us to believe - a common background, and often, common professions.

Plus the one big thing that they have in common -- the experience of being the most powerful person on the planet. When there are only a small handful of people alive who have shared that kind of experience with you it's no wonder that you'd gravitate toward them, politics aside.
posted by saturday_morning at 6:46 AM on December 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


On the Buzzfeed link, LBJ singing with his dog (#9) and grandson is just spectacular.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth remembering that Goldwater and JFK had talked about doing their campaign stops together, flying on the same plane. Imagine something like that nowadays.

...

It's interesting to contemplate when political rivals - or even ostensible allies! - really do despise one another.

James Clark McReynolds was the one of the ultra-conservative Four Horsemen of the Depression-era Supreme Court. He was also known as a cantankerous, despicable man, whose jurisprudence owed more to Scotch tape than Black's Law, and whose racism was vicious even for the time. Not even his fellow conservatives could stand him. At his funeral, no Justices were in attendance. By contrast, when McReynolds' African-American messenger died several years later, there were several Justices in attendance.

Eisenhower famously disliked Nixon. One of the times when Nixon was running for President, a journalist asked Eisenhower what Nixon had been like as his VP. Eisenhower responded, "I wouldn't know."
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:48 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


"See these puppies? I'm sending one of them to Vietnam and you have to pick which one. Make a decision kid it's time to grow up."
posted by garius at 6:48 AM on December 12, 2013 [37 favorites]


I didn't know George W. Bush was on Instagram. That's kind of fun. I particularly like grandchild pictures.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I more see LBJ as being about to tip the puppies over onto the child in a move that is at once adorable and terrifying. "You want a puppy, how about ALL the puppies!" LBJ then cackles to himself and smokes a cigar while the puppies attack the child, but not in a particularly harmful way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well, POTUS is one of the most exclusive clubs in history. It only makes sense that the few living members actually get along.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I imagine having been among the select few with access to nuclear launch codes, proof aliens are real, and actual real hoverboards tends to create bonds that transcend all other differences.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


They are part of an exclusive club that neither you or I will ever be invited to. Of course they get along well.
posted by Renoroc at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, what an image.
posted by NoMich at 6:52 AM on December 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Of course they get along well.

Part of me thinks that Mitt Romney would not have fit in as well with real people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


George W. Bush has less than forty Instagram pictures and one of them is of a cat he found? Reddit is really more influential than I thought.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Part of me thinks that Mitt Romney would not have fit in as well with real people.

You have to be a real person to fit in well with real people. Maybe he would have gotten along with the elevators. Or the server room.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:55 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I read a fascinating book about this called The President's Club.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:55 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a bit in the Harry Potter books where the incoming muggle Prime Minister is visited by his counterpart from the world of magic which has previously been concealed from him. Not only does he discover that there is this vast parallel world which he's been unaware of, but he's briefed on the fact that, oh yeah, there is a war going on in that world.

And he says something like "Why didn't my predecessor tell me about this?"

And the reply is "My dear chap, who are YOU going to tell?"

Ever since I read that, I imagine the outgoing POTUS briefing the incoming sucker on all the things going on which, had s/he known, s/he would have never wanted the job in the first place. I imagine that forms sort of a bond.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:56 AM on December 12, 2013 [24 favorites]


It's weird, and I didn't expect this would happen, but I like George W. Bush so much more now that he is not President. I don't like his presidency or his politics more, of course, but I can't help but like the apparent sincerity he displays about his paintings.
posted by millipede at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


It's interesting how the pictures of JFK chillaxing in the Buzzfeed article are far less striking than all the other Presidents - like, that's how we expect JFK to look. Nixon bowling, on the other hand, is a far more interesting image.
posted by afx237vi at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Truman/Hoover is another great President/Ex-President BFF pair.
posted by absalom at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2013


I wonder how much of the Obamas/Clintons/Bushes traveling and sitting together was just logistics. They all have Secret Service details, it's got to be easier to look after one group than three.
posted by ghharr at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ever since I read that, I imagine the outgoing POTUS briefing the incoming sucker on all the things going on which, had s/he known, s/he would have never wanted the job in the first place.

I've often wondered if it isn't exactly this that explains why President-elects seem to change their minds on many promises once they actually get into office. I imagine a "Wait...We really are making Soylent Green from people???" moment.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on December 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


The jokes about Mitt Romney are funny, but they speak directly to the point of this photo pull, which is that one's notion of who these people are is almost entirely constructed out of a narrative controlled by the media apparatus & the political apparatus. What we get is a caricature, the best/worst parts blown up to be the whole.
posted by chavenet at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


I like George W. Bush so much more now that he is not President.

