A Visual History of Presidents Awkwardly Meeting the Losers They Defeated

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President Obama and Mitt Romney will have lunch together in the White House Thursday, part of a quadrennial tradition in which we celebrate the peaceful transition of power (or four more years of the same power) and simultaneously watch the former foes' faces for signs of gloating or petulance. The White House says there will be no press coverage of Obama and Romney's meeting, but luckily we have a long photo archive of past presidents' microexpressions giving away exactly how they feel about the other guy. Before we get to this year's afternoon of awkwardness, here's a visual history of the awkward handshakes and fake smiles of post-election meetings past.

Big bubble of personal space. The distance kept them civil when John McCain and President-elect Obama met November 17, 2008 in Chicago.

But even at that distance, grimaces are hard to hold back.

Looking on with... not quite pride. John Kerry watches George W. Bush's second inauguration January 20, 2005.

Half-hugs. An awkward not-quite embrace between Al Gore and Bush December 20, 2000.

Here you go, big guy. President Clinton gave Bob Dole the presidential Medal of Freedom on January 17, 1997, to honor Dole's heroism in World War II. Clinton looks magnanimous, Dole looks happy. But you sense just a teeny bit of the bittersweet in the way Dole holds his head as he gets his consolation prize.

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Microexpressions. George H.W. Bush looks on as Clinton is inaugurated January 21, 1993. Bush looks happy. 

But closeup, he's a little more wistful.

His lack of enthusiasm was more apparent in their first post-election meeting on November 18, 1992.

Do I really have to shake that hand? Michael Dukakis and Bush shake hands after meeting at Bush's residence December 2, 1988.

It burns, it burns! Dukakis still wasn't loving it September 23, 1989, when they met at a Boston meeting of the Catholic Lawyers Guild.

Just joking, joking, I'm not joking. Jimmy Carter "jokes" that Ronald Reagan is one minute early for their meeting November 20, 1980.

Nice enough to your face. Gerald Ford does not look as excited to be there as Carter at Carter's inauguration January 20, 1977.

Not having it behind your back. In the audience for Carter's ceremony, Ford was less cautious about his facial expression.

Revenge. Curiously, the Associated Press archive does not show George McGovern meeting with Richard Nixon after the 1972 election. But it does have this beauty from August 8, 1974:

Staged. A depressingly well-staged photo from November 8, 1968 of Richard Nixon with Hubert Humphrey.

At the inauguration, Lyndon Johnson didn't look so happy.

(Photos via Associated Press.)

Update: An awesome reader sends in this photo of John F. Kennedy visiting Nixon in Key Biscayne.

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