WASHINGTON — President Trump traversed a wide political chasm Tuesday evening when he personally welcomed George W. Bush, his occasional foil, to Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

But the actual distance was just 250 yards, a route that Trump and his wife, Melania, traveled in the presidential parade limousine with a motorcade of at least seven other vehicles.

The Trumps spent 23 minutes visiting with Bush and his wife, Laura, by all accounts a cordial meeting in which the former president exchanged kisses on the cheek with the current first lady at the curb.

It was the latest in a series of magnanimous gestures that President Trump has made this week to honor the legacy of former president George H.W. Bush, whose state funeral will take place Wednesday at National Cathedral.

The need for the motorcade, however, prompted questions and a healthy dose of speculation about why the Trumps were unable – or unwilling – to simply walk across the street, which had been cleared of pedestrians.

“Presidents, including the last one, have made the walk before,” observed Ned Price, who served as National Security Council spokesman in the Obama administration.

“Bone spurs?” asked Sam Vinograd, a CNN political analyst and also a former Obama national security veteran, joking on Twitter about Trump’s explanation for his deferment from the Vietnam War draft.

In an email, Price pointed to President Barack Obama walking Chinese President Xi Jinping from the White House to Blair House after a private dinner during Xi’s state visit in September 2015. He also recalled another occasion, a year earlier, when Obama and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough left the White House for a quick trip to a nearby Starbucks.

On Tuesday, the weather was overcast and cold but there was no rain.

White House aides declined to comment when asked why the Trumps chose to take a motorcade.

The motorcade traveled along West Executive Drive, between the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The iron security gates along Pennsylvania Avenue swung open and the presidential limo turned left, stopping a few yards later in front of Blair House, a stately white brick rowhouse with black shutters.

Presidential motorcades typically encompass more than a dozen vehicles, including Secret Service counter assault teams, medical personnel, White House aides and the press corps. In this case, the pool reporters shadowing Trump’s movements were positioned ahead of time across the street from Blair House and were not in the motorcade, which included at least eight vehicles, according to video footage.

Obama often employed a full motorcade for short trips, including fundraisers at nearby hotels such as the Jefferson, just a few blocks from the White House. Those trips entailed closing roads in downtown Washington, sometimes during rush hour, thereby snarling evening commutes.

Like his predecessors, Trump also took a motorcade to the recent lighting of the National Christmas Tree, on the Ellipse – although Trump returned to the White House after his speech and left the press pool behind, stranded outside in frigid temperatures and reduced to tweeting their displeasure. (The White House pool of 13 reporters, photographers and videographers has long shadowed the U.S. president to record his movements for history and in case of an emergency.)

According to a pool report, the Bushes did not walk the Trumps back to the curb after the private meeting inside Blair House. Trump walked his wife to her side of the limo and waved to the press corps, but he did not respond to their shouted questions as he re-entered the vehicle for the short ride home.


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