At first, it looked like some scene from an old movie, or perhaps something from the History Channel. There was the president of the United States, standing behind a lectern at the White House and paying tribute to his predecessor, a man of a different political party. Then, the former president of the United States got up and thanked the current president for his hospitality and graciousness. The current and former first ladies were honored, as were the current and former presidential daughters.
The occasion was a ceremony with President Obama and former President George W. Bush to commemorate the unveiling of the portraits of the former president and Laura Bush. Bush mentioned how nice it was to be at the event—or, as he noted in a hilarious aside not immediately appreciated by the crowd—"my hanging." Obama talked about how much he had grown to appreciate how difficult the job of president has been for everyone who came before him—even, implicitly, Bush, whom Obama and Democrats blamed for the financial mess Obama was faced with when he came into office.
Obama talked about what a stirring scene it was, Bush standing amid the rubble of the World Trade Center and displaying such resolve as the country digested such a history-shaking event. Bush was kind, too. But then, Bush has been an impressive ex-president, keeping to himself and letting Obama just do his job. If Bush has disagreed with how Obama has run things, he's kept quiet, resisting any urge to undermine his successor at home and around the world.
Really, Washington—was that so hard?
Congress does tend to act sometimes like the teenage children, leaving the adult decisions to the occupants of the White House. But the nastiness has gotten worse on Capitol Hill, where even basic niceties are no longer observed. There's bipartisanship, and there's compromise, and then there's just basic courtesy and maturity. Bipartisanship is a laughable concept on Capitol Hill, and "compromise" has become a slur, equal to capitulation and weakness. That's tragic, but it's even worse that basic human politeness has been abandoned.
Obama and Bush, sharing a presidential moment, were a fine example of how to behave. Adult members of Congress shouldn't still be learning what is usually a lesson picked up in childhood. But they could pick up some presidential pointers.