For about three hours on Wednesday, official Washington felt like it had "before." Before the Russians tried to steal the 2016 election. Before every budget deadline came wrapped in a shutdown threat. Before FBI agents were made out to be the bad guys, and convicted felons were labeled heroes.
Back when you could make lighthearted jokes about powerful people without drawing their public wrath. Back when politicians still liked and respected the journalists who covered them and the authors who wrote books about them. And back when American presidents were still genuinely liked and admired by the leaders of other countries.
Wednesday's state funeral for the late President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral both looked and sounded like an episode of "The West Wing," set in an idealized Washington, D.C., of 20 years ago, and not the city that exists today. It was a more innocent time and a more eloquent one.
Everywhere during the Bush funeral, there were visceral reminders of what Washington used to be like. And not just in the days before President Donald Trump trampled sacred political norms — also before the Great Recession, and before Twitter and the tea party and the 9/11 attacks.
For a few hours, party loyalties seemed to melt away. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hugged Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, W.Va. Outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake brought his sons up to the front of the chapel to meet former President Barack Obama, a Democrat with whom Flake regularly butted heads during Obama's time in office.
President George W. Bush walked over and gave former first lady Michelle Obama a cough drop, after she joked earlier this year about how often the two of them were seated together at official events and how the younger Bush was always generous with the cough drops in his pocket.