Age, personality, politics conspire to deny us a historic moment

There hasn’t been — and there isn’t going to be — anything classy or dignified about the transition of power in the United States and that pretty much is the way Americans have decided they want it.

Too bad. We’re missing out on some history we’ll never again likely have the opportunity to witness: Six living presidents all together. The only other time we’ve had six presidents alive at the same time is between 1992 and 1994 — Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton — and I’ve yet to find a photo of all of them together.

Not like the one we got eight years ago when we had five of them.


This picture from 2013 was even more remarkable. At the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the five lined up according to their service.

So far, only President Jimmy Carter has confirmed he’ll attend the inauguration of a new president next month. George H.W. Bush is too infirmed to attend.

  • Robert Moffitt
  • BJ

    Doesn’t Obama have to be there, or can he skip?

    • Rob

      I think Obama’s got a prior commitment; he’s visiting Bob Dylan on 1/20/17.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I’m not planning to watch the inauguration. I didn’t think I would ever say that.

    • Kassie

      I’ll be in Baltimore during the inauguration, then heading into DC the following morning for the Womens’ March. I won’t be watching either, I’ll use my time to make anti-Trump signs and explore the city.

      • Robert Moffitt

        It’s a great city. I used to live near there (Ft. Belvoir) and I always enjoyed my visits — I’ll be there in February. Hint: “Paul” a café right behind the National Archives on Penn. Ave has great coffee, tea and snacks. Like a Paris bistro in the middle of DC.

        • Kassie

          I love DC, but have never been to Baltimore. Since I’m just along for the ride, and not really doing any planning, I don’t know what our plans are at all. I just know I need to be on an airplane Friday morning.

          • Robert Moffitt

            Been there a few times. The Inner Harbor was nice many years ago. You can’t beat the Owl Bar in the old Hotel Belvedere.

          • RBHolb

            You will make many friends among the locals if you refer to their city as “Balmer.”

      • Anna

        Take the 795 to Owings Mills, Maryland and go to CJ’s Crabhouse and Grill. It’s an Owings Mills tradition and a great seafood restaurant that has awesome crab cakes and boiled blue crabs.

        It’s on Reisterstown Road, one of the main drags in the city. You won’t find better seafood anywhere.

        Take care and stay safe during the Women’s March. There’s no telling what kind of no goods will be out in Washington.

    • Rob

      Still hoping Alex Baldwin gets an invite to entertain at the post-inauguration festivities, as he’s promised to sing “Highway to Hell.”

  • chris

    I’m confused. The post implies partisanship is to blame for not having a photo of six living presidents at the inauguration. But the last sentence contradicts that, “George H.W. Bush is too infirmed to attend.”

    If Trump could stay off twitter for a few weeks, the transition would seem a lot more smooth.

    • Robert Moffitt

      “Age” is the fist word in Bob’s headline, so I think he’s covered that base, too.

  • Anna

    Anytime a Trump pronouncement or cabinet appointment doesn’t pass the smell test and the press reports on it, Trump advisors and supporters have the same pat answer, “Trump won the election, get over it.”

    The only one who has a legitimate excuse not to attend is George H.W. Bush because he is in frail health.

    The former presidents are sending a powerful incentive to not legitimize or tolerate a man who has opened the Pandora’s box of racism, bigotry, xenophobia and religious intolerance and to make matters worse tries to convince his opposition that he was misinterpreted.

    Let’s hope Jimmy Carter’s attendance inspires others to work to bring peace and mutual understanding to all corners of the world just as he has done.

    Trump is using the Twitter platform to keep everyone off balance. This is how dictators and demagogues gain power and keep control.

    He can’t hold a news conference because he can’t stay on script and his advisors know this. He’s been a loose cannon from the start.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if he can give a speech that is longer than one minute since he can’t seem to stay on message longer than 30 seconds.

    • tboom

      Interesting using the Minnesota definition of interesting. At least one inaugural and four state of the Union speeches. Yep, interesting.

  • tboom

    Squirrel !

    I suspect the transition isn’t going well because the transition isn’t being done well.

    • Rob

      And from what I’ve heard, there are virtually no A-list performers who are planning to be part of the inaugural entertainment activities. Uber-wingnuts Ted Nugent and Kid Rock are about all that’s lined up so far.

      • tboom

        That too, though I was thinking more about the transition of power.

      • DavidG

        He doesn’t want any A-listers. Or so his spox person claims.

        And I haven’t read anything that confirms either Kid Rock or Nugent actually confirming they’ll be performing.

        The only confirmed acts I’ve seen so far are a 16 year old “America’s Got Talent” contestant, the Rockettes (or at least those that volunteer), and the Beach Boys (or rather, Mike Love and his back up band).

        The Beach Boys is kind of funny given that James Watt banned them from the 1983 4th of July concert on the Mall for being “unwholesome”

      • Mike

        I guess we’ll see. Celebrities generally can’t resist the spotlight, despite all their protestations to the contrary. Time will tell.

        But even if the event has low wattage on that scale, I doubt it’s meaningful from a political perspective. If anyone cared what Katy Perry and Lena Dunham thought about politics, Hillary Clinton would be set for inauguration.

        • Meanwhile, back to the post. We have an opportunity for the first time in history to have a photograph of six living US presidents. What a moment it could be!

          • tboom

            I’ve always felt a special pride as an American when I see photos of past Presidents, it’s something about the orderly and peaceful transition of power that so many governments lack. If I recall correctly there was a photo back in the early 90’s that included everyone except Nixon, I don’t recall if he had passed-away or was persona non grata. Also, I believe there is a photo of the current set of living Presidents along with First Ladies which includes Nancy Reagan.

            Trump would do well to avoid bridge-burning when it comes to past Presidents. Throughout US history living past Presidents have been an asset for the current President.

  • BReynolds33

    My wish would be that none of them go. Including Obama.

  • Jeff C.

    I’d love to see the list of performers who would perform at a farewell concert for Obama.

    • Rob

      There’d be so many, they’d be fighting each other to get slots…

  • David Grabitske

    There were also 6 living presidents from March 4, 1861-January 18, 1862, when Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln were alive. Tyler died January 18, 1862, and Van Buren followed on July 24, 1862.