Donald Trump and Barack Obama are polar opposites when it comes to living in the White House and carrying out the responsibilities of the Oval Office.
Americans remember President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in a variety of ways. No president is ever perfect, and each administration leaves its unique mark on history. With President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump now in the White House for over a year, we can look back at some of the key differences between them the Obamas.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this collection speaks volumes. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between a Trump White House and a Barack Obama White House, including the biggest difference between the two (No. 8) and a revealing flashback photo (No.12).
1. What photos reveal about each couple’s relationship
- According to a body language expert, Trump approaches his marriage “more like … a businessman than a team player.”
When we look at the Trumps and Obamas side by side, we can hardly help comparing the two. During Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, both appeared to hand off the baton to the new president. In one photo, Barack and Michelle Obama lean toward each other, grinning. On the other hand, Donald and Melania stood stiffly, frowns on both faces. A body language expert weighed in on the contrast between the two.
“While the Obamas stood at the top of the stairs sporting mirrored body positions that signal like-minded rapport, Trump came out of his car to walk up to greet them without performing the usual husbandly duty of waiting for his wife to walk with him,” Judith James explained. She said his approach looked more like that of a businessman than a team player. “It’s his show and his job rather than a double act.”
Next: Obama is a different kind of dad than his successor.
2. The 2 presidents relate to their families very differently
- He may have been president, but Obama never missed a parent-teacher conference.
When Obama took office, his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were just 7 and 10 years old, respectively. Barack and Michelle Obama moved into the White House with their family, and both parents remained active in their lives. First Dads: Parenting and Politics From George Washington to Barack Obama found that unusual for presidential dads. According to the author, the Obama family ate dinner together five nights a week. Obama also scored a “perfect attendance record” for both daughters’ parent-teacher conferences. Trump, on the other hand, did not do as well.
Trump has five children from three marriages. With Ivana Trump, his first wife, the president had his oldest, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. When Trump married Marla Maples in 1993, they had Tiffany. With first lady Melania came Barron. After the inauguration, the first lady and Barron stayed behind in New York City, so Barron could finish out the school year, an unusual move for a first family. Trump maintains a reputation as a hands-off dad. “It wasn’t a typical ‘let’s go play catch in the backyard’ sort of father-son relationship,” Donald Jr. said, according to Vanity Fair.
Next: How the two relate to kids in general also tells a pretty clear story.
3. Just look at the way Obama looks with kids
- Both Obamas were known for being at ease with kids.
Barack and Michelle Obama both appear at ease with kids, routinely interacting with them throughout their eight years in the White House. His familiarity with them sparked scores of photo collections, many taken by Pete Souza, his official photographer. That humanized the president and made him more relatable for scores of parents across the world. One of the most iconic photos taken of him — of a young black boy touching his hair — encapsulates that idea.
As an Education Post editorial put it, Barack and Michelle Obama provided role models to both kids and parents of all races and creeds. “They saw a president who made it a point to celebrate children, be it through hosting princess parties for little black girls to promote literacy and positive self-image or talking to children from all over the world, children of all different colors, creeds, and costumes. He seemed equally delighted to meet a young Muslim girl refugee as he did the son of British royalty.”
Next: The Trumps do not have the same easy rapport with kids.
4. Trump does not look as comfortable with children
- Trump’s sense of humor didn’t go over well with kids.
If Trump looked standoffish with his own offspring, he does not do much better with other people’s. It may have to do with his age, his businesslike quality, or the way he comports himself. Or it may be his sense of humor. When he invited journalists’ kids to the White House for Halloween, for example, he could not resist a jab at the press.
“Do you know who they are? They’re the friendly media,” he said to the kids. “So, how does the press treat you? I’ll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world, right? Huh? I think so.” The joke did not land so well.
While the Trump White House has invited children for Halloween, Easter, and Christmas, just like Barack and Michelle Obama did, Trump does not look at home with them. He once kicked a crying child out of a rally, saying he was “only kidding” when he told her it was OK. “You can get the baby out of here,” he said to the mother. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s OK. People don’t understand. That’s OK.” He also called changing diapers “acting like a wife.” Not exactly a family man.
Next: While not essential to leadership, the Obamas knew how to have fun.
5. Obama did not take himself too seriously
- Obama wasn’t afraid to make corny dad jokes.
While he took the job of running the country very much to heart, Obama knew how to lighten up. He made dad jokes and goofed off with his children. The president cracked jokes at himself and made videos trying to predict pop culture phenomena. At a White House correspondent dinner, he even threw some shade at Pence. “I tease Joe sometimes, but he has been at my side for seven years, I love that man,” he said. “He’s not just a great vice president, he is a great friend. We’ve gotten so close in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”
When watching Barack and Michelle Obama, their jobs seemed legitimately fun. While the pair had many serious moments throughout their eight years in office, they knew how to keep the life alive. In any relationship, maintaining that spark makes a real difference. It also set an example for the American people, in general.