Maybe this is just what I want to believe, but I imagine that even George Bush likes himself more now that he's not President. It's a crowning ambition -what else are you going to do? After that, no matter how ambitious you are, you can just kind of relax and do what actually makes you happy. For Bush, it's paintings. I wonder what the others do?
posted by corb at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eisenhower famously disliked Nixon. One of the times when Nixon was running for President, a journalist asked Eisenhower what Nixon had been like as his VP. Eisenhower responded, "I wouldn't know."

As I understand it, LBJ had a similar relationship with Hubert Humphrey. Lots of vice presidents are chosen more for political expediency or "rounding out the ticket" than because they mesh well with their co-runner. It makes sense that sometimes they grate on each other.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


On a variety of levels, I love the photo of W showing his paintings to Hillary.

"This is my bathtub series... Laura says I need more bubble bath if I'm going to aim the mirror like that... hehehe"

It's weird, and I didn't expect this would happen, but I like George W. Bush so much more now that he is not President.

This isn't surprising to anyone who covered the campaigns. Dubya was famously personal with the press on his plane, and many said that individually, he was one of the sweetest people they'd ever met. He knew their names and the details of their children's lives and would ask about them in situations where the journalists would be expecting to have to reintroduce themselves.
posted by fatbird at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe this is just what I want to believe, but I imagine that even George Bush likes himself more now that he's not President.

Sure...Now that he doesn't have Dick Cheney telling him what to do every day. It's like a load off his back.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 AM on December 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Member of a flex net... form an exclusive informal network that serves as an intricate spine -- the corresponding (first) feature of flex nets. Flex nets draw their membership from a limited circle of player who interact with each other in multiple roles over time, both inside and outside government, to achieve mutual goals. While their roles and environments change, the group provides continuity."

- Corrente
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Truman/Hoover is another great President/Ex-President BFF pair.

Hoover was the only living ex-president for twenty years. Talk about a lonely clubhouse.
posted by Etrigan at 7:10 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Clinton and Bush senior's relationship is sort-of touching. I remember reading back in the day that as Clinton got to know Bush Sr., he was really impressed with his kindness, wisdom, and fatherliness, and when Bush would come on international junkets (similar sorts of things, to funerals or whatever) when Clinton was president, Clinton would insist that Bush take the more comfortable chairs and the better rooms and would take a lot of care to be sure that the older man was comfortable -- one time, I think I read, sleeping in a chair so Bush could sleep in the bed intended for the president. Here's a little from CNN, from Bush's letters to and about Clinton.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have always assumed that pretty much all politicians are Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph E. Wolf.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


I wonder how much it helps this sense of community that only the elder Bush and Clinton ever actually ran against each other. Like, Clinton and Dubya never stared across a debate at each other thinking, "This fucker is the one thing between me and the White House."
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's weird, and I didn't expect this would happen, but I like George W. Bush so much more now that he is not President.

Bush sending a note of support to Alabama's kicker (who missed a few field goals in their game against Auburn) was both hilarious and sweet to me.
posted by dsfan at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I imagine the outgoing POTUS briefing the incoming sucker on all the things going on which, had s/he known, s/he would have never wanted the job in the first place.

This has been a plot point/feature of more than a couple books I've read in the past year (action adventure/scifi).
posted by mrbill at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I never trust a man 'til I have his puppy in my basket."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've always understood that the source of the amity between POTUSes past and present stems from the simple truth that after being in that position, you can't help but empathize with each other. Only people who have had the role truly understand the pressures and responsibilities. Any one else is pretty much blowing smoke.

Remember the W quote early in Obama's presidency, when he was invited to comment on Obama's policies:

"He deserves my silence."

I could say plenty about Bush, but that is one of the classiest comments you'll hear anywhere, and downright zen given the state of US politics and commentary.
posted by dry white toast at 7:27 AM on December 12, 2013 [77 favorites]


Bush sending a note of support to Alabama's kicker (who missed a few field goals in their game against Auburn) was both hilarious and sweet to me.

Now I have this image in my head of Bush consulting his list of #43s on every team and checking it against box scores every morning.
"Troy Polamalu had a good game... Oh, Kris Humphries wasn't doing well... Aw, poor Cade Foster. I should send him a note."
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


I have no love for Bush but it's Obama's job to be friendly to people he doesn't necessarily agree with. This is sort of the flip-side of him shaking Castro's hand, it does show any agreement it's just what presidents have to do.
posted by octothorpe at 7:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of me thinks that Mitt Romney would not have fit in as well with real people.

