Three disparate events within a week's time captured the world's attention and provided a fresh take on how we regard pomp and circumstance.
The funeral of Barbara Bush was a celebration in the grandest sense of a beloved first lady, honored on April 21 after 92 robust years of life. In her final days, Mrs. Bush planned every detail of her funeral, set in Houston's St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where she and President George H. W. Bush attended services for half a century.
Her wishes were summarized in son Jeb's eulogy as he spoke of her "looming presence" and imagined her cautioning, "Jeb, keep it short. Don't drag this out."
If only there had been a television camera behind the pulpit to scan the faces of those in the front row. On one side were former presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43, along with members of the Bush family. On the other side, Melania Trump sat next to Barack Obama; then came Michelle Obama and, to her left, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
It would be a mistake to attach too much political significance to a funeral, but the vibe that day was a reminder of the civility that frequently marked our political world in Pre-Trump days. We don't have royalty in our country — but if we did, the roster would include several of those in the front row. In her final gesture, Barbara Bush created a tranquil moment that brought people together.
The British do have royalty, of course, and its brightest stars took to the world stage April 23 with the birth of the third child for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Emerging from the hospital just seven hours after delivering her son, Kate looked every bit as glamorous, yet refined, as her millions of admirers wish her to be. For the media throng across the street no detail was too small — from Kate's red Jenny Packham dress, to the latest odds set by London bookmakers on what the couple would name their child.
The New York Times playfully asked in an editorial about the royal fuss, "Was it too much? Of course, but when offered alongside all the other 'evil news' of White House iniquities, shooting rampages and other horrors, it's barely enough, as Mark Twain might have put it."
Scoff as we might from time to time about British traditions, the fact that they manage to keep royalty and governance separate is a virtue — especially considering the state of things in Washington.
And so the world turned its attention, briefly, from Kate's baby to the state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte to the White House. Politics aside, President Trump is socially awkward, smiling at the wrong time, shaking hands for too long and, the other day, brushing what Trump called "a little piece of dandruff" from Macron's shoulder.
For the state dinner April 24, Mrs. Trump donned a black Chantilly lace Chanel Haute Couture gown, hand painted with silver and embroidered with crystal and sequins. There were 1,200 branches of cherry blossom, 2,500 stems of white sweet peas and 1,000 stems of white lilac. The guest list, as distributed by Mrs. Trump's office, included "The Honorable Jared Kushner and The Honorable Ivanka Trump," along with at least 10 billionaires from private business.
The world saw an administration that has neither the charm of British royalty nor the dignity of the Bush family. It wasn't so much pomp as it was pompous.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.