Photos show Michelle Obama and George W. Bush's enduring friendship, built on wisecracks and cough drops

  • Michelle Obama and George W. Bush don't let their political differences get in the way of friendship.
  • Bush said Obama gets his humor, while Obama called Bush her "partner-in-crime."
  • Most recently, the friends posed for photos together at President Joe Biden's inauguration.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It's one of the most iconic and unlikely of friendships in the history of American politics.

Since 2009, former Republican president George W. Bush and former first lady Michelle Obama have hit it off, sharing some truly memorable moments.

In 2016, they had a sweet embrace that was impossible to fake. In 2018, Bush handed Obama cough drops on two different occasions — the first at the memorial service for late Sen. John McCain, and the second at the funeral for George H. Bush, Bush's father.

Most recently, the two posed for some pictures during President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony. 

Here's their friendship through the years in photos.

The friendship blossomed in 2009, at President Barack Obama's inauguration.

It would be the first of countless events where former first lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush sat near or next to each other. 

It's a relationship that's been partly out of their hands since Obama and Bush are seatmates at official functions — of which they attend a lot.

Obama explained to the hosts of NBC's "Today" show in 2018 why the two always sit next to or near each other.  

"President Bush and I are forever seatmates because of protocol – that's how we sit at all the official functions," Obama told the show's hosts. "So he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather."

But even when they aren't seated, the couples can be seen together.

After more than a decade of socializing with one another, Obama and Bush are like two peas in a pod. 

In 2016, Obama and Bush showed the world their enduring friendship with a sweet embrace.

The two attended the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Jenna Bush Hager, Bush's daughter, called it "the hug that went around the world."

In 2016, the pair shared a moment during a memorial service for five police officers who were killed in Dallas.

"Party doesn't separate us. Color, gender — those kinds of things don't separate us. It's the messages that we send," Obama told NBC News in 2018. 

They also sang together.

They sang the Civil War-era song "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to honor fallen police officers who were killed by a sniper during a peaceful protest over the police killing of two African-American men.

Bush also raised a few eyebrows for dancing and lifting his wife and Obama's hands during the somber song.

Bush spoke to People about their friendship in 2017.

"I needle her a little bit and around her, I'm fairly lighthearted," he said. "[The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other."


He also told Ellen DeGeneres that their friendship surprised everybody.

"That's what's so weird about society today, [the surprise] that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum can actually like each other," he said in 2017.

In 2018, at late Sen. John McCain's memorial, Obama saw Laura Bush hand her husband a cough drop, and asked for one, too.

"I looked over and I said, 'Hand me a cough drop,'" she told "Today." 

Bush did as he was told.

A clip of Obama mouthing "thank you" after the handover went viral.

According to Business Insider's Eliza Relman, the moment "became a symbol of bipartisanship and human decency at a time of deep political and cultural division."

In 2018, Obama said Bush was her "partner in crime."

In an interview with Today, Obama spoke about their friendship, after their interaction at the memorial had gone viral. 

She said she loved him "to death," and that he was "a wonderful and funny man."

She also mentioned the cough drops had come in a White House box, leading her to ask how long he'd had them. He responded, "A long time — we got a lot of these!"

Then, at Bush's father's memorial in late 2018, as he greeted a line of past and present American presidents, he slyly slipped another cough drop into Obama's hand.

The moment was a bright spot during a sad day for the nation. 

In December 2019, Obama defended Ellen DeGeneres when the host was ridiculed for having a friendship with Bush.

DeGeneres was criticized for her friendship with Bush after a photo went viral showing the pair sitting together at a football game.

Obama told "Today" that while they have disagreed on policy, their values were the same.

"We don't disagree on humanity. We don't disagree about love and compassion. I think that's true for all of us. It's just that we get lost in our fear of what's different," she said.

They reunited once again at President Joe Biden's inauguration.

Because of social distancing, the two sat slightly away from one another with their respective spouses. But they still took the time to squeeze in a few photos — you can see their smiles peaking out from behind their masks. 

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