Mitt Romney has more in common with Obama and George W. than 99.9999% of the population.
posted by benzenedream at 7:36 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Truman/Hoover is another great President/Ex-President BFF pair.

There's an interesting story about Truman, Hoover, and the presidential pension:

Harry Truman was so poor upon his return to Missouri that he had to move into his mother-in-law's house. He hoped for some relief through the passage of a pension bill, but, for inexplicable reasons, Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, sat on the proposal year after year. When it finally became law during the Eisenhower administration, the pension amounted to $25,000—much welcomed by Truman. The only other living ex-president was Herbert Hoover, a millionaire many times over, who had never taken a salary as president. But he accepted the pension anyway, because, he said, he did not wish to embarrass his friend, Harry Truman.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:36 AM on December 12, 2013 [25 favorites]


That's a great story, and the article is really interesting, Rangeboy - I had no idea about some of the smaller perks (like franking) that come with leaving the Presidency.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on December 12, 2013


a common background, and often, common profession

Not to mention a common bankroll.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:42 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dear Internet: please refrain from ever again using the phrase "Ronald Reagan getting meaty." Thank you.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:48 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, former Presidents have long gotten along well. Not as much when they are actively political rivals, but as everyone else has said, out of office they are members of such an exclusive club that it's like being lonely.

But it's worth mentioning that this sort of behind-closed-doors amicability that corb's post is framed around does not, in large part, exist anymore in Congress. The Senate was famously this way, it was very collegial and out of the public eye, senators tended to be pretty good friends with others across the party line. No more.

Some people talk about the move away from eating in the Senate dining room — senators mostly don't, anymore. Before, they'd socialize there. Now, in general, senators don't really socialize across party lines except at more formal functions, which really aren't friendly we're-all-regular-folk opportunities, anyway.

It's thought that this has led to the increasing polarity in the Senate, but it's more likely that it's the symptom, not the cause.

The real cause was the mid-90s conservative GOP freshmen in the House who hugely changed both how things worked behind closed doors and, especially, how campaign fundraising was done. Basically, they built an enormously effective political machine, coordinated from top to bottom, with a lot more enforced party discipline (which is more possible when the levers of power, including those involving campaign finance, are centralized in the party apparatus). This allowed the House GOP to become much more disciplined partisans and maintain a polarization.

And then this led to many of the successful GOP reps to run for Senate seats and win. Slowly but surely, the party methods that were effective for the House GOP were utilized in the Senate GOP. And this was, much more so than in the House, a very different way of politicking in the Senate. It was openly contemptuous of the back-room horsetrading across party lines and the sense of collective, shared interest among senators, regardless of party. Instead of being rewarded for successfully writing and passing legislation by compromise across party lines, Republican senators began to be punished for weakening party solidarity.

This change in the way that senators behave within the Senate culture caused a lot of ill-will among the senators who had been in office for many years, who thought of Senate collegiality as being an essential part of the character of the institution. It created and still causes tension within both parties, but it's especially true between the parties. And so as the GOP became more nakedly and consistently partisan, the Democratic Party did, too. Not nearly so much so, because there's a lot of resistance in the Democratic Party against this sort of thing, culturally, not just institutionally. Interests are more diverse in the Democratic Party by its nature, it's more a coalition than it is a solid block. Even so, the old collegiality in the Senate has largely fallen by the wayside, which is really a big cultural change. And we're now beginning to see how this cultural change, along with the previous (much less dramatic) cultural change in the House, begins to result in actual institutional structural changes, changes in how formal congressional business is done.

And this goes up and down the staffing ladder. The politicians themselves can get acrimonious, their staff will follow, and the staffs are the people who do all the work and have to work in teams with others. But it goes upwards, too.

So this display of casual friendliness among Presidents is not really representative of the current state of affairs in Congress. It used to be how things were, especially, in the Senate. But no more.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


They should force people to eat in the Senate dining room. And then make a reality TV show about it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:52 AM on December 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


"When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than - we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get together -- they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them." -Howard Zinn
posted by jeffburdges at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I've always sorta liked Bush II the man since that video of him drunkenly and charmingly insulting people made the rounds. But then that dude became president.
posted by angrycat at 8:00 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


he accepted the pension anyway, because, he said, he did not wish to embarrass his friend, Harry Truman.

