Lunch With Mitt

Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, John McCain & More Obama Frenemies (PHOTOS)

From Hillary Clinton to John Boehner to Silvio Berlusconi, see Obama’s wide range of enemies-turned friends. By Abby Haglage.

AP Photo (3)

AP Photo (3)

Obama Frenemies

When President Obama and vanquished foe Mitt Romney sit down to lunch this Thursday, they’ll be all smiles. Why? Because that’s what frenemies do. Ignore the discord, grin and bear it. In politics, frenemies are not just ubiquitous; they’re vital. When Obama took office in 2008, Maureen Dowd famously called the new president’s cabinet his “Team of Frenemies.” Whether he ended up with a team of rivals, or team of mascots Is not clear, but the president has had his fair share of friendship-feigning. From the beer summit with Sgt. James Crowley to a game-changing round of golf with Bill Clinton, here is some of the president’s best (and most awkward) frenemy-ing.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

John McCain

Shaking hands with the guy who beat you out for the presidency can’t be easy, but luckily Sen. John McCain is a good sport. In November 2008, he and Obama met a the president-elect’s transition headquarters in Chicago. Afterwards, they issued a joint statement saying they hoped to work together in the months ahead on challenges like “protecting our nation’s security.” Looks like they got their wish. 


Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Hillary Clinton

Keep your friends close, your frenemies closer, and (if you’re the president) Hillary Clinton closest. After Obama beat out Clinton in the Democratic primary, the president-elect offered her the key position of secretary of state in December 2008. Hugging Clinton close, the president praised what he called her “core values,” then apologized to the press for not providing a “juicier” end to the Clinton-Obama saga.

Alex Brandon / AP Photo

Police Sgt. James Crowley

There’s nothing like a few beers to quell frenemy-meeting jiggers. After police Sgt. James Crowley arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—wrongly suspecting him of being one of two black burglars reported in Gates’s own home—the nation was outraged. Several days later, Obama openly declared that the police had “acted stupidly.” When the three met a week later on the Rose Garden patio, it was, well, uncomfortable. Luckily, the beers helped. Reports of the 40-minute discussion described it as respectful, and Obama called it a “positive lesson.”

Jewel Samad, AFP / Getty Images

Silvio Berlusconi

It’s hard to say if Silvio Berlusconi, the crude media tycoon and disgraced former president of Italy, ever held enough power in Obama’s mind to be an authentic frenemy. After all, if he got away with calling him “tanned” he could get away with anything, right? Wrong. When the Italian politicians put the moves on Mrs. Obama during a 2009 meeting, he moved himself to frenemy No. 1. Don’t believe it? Take a peek at Obama’s face.

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

John Boehner

Alls’ fair in love and golf. Perpetually feuding over taxes, the debt ceiling, and the conflict in Libya, GOP House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama put down their swords briefly in June of 2011 and hit the green. After attending a four-hour event, the two men came out surprisingly subdued. But when asked about his relationship with the president, Boehner replied like a textbook frenemy: “We get along—get along fine.” At least he’s honest.

Nicholas Kamm, AFP / Getty Images

Bill Clinton

If all else fails: golf. Bill Clinton’s relationship with Obama—marred by Hillary’s defeat—was long in the gutter. But when Obama’s campaign came to him in September to stress the importance of Bill’s support for the 2012 presidential campaign, Clinton decided to mend fences. Obama invited  Bill for a round at Andrews Air Force Base, and the two emerged from the game with a lasting political partnership that would ultimately lead to Obama’s victory. The rest, is history


Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images

Donald Trump

Never was there a more loyal frenemy to President Obama than Donald Trump, and never a more perfect display of it than at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. But, wait, enough of that.

Jewel Samad, AFP / Getty Images

Vladimir Putin

There’s nothing like having to meet with the president of Russian four days after realizing your cabinet wrongly accused Russia of shipping helicopters to Syria. Following the 2011 G-20 summit in Mexico, that’s exactly what President Obama did. Spending two hours behind closed doors, he and Vladimir Putin allegedly found “common points” on Syria, specifically the need for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. But in the end, sources said, they left many issues “unresolved.” Well, no one can say they didn’t try.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

George W. Bush

On May 31, 2012, George W. Bush ruled the White House once again. Speaking at his portrait unveiling, the former president killed. “Behave yourself,” he said, winking at his cohort. For Obama and Bush, it was business as usual. A handshake but no hug; a hello but not much else. When the current president is openly bad-mouthing your entire time in office, as Obama did only days prior, it’s understandable to be a little cold. At least W is used to insults.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Mohamed Morsi & Muslim Brotherhood

When Obama decided to invite Egypt’s now-infamous leader, Mohamed Morsi, to meet with him at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this past September, critics called him foolish. Maybe, in retrospect, he was. “I don’t think that we consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” President Obama said, on Sept. 12, of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

Benjmin Netanyahu

It was a valiant effort to appear genuine. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set out to congratulate newly reelected President Obama, he went all the way, even describing the strategic relationship between Israel and the U.S. as “stronger than ever.” But to a nation that’s watched the tumultuous and strained relationship—with Bibi’s own Ehud Olmert accusing him of ‘spitting in the face of the American president,’ the act wasn’t strong enough. 


Jewel Samad, AFP / Getty Images

Chris Christie

Call them enemies, call them brothers, call them frenemies, whatever you call them, there’s an undeniable bond between New Jersy Gov. Chris Christie and President Obama. Only 10 days before Hurricane Sandy ripped through his state, Christie was a staunch critic of Obama, describing him on the campaign trail as a man, “blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue.” But Sandy changed everything, including Christie and Obama’s relationship. Touring the damage together, the two became close, with Christie calling their relationship “wonderful.”