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Barack Obama and Mitt Romney: The Handshake

Photo of Barack Obama shaking Mitt Romney's hand, next to the president's desk in the oval office, both men wearing blue suits

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney shook hands yesterday in the Oval Office, three weeks after Obama defeated Romney in the 2012 general elections.

Both men stuck with blue suits for the occasion. It’s possible that Obama is saying, “Congratulations. As a private citizen you can finally stop wearing a flag pin on your lapel.”

For Obama, the victor, the meeting must have been a little awkward but pleasant enough. For Romney, the vanquished, it must have been both awkward and frustrating to stand in the Oval Office that he wanted so badly to attain for so many years. Or maybe it was cathartic to get in there and get it over with.

Their actual meeting was private, aggressively so. Here’s the start of the daily press briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, which was held at the same time.

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, Mr. Knoller, did you have a request?
Q: You bet. (Laughter.)  Any chance your briefing might be interrupted by a joint appearance?
MR. CARNEY: Uhh — no.  (Laughter.)
Q: Why not the historical record, seriously — I mean, to view them together?  We’ve seen other Presidents and those that they defeated in presidential contests together.  Why not something for the historical record — visually or —
MR. CARNEY: There’s at least some chance we’ll release a photograph, which will go into the historical record.  It’s a private lunch, and we’re going to leave it at that.
Q: What’s for lunch?
Q: Yes, lunch.
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t looked at the menu, but I bet it was — and is — quite tasty, because they know how to prepare very find [sic] meals.
Q: Is that a definite on stills?
MR. CARNEY: Let me look into that.  I don’t know yet.  I’m pretty sure we’ll release something.
Q: Any plans for him to come to the stakeout at all?
MR. CARNEY: You’d have to ask his assistants or whoever might have an answer for you on that because that’s not our decision. 
And since we actually never said it, we’re referring to the fact that the President of the United States is having lunch as we speak with Governor Romney.  And I have, and will have, no readout of that lunch, since it’s ongoing, from here today.
I have no other announcements to make.  So I will go straight to your questions.
Q: One more on this, Jay — did the White House send a car for Mitt Romney?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware that we did, but I don’t know the answer to that question.
Everyone’s interested. Later, the White House did release an official “readout” of the event:
This afternoon, President Obama and Governor Romney visited for an hour over lunch in the Private Dining Room adjacent to the Oval Office.  Governor Romney congratulated the President for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years. The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future.  They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.  Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad. 
Not much detail there, except for the lunch menu. In the photo you can actually see through to the private dining room in the background. 

The half-hidden man is not named — could be an aide or Secret Service, but I’m guessing it’s a steward waiting to serve. It does look as if the table is laid for lunch with a placemat and water glass and… something orange? Or is that a small wrapped gift of some kind?

Perhaps the press can ask that question at the next briefing.

See our biographies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.


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