Some friend! "Well, I don't need this, but my good pal is about a week away from picking cans, so I guess I'll accept since I don't want Mister-I-Can't-Even-Afford-A-Real-Middle-Name to feel bad... "

You're a millionaire, give the poor jerk some of your money! Or at least shut your trap!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:02 AM on December 12, 2013


Here's the video from the Obama-Bush dinner they didn't want you to see.
posted by biffa at 8:04 AM on December 12, 2013


I've been lucky enough to meet, and speak with at length, a few very powerful people, including then-Sen. Obama. I've also met lots of marginally powerful people, the kind of person that might be on Meet the Press or cable news or something. The vast majority have been kind and extremely giving with their time and energy. Their political beliefs are a weird and not-quite-predictable mix of good faith (most Republicans genuinely, really believe that the country is better off with lower taxes) and expediency (most Republicans I've met are quite comfortable with gay marriage, but believe the anti-gay marriage case to be key in holding together their constituency).

In other words, they are normal people, who genuinely want to make things better, muddling through complex systems as best as they can.

On preview, Ivan Fydorovich is right about Congress, but in my experience the polarization is not quite so extreme as commonly believed. Staffs don't talk to each other much, but there's another layer of "wonks" - journalists and think-tank people - who do, and who influence congressional staffs on their respective side of the aisle.

But the polarization that does exist is a consequence of polarization of the electorate, which is in turn a consequence of a whole lot of things - one of which is the fact that like-minded people are better-able than ever to gather in places, well, like Metafilter, and reinforce and one-up each others' beliefs. Epistemic closure is a real thing.
posted by downing street memo at 8:09 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's also important to be collegial with the people who can pardon you for your war crimes.
posted by srboisvert at 8:10 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are a lot of rumors about Bush 43 having Alzheimers. If that's the case, I would like to imagine these are images of Obama and Hilary being kind to somebody already showing the effects of a fatal illness.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long-serving senators and house members have the same 'coworkers' for decades. First, I have to assume they view the political battle as work first, thus the hostility doesn't exist as we imagine it. Second, just like everyone, they're bound to make different types of friendships with different coworkers. Just because two people have different political viewpoints doesn't mean they don't have other things in common.
posted by tippiedog at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


downing street memo: "But the polarization that does exist is a consequence of polarization of the electorate,"

I think there's a strong case to be made that it's the other way around -- political polarization is useful to the politicians, so they create it by exploiting wedge issues, funding primary campaigns against candidates who compromise too much, etc. Were this just a case of voters sorting themselves ideologically, you'd expect the polarization to be roughly equal between the parties, but of course it's empirically much stronger in the right than it is on the left, both in Congress and in the electorate.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there's a strong case to be made that it's the other way around -- political polarization is useful to the politicians, so they create it by exploiting wedge issues, funding primary campaigns against candidates who compromise too much, etc.

I think it's probably a little bit of both, and I'd chalk up the higher polarization of the right to America's historical unease about leftism.
posted by downing street memo at 8:22 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I LOVE looking at interior photos of Air Force One. It's just so ... cool. You contrast that with the experience of sitting in a Southwest sardine can. I would so love to fly on that plane, or just get to walk through it.
posted by jbickers at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


"But the polarization that does exist is a consequence of polarization of the electorate,"

I think there's a strong case to be made that it's the other way around -- political polarization is useful to the politicians, so they create it by exploiting wedge issues, funding primary campaigns against candidates who compromise too much, etc.


There's also the nationalization of politics to consider. It used to be that "New York Republicans" were largely to the left of "Texas Democrats," and people in those places were fine with that. But now, thanks to CNN and CSPAN et al bringing us national news in more than 30-minute chunks between Wheel of Fortune and the local news, the electorate and the politicians all see what all the other Republicans and Democrats are really saying, and you can't win an election with just local money anymore.

And so we get this, where you can see in stark relief how the RINOs and DINOs are extinct.
posted by Etrigan at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


After that, no matter how ambitious you are, you can just kind of relax and do what actually makes you happy. For Bush, it's paintings. I wonder what the others do?

Bask in the limelight and rake in speaking fees.

As to likeability, I refer you to Journeys With George in which Bush comes off as eminently likeable.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, LBJ had a similar relationship with Hubert Humphrey.

