Despite two straight years of Donald Trump shattering presidential “norms” and essentially acting like he’s the very first person to ever hold the office, the President is about to learn there are some things you just can’t turn on their heads — especially when another President does them from beyond the grave.
In the case of funerals for American heads of state, the tradition of having the current President speak the memorial is a long-held one. But as it turns out, there’s already a President speaking at George H. W. Bush’s service: His son, who held the office four times as long as Trump has. And, as it turns out, plans for the speaking arrangements at Bush 41’s funeral service were, in fact, laid out long before he actually died — even before Trump was elected.
So why on earth would the Bush family even allow Donald Trump — a man who has repeatedly mocked and belittled the presidencies of both Bushes, senior and junior, and even made fun of the things they said — to attend the service? They obviously saw how Trump attempted to turn the death of John McCain into something about himself, even getting Vice President Mike Pence to mention him during his remarks at McCain’s memorial.
For George H.W. Bush, the calculus was simple: He didn’t want to “stiff” Donald Trump.
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, told People Magazine:
For Bush 41, Trump is the president, and he does not want to stiff a sitting president, so in his own way, it is magnanimous that he is having Melania and Donald Trump come.”
In the case of Barbara Bush, it was a simple decision made by the woman herself — she thought Trump to be crude and disrespectful and did not want him attending her funeral, and although Melania did attend, even Trump seemed to understand Mrs. Bush’s wishes, issuing a statement that he was not coming “out of respect for the family.”
But for George, the sheer reverence he held for the office of the presidency prevented him from “stiffing” Trump — a man who would probably stiff a waitress out of a tip if she took 10 seconds too long bringing the ketchup for his well-done steak.
As with most politicians, George has a lesson here for Donald. It’s a shame he’ll never learn it.
Featured image via US National Archives/Flickr