Next: The current White House occupant has yet to learn that lesson.
6. Trump does not know how to lighten up
- Trump has admitted that being president is more work than he is used to.
Unlike Barack and Michelle Obama, Trump does not seem to enjoy his job. The president even said in an interview that the gig did not meet his expectations. “I loved my previous life,” he admitted. “I had so many things going … this is more work than my previous life.” While he regularly comes under fire for his golf habit, his TV-watching, and his lack of work in general, he does not maintain the appearance of balance Obama did.
While different people express emotions in different ways, Trump rarely looks genuinely happy or excited. He makes plenty of animated faces, but they always look somewhat forced. A psychoanalyst wrote in The Atlantic that Trump has exhibited “sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness.” People low in agreeableness often seem callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy. As the writer put it, “If Donald Trump does not score low on this personality dimension, then probably nobody does.”
Next: The way Obama related to Vice President Joe Biden also differs from his successor.
7. Obama and Biden seem to genuinely like each other
- Obama and Biden shared a close relationship.
Multiple accounts show Obama and his second in command held a genuine affection for one another. The pair shared not only the job, but personal and emotional times together. When Biden’s son Beau had brain cancer, Obama offered him support. “He’s the only one I told anything to, other than family,” Biden told Today. “He’s a generous guy, he’s a genuine guy, and Michelle is an incredible lady.”
By contrast, Trump and Mike Pence do not share that same conviviality. Pence approaches his job as a public servant and seems to take that pretty literally. According to The Atlantic, Trump found Pence “prudish, stiff, and embarrassingly poor.” Pence, for his part, shook his head at Trump’s antics and had serious reservations following the Access Hollywood tape. And his wife, Karen, finds Trump “reprehensible — just totally vile.” That’s not exactly the bro-mance we saw in Obama and Biden.
Next: This difference really shows itself in difficult times.
8. Stark contrast emerges in times of struggle
- Obama famously shed tears when he addressed the nation on the Sandy Hook school shooting.
No moment reveals the extreme contrast between Obama and Trump than difficult moments facing the country. In the face of rampant gun violence, Obama faced the situation with empathy and strength. He broke down several times when addressing the nation and pledging to work for change. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, he cried when he addressed the nation. “We won’t be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try,” he said. By contrast, Trump remains stoic and combative, almost all the time.
Unlike his predecessor, little seems to move Trump. While he has become known for his outbursts, especially on Twitter, he does not seem to carry much empathy for the American people. Former co-worker Barbara Res said he does have one genuine emotion. “As far as the anger is concerned, that’s real for sure. He’s not faking it,” she told The Daily Beast. “The fact that he gets mad, that’s his personality.”
Republican consultant Stuart Stevens said his lack of empathy shows his lack of balance. “Ultimately, I think a lack of empathy is just one piece of a portrait of a person who is unbalanced and damaged.” Whether he feels empathy for his people or not, many of them, when times get tough, would like him to show it.
Next: Let’s not forget about the incredible chemistry.
9. Barack giving Michelle a thumbs up
At the 2016 State Dinner for Singapore’s Prime Minister, Barack had no shame in letting everyone know: Michelle was looking good. He gave his thumbs up in approval as she stunned the world in her beautiful Brandon Maxwell gown.
10. Their Valentine’s Day messages to each other on Ellen
Barack and Michelle may have been apart on Valentine’s Day in 2016, but that didn’t stop them from composing the sweetest messages to each other. While Barack was a guest on Ellen, he was presented with a sweet surprise from his wife. Ellen played a video of Michelle, where she read aloud a poem: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You are the president, and I am your boo.”
Barack had a little something up his sleeve in response. With a romantic backdrop of a red curtain and flower displays, he told Michelle how he’d be spoiling her for the holiday. “Michelle, this Valentine’s Day I’m going to treat you right,” he professed. “I’m going to make you some zucchini bread and then spread out some veggies on a plate, just the way you like it.”
He shamelessly added, “I love you so much. I ObamaCare about you more than you even know.”
Next: The Obamas proved they can get a little nerdy.
11. Celebrating Star Wars Day
We’re not sure we can think of any better way to celebrate Star Wars Day than Michelle and Barack’s dance party. The Obamas, along with stormtroopers and R2-D2, got down to “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars on May 4, 2016.
The White House tweeted the video with the hashtag, #MayThe4thBeWithYou.
12. Their first dance as president and first lady
If you ever need to restore your faith in true love, just watch Barack and Michelle’s first dance as president and first lady at the Neighborhood Ball. They held each other close while being serenaded by none other than Beyoncé, singing “At Last” by Etta James.
As if their body language and look in their eyes weren’t enough to tell us just how much they love each other, Barack took it one step further. Following an introduction by Denzel Washington, Barack took that opportunity to ask the crowd, “First of all, how good looking is my wife?”
