President Donald Trump and wife, Melania Trump traveled in the presidential parade limousine, with a motorcade of at least seven other vehicles in an actual distance of 250 yards to meet with the Bushs.
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.
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.
“Presidents, including the last one, have made the walk before,” observed Edward 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 about 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, with Obama joking to reporters that “the bear is loose” — a reference to his 2008 campaign when he felt confined by his newfound Secret Service bubble.
“It’s good coffee. The President bought it,” Price recalled McDonough telling him when they returned to the White House.
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.
In her autobiography “Becoming,” former first lady Michelle Obama wrote that the Secret Service sometimes requested she or her husband “take the motorcade instead of walking in the fresh air” to Blair House for security reasons.
A search of Internet archives found at least six occasions when President Barack Obama walked from the White House to Blair House. The search did not immediately find any times he took a motorcade, other than when he and Michelle left Blair House after spending the night on Inauguration Day in January 2009 and traveled to St. John’s Church for a prayer service.
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 reentered the vehicle for the short ride home.