As its stands now, only Jimmy Carter among the four surviving former Presidents of the United States will be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20. The others, Bill Clinton and the two George Bushes, will not, if their failure so far to RSVP to their official invitations means what most think it means.
President George H.W. Bush can be given a pass due to his advanced age and and precarious health; not so his son and Bill Clinton. Their absence will be petty and unpatriotic. Jimmy Carter knows what his duty is, and will do it. Good for him.
The inauguration of a new President is a national ritual and a vital one, signalling the support of the nation for a leader duly elected to take the mantle of Washington, Lincoln and the rest. It is a tradition to celebrate the nation and its remarkable system of peaceful transfer of power, and not, as I will soon explain to the Rockettes, the individual who will be President when the ceremony is over. It is a day to unite the country after an election, not to further divide it.
For former Presidents Bush and Clinton not to recognize this is no less than disgraceful…specially these Presidents, one who himself won office while losing the popular vote, and the other who never received a majority of votes cast in two elections. We know why Clinton and Bush are sulking. President Elect Trump, in his ugly campaign, personally insulted both Bush 43 and his younger brother Jeb, and Jeb may well regard his brother’s attendance at the Inaugural a betrayal. Well, Jeb needs to grow up. January 20 is about the United States of America, not hurt feelings or family solidarity. George Bush has an obligation to be there, not back in Texas snubbing the nation to get back at Trump.
Clinton’s pique is, if anything, even less defensible. He has thrown a post-election hissy fit, first race-baiting by attributing Trump’s support to “angry white men” and then blaming his wife’s shocking loss on FBI director James Comey. The uncomfortable truth for Bill is that if Comey hurt Hillary, it is only because Bill made it necessary for him to elaborate on the decision not to charge her after Clinton’s tarmac ambush of AG Loretta Lynch threw a cloud of suspicion of former president -tampering over the FBI investigation. Clinton’s serial sexual predation also wounded his wife’s chances, an example of just desserts missing the main miscreant and splatting like custard pie into a not-so-innocent bystander. What Bill Clinton was ethically obligated to say, if he wanted to be statesmanlike and a healing influence rather than a divisive one, was that Trump prevailed in a hard-fought campaign against daunting odds, and deserved credit and respect.
Nah. Bill has chosen to ignore the Golden Rule, and join with his fellow Democrats in trying to delegitimize a newly elected President before he takes office.
I hope both Bill and George find their ethical sides and follow the example of elder statesman James Earl Carter, Jr. He knows what the ethical course for a former POTUS is on January 20, no matter who is being sworn in.
UPDATE (1/3/17): It was announced today that Presidents Bush and Clinton, as well as Hillary Clinton, will be attending. Good for all of them, but especially Hillary. This will be hard.