Unlike Eisenhower and Nixon, who had no relationship, LBJ actually cultivated a strong relationship with Hubert Humphrey dating back to 1951, when Humphrey was a freshman senator in Washington. Johnson needed Humphrey's pedigree as a progressive to further his presidential ambitions, and Humphrey needed Johnson's power to fulfil his own ambitions.

Humphrey would be entwined and emeshed with LBJ until a month before the 1968 election, when he broke with LBJ's Vietnam war policy.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2013


As I understand it their strong relationship included LBJ kicking him in the shins from time to time, but I guess that's sort of what you get with LBJ.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I liked George W. Bush in Harold and Kumat's Gitmo adventure.

I am not around to forgiving the actual former president any time soon.
posted by spitbull at 8:53 AM on December 12, 2013


I think there's a strong case to be made that it's the other way around

The stuff on mass and elite polarization doesn't arrive at any really solid conclusions about which came first. If anything, it tends to look at an in-between factor -- party activists -- as the causal agent that might be driving both.

But that doesn't really get at polarization in Congress, where you have to drive a really big wedge between the polarization of MCs' preferences, or at least the positions they take before the public, and their voting patterns. The rising procedural power of the Speaker means that the votes that used to reveal moderation are now very likely not to take place at all.

[technical]For example, one kind of vote that would reveal moderation is a vote where the separating hyperplane cuts through the interior of the majority party, so that some minority of the majority party is voting with most of the minority party. Typically these votes would fail; their point was presumably to allow members with districts leaning the other way to take positions that would please their constituents without actually doing anything. But in modern Congresses the majorities are slim enough that there's very little safety margin to prevent the majority from getting rolled. Anyway, these votes largely don't happen any more, so simple vote counters like ADA or CSU scores, or more complex algorithms like NOMINATE or IDEAL, can only see the polarized votes.[/technical]

tl;dr: At some level Congress is less polarized than you'd think from its votes, because the votes that show moderation are the votes prevented by strong agenda power.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much it helps this sense of community that only the elder Bush and Clinton ever actually ran against each other

Even that clearly didn't form to much of a grudge between them, seeing as how they've been palling around for years even before this (notably for relief efforts after to 2004 tsunami). I wonder how much of the collegiality of Dubya and Obama is carry-over from that relationship.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


[The "I wish they would die" thing is pretty well over here. Find other ways to express yourself.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on December 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


even the most partisan of politicans have more in common with each other than they would like us to believe

The "so inside-Washington you could choke" book This Town takes this as its central premise. It's more self-indulgent than illuminating, but it also made me admire Harry Reid I lot more than I expected, so there's that.
posted by psoas at 9:02 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, the ex-president that Obama can take only short doses of is Bill Clinton.
posted by Ber at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2013


I like George W. Bush so much more now that he is not President.

He was an asshole before he was "president", he became a murderous asshole when he was and he still is one now and pictures of kittens and adorably bad paintings shouldn't change that.

One of those people that made the world worst just existing, like Blair and it doesn't do much for my respect of Obama that he can tolerate him.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Every time a person I respect says that they will never forgive George W. Bush, I actually die a little inside.

Not because I feel that it is another example of humanity rejecting forgiveness in favour of hatred - it's because my Obama/Bush vampire-slashfic novel has lost another potential reader. And let me assure you that the Air Force One scenes in this thing are fifty shades of smoking hot.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:22 AM on December 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


Harry Truman was so poor upon his return to Missouri that he had to move into his mother-in-law's house.

Small point of clarification: Truman also lived at his Mother-in-Law's house for the entirety of his married life previous to coming to Washington as a Senator. His life post-politics was just more of the same.
posted by dry white toast at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I LOVE looking at interior photos of Air Force One. It's just so ... cool. You contrast that with the experience of sitting in a Southwest sardine can. I would so love to fly on that plane, or just get to walk through it.

It's not the current 747 version or anything, but at the Reagan Library, they've got one of the older Air Force Ones sitting in a giant hangar that you can walk through. Of course, you have to walk through the Reagan Library as well, but it's not horrible.
posted by LionIndex at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, the ex-president that Obama can take only short doses of is Bill Clinton.

Fascinating, though clearly that isn't political differences. Any idea why?
posted by corb at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2013


From what I understand, the ex-president that Obama can take only short doses of is Bill Clinton.

Fascinating, though clearly that isn't political differences. Any idea why?


Bill Clinton spent more time and effort campaigning against Obama than both Bushes put together.
posted by Etrigan at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!"
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Candid images from White House photographer Pete Souza tell another story.