Next: You’ll love the word Michelle used to describe Barack.
13. Michelle calling Barack ‘swagalicious’
We’ve always loved Barack’s signature strut down any set of stairs, but Michelle’s favorite is when he steps off Marine One. The former first lady sat down with Oprah in June 2016, and they gushed over his swag — seriously.
She praised, “When I see him get off Marine One and walk into the White House … It’s mm, mm, mm! And you know, he has that walk, right?”
Oprah chimed in, “He’s got the swag,” to which Michelle agreed with, “He was very swagalicious.”
14. Michelle’s birthday wish to Barack
Michelle never seems to miss an opportunity to gush over Barack on Instagram. On his birthday in 2016, she shared this sweet moment with an even sweeter caption. She wrote, “55 years young and that smile still gets me every single day. Happy birthday, Barack. I love you. -mo.”
Next: This little act made us swoon.
15. Michelle fixing Barack’s tie
The former first couple can turn something as simple as fixing a tie completely swoon-worthy. In 2015, Michelle adjusted her husband’s bow tie before Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived at the White House.
We won’t lie, it was Barack’s playful (and definitely a bit flirty) expression that made our hearts melt.
16. Barack teasing Michelle for her love of tamales
Barack and Michelle aren’t afraid of making fun of each other from time to time. At a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in 2011, he told the crowd just how serious Michelle is about her tamales:
I asked Michelle the other day, I said, “What’s your favorite food?” — because we were sitting around with the girls. She said, “Oh, Mexican food.” You do not want to be between Michelle and a tamale. That is true. That’s true. But she’s moving, though, so she can afford to have as many tamales as she wants.
Next: Michelle delivered the jokes right back to Barack.
17. Michelle calling Jill Biden her ‘favorite person here’
If we know one thing about the Obamas, it’s that they have a shared love for the former vice president and his wife, Joe and Jill Biden. While introducing Barack at a 2011 White House bill signing, Michelle’s opening line threw a jab at her husband while raving about who she was really happy to be there with.
“I am thrilled to be here today, alongside the vice president and my favorite person here, Jill Biden,” Michelle joked as the audience laughed. Barack simply looked at the crowd and shrugged, and Michelle exclaimed, “Oh! Yes, you too, honey,” and gave him a sweet hug of comfort.
18. Teaming together to help a baby stop crying
Michelle and Barack proved they’ve still got that baby parenting magic, despite their kids, Malia and Sasha, being teenagers. At a 2011 meet-and-greet outside of the White House, the Obamas came across a crying baby. The former first lady tried to cheer the baby up (to no avail), but as soon as she handed the baby off to Barack — no more crying.
Barack gloated at Michelle while she had a look of shock on her face, prompting the crowd to erupt with laughter.
Next: They really do have fun together.
19. Letting loose at a baseball game
During the Obamas’ trip to Cuba in 2016, they took a chance to let loose at a baseball game. While attending the first exhibition Major League game in Cuba in nearly 20 years, Barack and Michelle didn’t hold themselves back from cheering in their seats.
They were definitely getting into the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, which was apparent by Michelle’s multiple jumps out of her seat and Obama’s participation in the wave. Barack was even caught nudging Michelle’s arm repeatedly, clearly engaging in some playful banter.
20. Michelle’s impression of Barack
Nothing says “I love you” like giving your best impression of your spouse. While appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in September 2016, Michelle admitted that she, Malia, and Sasha can all do pretty great impressions of Barack. Colbert put Michelle up to the task, and she was happy to oblige.
She first set up the scene by explaining a typical scenario at the dinner table. Malia will often ask Barack about his day, which Michelle and Sasha know not to do. Why? In Michelle’s impression, she mocked how deeply he’ll delve into the explanation.
“Well, I’m glad you asked that. Let me just answer that in three points. 1 … and the 1A … and then 1A and B,” she joked with her best “Barack” voice. It was almost too spot-on, but it just made us love them as a couple even more.
Next: We love that Michelle uses this modern way to share her love.
21. Michelle’s anniversary post on Instagram
Excuse us while we bawl our eyes out. Throwback photos of Michelle and Barack might be our favorite things that exist in this world — especially ones from their wedding.
On their 25th wedding anniversary, Michelle wrote in an Instagram post, “Happy 25th anniversary @barackobama. A quarter of a century later, you’re still my best friend & the most extraordinary man I know. I [heart emoji] you.”
22. Stealing a kiss on their last day as the first couple
As hard as it was to say goodbye to the Obamas in the White House, it was probably much harder for Barack and Michelle to hand off their duties. However, they went out the best way they knew how: stealing kisses and proving to us one last time how much love a president and his leading lady can have for each other.
Additional reporting by Chelsea Leary.
Follow The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!