It's no secret that President Barack Obama wishes the recent election had gone a different way. While he likely would have beamed in the background as Hillary Clinton took the oath of office, will Obama even attend Donald Trump's inauguration? Barring some shocking, totally out-of-character move, he will, even if he has to grit his teeth the whole time.
It would be an extraordinary breaking of the norms for the incumbent president to skip an inauguration. And right about now, Obama is trying to do everything he can to foster a peaceful transition of power — after Trump's election, Obama called that peaceful transition "one of the hallmarks of our democracy" — and to give the president-elect the help he needs to start running the country.
Obama already met with Trump at the White House, while Melania Trump and Michelle Obama had their own traditional meeting about the duties of the first lady. Reportedly, the meeting between the two men went about as well as could be hoped for, with the two of them promising to work together throughout what could be a tumultuous couple of months before Inauguration Day, and with Obama telling reporters that he hopes to make Trump and his family "feel welcome as we prepare to make this transition."
In fact, it seems that Obama may have to be even more of a lifeline than incumbent presidents usually are, since, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Trump and his team didn't even realize some very basic facts about the scope of the president's duties, like that the new president was responsible for replacing the staff of the West Wing. According to The Wall Street Journal,
After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.
So Obama will do what he needs to do to keep the country running, and that includes attending the inauguration of the man who spent years promoting the racist birther theory that Obama was born in Kenya, and who is now promising to dismantle much of the president's legacy.
Obama takes his duties as president seriously, and is able to put aside his own personal feelings in order to do what is best for the country, an admirable and important quality in a leader. Still, one can't help eagerly anticipating the moment when Obama can stop being polite, and start saying what he really thinks.