This sentence is semantically invalid. None of these photographs are "candid", they were all produced and vetted by the administration.

In fact this administration hates candid photos so much that most of the major news outlets have formally complained to the White House about being restricted from photographing public events, and the Associated Press Media Editors organization has urged news outlets to boycott state-released images such as those seen here.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "I love the picture of George W. Bush showing everyone his paintings. Hillary seems to be enjoying it, but it's objectively really weird in the best way."

Maybe she's loving it the way I would... 'OMG these really are AWFUL!'/out loud: "Wow, you really captured the look of someone scrubbing their back in the shower, there! Do you have any others?"
posted by IAmBroom at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


randomkeystrike: "
Ever since I read that, I imagine the outgoing POTUS briefing the incoming sucker on all the things going on which, had s/he known, s/he would have never wanted the job in the first place. I imagine that forms sort of a bond.
"

"First, prepare three envelopes..."
posted by IAmBroom at 10:08 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bill Clinton spent more time and effort campaigning against Obama than both Bushes put together.

The whole "first Black president" thing probably grates too.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:08 AM on December 12, 2013


Alvy Ampersand: "You're a millionaire, give the poor jerk some of your money! Or at least shut your trap!"

The poor jerk was of the sort that wouldn't accept it. Hoover was gentleman enough, and friend enough, to realize that.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Count me in as not forgiving W in the least. Frankly, the Crimson Tide's kicker has enough problems without getting mail from war criminals.

I do enjoy the relationship the Clintons have with the elder Bushes, though. George Herbert Walker Bush (not senior; 43 is not junior) was the sort of Republican we don't see much anymore. He was an actual no-shit war hero in the Pacific, for one thing. Recall he was even pro-choice until the 1980 primaries (probably the last time it was possible for a national Republican to take that position).

I didn't agree with most of his policies, but it was clear he was a reasonable and intelligent man with a commitment to service (over ideology, even).

I'm glad he's getting a nice long retirement. He strikes me as someone that would be very, very interesting to talk to even if I didn't agree with him. (Presumably, he still lives here in Houston, but we don't seem to run in the same circles.)

I get a little bit of that from what I know of Jeb, but none at all with W.
posted by uberchet at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, the ex-president that Obama can take only short doses of is Bill Clinton.

Fascinating, though clearly that isn't political differences. Any idea why?


I think this might be a classic introvert (Obama) vs. extrovert (Clinton) divide. As an introvert, Clinton strikes me as being an exhausting person to spend time with.
posted by lalex at 10:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


this is a cracking shot, giving eggleston a run for his money - had he stuck to photos and painting the world might be a better place. It seems to me this is the primary argument for arts education that everyone overlooks, not that it's profitable, but if it's suppressed - people tend to invade other peoples countries.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2013


Harry Truman was so poor upon his return to Missouri that he had to move into his mother-in-law's house.

Oh, it gets better than that. Post White House, he refused to take corporate gigs or anything else that might smack of exploiting his old position for money. (He did do his memoirs - history must be served- for which he netted not all that much because of extortionate 1950's tax rates and payments to writing assistants. (Also a short follow-up to the memoirs.))

Impressive at any time, more so given some of our more recent pig troughers.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm totally fascinated by the Truman presidency because he feels like one of the few where you can genuinely make the claim that he was uncorrupted by power, at least financially. He only got where he did because of the Pendergast political machine, but there is very little evidence he allowed himself to be used by it.
posted by dry white toast at 11:13 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact this administration hates candid photos so much that most of the major news outlets have formally complained to the White House about being restricted from photographing public events, and the Associated Press Media Editors organization has urged news outlets to boycott state-released images such as those seen here.

I'm likely far less sympathetic to the Obama administration than the average MeFite, but the complaints here strike me as not all that compelling. For example:
Just last month, he said, the White House kept photographers away from a White House meeting between the president and Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani student who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for speaking out in support of the right of girls to go to school. She met with Obama and his wife, Michelle, and their 15-year-old daughter, Malia.
...
“Someone who is clearly in the news who gets to meet with the president is definitely someone we should get access to,” Lyon said.
I mean, he's saying this like it's some sort of automatic right that anytime the president meets in his office with someone in the news (in this case a teenage girl), that there should necessarily be a gaggle of photographers present. I don't think that's so obvious, and to present it as some sort of behavior you see in less democratic "regimes" strikes me as ludicrously overwrought.
posted by dsfan at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a crowning ambition -what else are you going to do? After [being President of the United States], no matter how ambitious you are, you can just kind of relax and do what actually makes you happy. For Bush, it's paintings. I wonder what the others do?

Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton continue to try to save the world, but these are presidents who retired fairly young, blessed with fairly good health, and who are people that cannot stand still. Clinton needs not only to be busy but to be busy with other people. It's much easier to imagine Clinton forming a band with former cabinent members than painting.

Through history, most US presidents have spent their few post-presidency days:
1) Being exhausted, sick and dying.
b) Attending to their legacy -- be it organizing their papers for eventual sale to the highest bidder to cover their debts (Madison) or writing their memoirs for publication to cover their debts (Grant).
iii - Paying their debts.

Survivors, before modern medicine and before the presidential pension, mostly went back to the farm or returned to law practice or both. A handful worked on creating or improving colleges and universities. Not a lot of foundations, institutes, libraries, commissions, or centres until after WWII.

Here are some interesting exceptions -- POTI that returned to government service after being President:

Hoover -- Sent a letter to FDR offering to help the war effort "in any capacity whatever" -- was rebuffed. Sent by Truman to report on post-war conditions in Germany; headed the Hoover Commision for years; was still working, writing, and fishing when he died in 1964 at the age of 90.

Taft -- Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court for nine years, widely regarded then and now as a far better justice than president.

A. Johnson -- Despite having been impeached as president, was elected US Senator for Tennessee, died a few months later.

Tyler -- Elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress, but died before he could be sworn in. He's also the only ex-POTUS whose death was not officially recognized by the US Government (the US Civil War was on); the only ex-POTUS to be elected to high office by a nation at war with the US; the only ex-POTUS whose state funeral was held by that nation and not the US; the only ex-POTUS whose coffin was draped with a Confederate flag.

JQ Adams -- U.S. Congressman for 17 years, having been, before his presidency, Secretary of State, US Senator, Minister to Court of St. James's, Minister to Russia, United States Minister to Prussia, Minister to the Netherlands . . .

Madison -- Delegate to a convention to revise the Constitution of the state of Virginia at the age of 78.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


dsfan's thought seems especially true in a media environment in which we're already massively over-saturated with meaningless "there" information. If there's one thing we don't need, it's more minute-by-minute play-by-play of politics.
posted by fatbird at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm totally fascinated by the Truman presidency because he feels like one of the few where you can genuinely make the claim that he was uncorrupted by power, at least financially.

On top of that, he was kept almost entirely in the dark by FDR. Some of that is standard President vs. VP stuff, but what little I've read suggests that FDR kept *everyone* in the dark, and he was the only one who had the complete picture. I cannot even comprehend stepping foot into that situation, at that time, and having to pick up the pieces and do something semi-competent with them.

And then he pushed for the Marshall Plan! The balls that must have taken!
posted by rocketman at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Re: Truman, somebody posted this button on Reddit yesterday, and my misreading of "shifty-eyed" as "shitty-eyed" made it briefly my favorite presidential quote of all time (I mean, it's still automatically top twenty with the correct reading, but it loses something), and I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if Truman had really actually called Nixon a "shitty-eyed goddamn liar".
posted by jason_steakums at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to contemplate when political rivals - or even ostensible allies! - really do despise one another.

I wonder sometimes about Carter and Clinton. Or for that matter, Clinton and Gore.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2013


People always say Dubya is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with, but you know Bill always knew were all the good parties were at. The man drove an El Camino, for chrissake!
posted by entropicamericana at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2013


Hoover -- Sent a letter to FDR offering to help the war effort "in any capacity whatever" -- was rebuffed

FDR was a vindictive man.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bill Clinton is still a politician, and, unless he's with Hillary, will dominate a room. Obama is also a politician, and would naturally like to take center stage in any room.

It's a politician thing and has nothing to do with ideology (remembering that ideology really counts for very little when talking about presidents; it's not what you say, but how you say it).
posted by KokuRyu at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2013


Bill always knew were all the good parties were at. The man drove an El Camino, for chrissake!

and a Gremlin...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2013


The man drove an El Camino, for chrissake!

You say that as if it were a good thing.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:00 PM on December 12, 2013


I imagine the outgoing POTUS briefing the incoming sucker on all the things going on which, had s/he known, s/he would have never wanted the job in the first place.

