Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama came together this week to urge unity and a peaceful transfer of power ― a gesture many interpreted as a rebuke of Donald Trump.
The three men appeared in a short video filmed at Arlington National Cemetery shortly after President Joe Biden was sworn in. The clip aired as part of Wednesday’s “Celebrating America” virtual concert hosted by Tom Hanks and featuring performances by Katy Perry and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
Obama spoke of the personal pride he felt at seeing his former vice president ascend to the presidency, while praising the support he’d received from Bush when he was taking office.
“It was a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity,” he said. “And that as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us.”
Elsewhere, Bush added, “I think the fact that the three of us standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country.”
Watch the full video below.
For viewers, the video was perhaps most noteworthy for Trump’s absence. The twice-impeached, outgoing president was never mentioned by name in the clip. But by the time Clinton called on Americans to “get off their high horse and reach out to their friends and neighbors,” many on social media felt it was too easy to read between the lines.
“Such a mega subtweet of Donald Trump, while standing in a former Presidents club that Trump will never be invited to join,” one person wrote. Added another, “I’ve come to the conclusion that Clinton, Bush, and Obama 100% have a group text they left Trump out of.”
Trump did not attend Biden’s inauguration ceremony Wednesday. He also refused to concede the 2020 election and repeatedly alleged ― without evidence ― that his successor’s victory was the result of voter fraud. Two weeks before leaving office, he egged on a violent mob of supporters that stormed the Capitol in a deadly insurrection.
Biden, by contrast, urged Americans to “show a little tolerance and humility” in his inaugural address Wednesday, calling for an end to an “uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.”
It was a message echoed by his trio of predecessors in the video.
“I think if Americans would love their neighbor like they’d like to be loved themselves,” Bush said, “a lot of the division in our society would end.”
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