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If history is any example, Obama and Trump's shared Inauguration Day limo ride could be awkward

By Ben Remaly

The outgoing and incoming presidents have not minced their disdain for each over the years.

Donald Trump for years promoted a debunked conspiracy theory questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace and has said Obama may be the worst president in American history. 

Obama has since mocked Trump as a trivial and outlandish nuisance and while campaigning for Hillary Clinton, Obama described Trump as "temperamentally unfit" and "unqualified" to assume the presidency.

Yet two days following Trump’s election, the two sat side-by-side in the Oval Office and shook hands in front of cameras for what was for many a bizarre image as well as a gesture of good will.

Obama will once again sit with the man who campaigned on dismantling his legacy as the two take part of a time-honored tradition of sharing the limousine ride from the White House to the Capitol on Inauguration Day – another symbol of the peaceful transfer of power between administrations.

Barack and Michelle Obama will ride in the presidential limousine to the Capitol with Donald and Melania Trump after having coffee or tea together at the White House Friday morning, according to Trump aide and Chairman of the Inaugural Committee Tom Barrack.

The nearly 180-year old tradition began in 1837 when incoming President Martin Van Buren and outgoing President Andrew Jackson rode to the Capitol together in a horse-drawn carriage. The tradition has had some contentious moments over the years.

Andrew Johnson did not ride with his successor Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. Bad blood between the two caused Johnson to skip the inauguration altogether.

The 1921 ride was historic in terms of innovation. President Warren G. Harding became the first to ditch the carriage as he rolled up to the Capitol with outgoing Woodrow Wilson in an automobile, a Packard Twin 6 provided by the Republican National Committee.

Trump and Obama’s ride may resemble that of Herbert Hoover’s and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s in 1933. The transition took place at the height of the Great Depression after a long "lame-duck" session (from 1793- 1933 inaugurations were held on March 4th). FDR waved his top hat to the crowd as Hoover sat put as the two shared a blanket. Jonathan Alter described the ride as "more than awkward."

The 1981 ride shared by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter was uncomfortable, too. Carter had not slept in nearly 48-hours as he supervised negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran. The hostages were on a plane destined for the U.S. but, were still waiting on the runway in Tehran. Reagan tried to lighten the mood during the ride over with the man he had just defeated in a hard-fought campaign. "They did not much like each other and conversation was hard. Reagan took the initiative as he often did; entertainment, after all, had been his business for more than thirty years," Presidential biographer Richard Reeves wrote. Reagan told stories of his time at Warner Brother Studios under Jack Warner. Carter later asked is communications director, "Who’s Jack Warner?" Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan sat in silence.

On December 28, after Obama said in an interview he could have beaten Trump in this election, Trump tweeted, "Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!"

Both Trump and the Obama administration have stated the focus is on a smooth transition of power since. Although in Obama’s final weeks he’s issued series of last-minute executive orders and Trump has promised to undo much of Obama's legacy.