Here’s a little quiz. Take a look at the picture of the photo above, which shows the newly redecorated Oval Office that is occupied by Donald Trump. What’s unusual in this scene?
As a helpful hint, here’s a close-up of the area you should be looking at:
Is it the Remington bronze statue known as “The Bronco Buster” on the right, which many presidents have displayed? No. The portrait of Andrew Jackson just above the statue, which has survived the departure of Jackson-fan Steve Bannon? No. The bust of Lincoln, on the left? Beneath the portrait of Jefferson? No, and no—although it would be instructive to know the thoughts of the third and the 16th presidents as they gaze on the 45th.
Might it be additional gold in the decor? No, not even that.
Here are a few additional compare-and-contrast clues, based on photos of the same office in different eras.
Let’s start with an extreme case, the Oval Office of FDR:
Maybe too many points of contrast here—black and white versus color, the ship on the desk (for a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy), the very different aesthetics of patrician spareness and Trumpian glitz.
Let’s skip ahead to Dwight Eisenhower, whose office looked this way (via a recreation at his museum):
And how about JFK:
And Lyndon Johnson with his advisers, getting news in 1968 about the assassination of Martin Luther King:
I won’t go through the whole list but will move to a a sharper compare-and-contrast series from some recent presidents. On the left in…
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