I liked The Wire's colorful description what it's really like to become mayor of Baltimore, and I imagine being President is basically the same thing, raised several orders of magnitude. All slurs from the original.
"Let me tell you a story, Tommy. The first day I became mayor, they sit me down at the desk: big chair, dark wood, lots of beautiful things. I’m thinking, how much better can it get? There’s a knock at the door, in the corner of the room, and Pete comes walking in, carrying this gorgeous silver bowl, hand-chased—it was this big. It’s from the unions, he says. So I think it’s a present, something to commemorate my first day as mayor...he walks over, puts it on the desk; I look down at it...it’s disgusting. I say, What the hell is this? he said, What the hell’s it look like? I said, it looks like shit—what do you want me to do with it? He says, eat it. Eat it? He says, Yeah, you’re the mayor. You gotta eat it. So okay, it was my first day; Pete knows more than I do...So I go at it. And just when I finish, there’s a knock on the door, and in walks Pete carrying another silver bowl. And this one from the blacks. This too? And he nods. I start eating, and when I’m finished, there’s another knock and another bowl. This one’s from the Polacks. Then after that, one from the ministers. and you know what, Tommy? That’s what it is. You’re sitting eating shit all day long." (Royce to Carcetti, after losing the race)
posted by aperturescientist at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2013


The man drove an El Camino, for chrissake!

Like, recently?
posted by nevercalm at 2:29 PM on December 12, 2013


it doesn't do much for my respect of Obama that he can tolerate him.

You know, I think the capacity to find humanity and something worthwhile in everybody is a pretty vital life skill, sign of maturity, and a quality I absolutely want in my leaders, political and otherwise. I say this as someone vehemently opposed to virtually everything Bush stood for.

Moral certainty and concomitant disdain is one of the most corrosive things in our current political discourse, I feel.
posted by smoke at 4:17 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, hey. I maybe kind of wrote one of the linked articles.

After a day spent policing a vitriolic comments thread (or, really, trying very hard not to), can I just say that I love you guys?

This is the thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion I was hoping for. You guys are the best.

Also: Jessamyn, I do not know how you do what you do, but I am exceptionally glad for it.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:02 PM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The parable of the bowls of shit from The Wire is spoken not by Royce but by a former mayor credited as "Young Tony," perhaps based on Tommy D'Alesandro.
posted by fitnr at 7:08 PM on December 12, 2013


Chris Matthews's latest book about the relationship in the 1980s between Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan suggests that it would much better for the nation if people in high office, even when they vehemently disagree about the issues, could manage to be civil and work together while they are still in office. Politicians palling around after they're out of power is nice, but it would be nicer if America at the moment, as Matthews writes, wasn't being governed "by tantrum."
posted by LeLiLo at 9:34 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder sometimes about Carter and Clinton. Or for that matter, Clinton and Gore.

Well, the first is known to be cool (although both have been party loyalists when it counted).

Relations between the Carters and the Clintons have reportedly been frosty for years, dating back to 1980, when Carter’s landslide defeat to Ronald Reagan may have cost Clinton the Arkansas governor’s mansion. At least that’s what Clinton reportedly believed.

In the 90s Clinton was said to resent some of Carter’s freelance diplomacy. Carter, for his part, spared no criticism of Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Recently, during a photo opportunity at the Oval Office, following a lunch with Barack Obama and the ex-Presidents, Clinton and Carter stood next to one another, but miles apart. Obama stood between the two Presidents Bush.


But as for the latter, even though they started out as demographic-alikes (quasi-Southern 40-somethings, more liberal than their respective states), they definitely spent little time together after Gore's failed campaign to succeed Bubba -- and many sources suggest that Al thought Bill's dalliance with Monica ultimately cost him his win. Nevertheless they eventually have seemed to get along better. But obviously, Gore is not in the exclusive club.

Lots of vice presidents are chosen more for political expediency or "rounding out the ticket" than because they mesh well with their co-runner. It makes sense that sometimes they grate on each other.

I would say it was almost the historical norm. It began to change in the modern era, and I mark the day as the very brief floating, at the 1980 RNC, of a "co-presidency" with a Reagan-Ford ticket. In the end he went with primary rival Bush, and his running mate's history as a party foot-soldier and agency head meant he fit in nicely with the Reagan management model. It's been said that despite his public image, Quayle played a similar role. But it really began with Gore being a real presence in the Clinton WH, and of course, the Bush-Cheney strange embrace. I have to say, though, that I don't get the same sense of things with Biden -- or at least they're a lot more quiet about it. (I think it's been notable that Obama's presidency has for the most part not been marked by cabinet squabbles.)
posted by dhartung at 1:12 AM on December 13, 2013


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