Obama & Trump Had Very Different Vibes In The Oval Office & It's So Fascinating

by Jaelynn Grisso
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It has been about a year and a half since President Donald Trump took office, and if anything is clear, it's that he's doing things his own way, especially when compared to his predecessor. But, as anyone who's ever tried to insert some ~personality~ into their office cubicle knows, if you want to draw a real comparison, the key is in how they behave in their office — which is why I've assembled these photos of Trump's vs. Obama's Oval Office for you. You're welcome.

Comparing President Barack Obama to Trump almost seems like a moot point because the two are so different. But they share one vitally important similarity: the experience of being president of the United States. It's an undoubtedly tough job, but it does come with a few perks, including a pretty sweet office. The iconic room is home to some of the most important decision-making and deliberation and gives us a glimpse into both what these leaders like and how they operate.

Both leaders have been captured on camera tons of times, but with just a few photos we can get a feeling for what life is like inside that famous office. Taking a look at photos of both Obama and Trump working in the Oval Office shows just how similar and dissimilar the two are. Spoiler alert: It's much more of the latter.

Here's Obama signing some bills into law.
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If this is what Obama typically looks like when he's working, then he's much tidier than me. His desk and the area around it seems clean, but professional. The desk is covered with his work, and there's not much to distract him from the tasks at hand: there are a few photos behind him, a few flags and some muted, red drapes.

And here's Trump at the same desk.
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On the other hand, it looks like Trump has even less to distract him — only one sheet of paper and the phone. That's not the only change of course — though there's only so many changes a president can make to the White House decor, when Trump moved into the Oval Office, he famously chose to swap out Obama's red curtains for gold ones. Of course they're gold.

Obama's meeting with the prime minister of Singapore looks awfully relaxed.
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One of the most important functions of the president is meeting with foreign leaders, and what better place is there to do that then a historic, spacious (if you ignore the crowd of reporters) office? In this photo, Obama was meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on August 2, 2016 during Lee's state visit. If looks can be believed, the meeting seems pleasant enough. Both men almost look as if they could just as easily be sitting on an outdoor patio chatting about their weeks over beers as discussing foreign policy.

It's also worth noting the bust to the left of the fireplace is of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which Obama brought in when he took office. Some Brits criticized Obama for the move at the time, according to the Today show, because they reportedly believed Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill in favor of King. Per the Today show, the bust had been on loan and was already scheduled to be returned.

While Trump's meeting with the president of South Korea looks a little... strained.
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Is it just me, or does South Korean President Moon Jae-in look like he's smiling just a little too hard? Not that Trump looks all that genuine either. It's definitely a very different feel from the chilled-out Obama meeting above.

Although, there could have definitely been some tension considering the back-and-forth South Korea, North Korea and the United States have been having regarding a historic summit among the nations, which has been scheduled for June 12. Two days after this meeting on May 22, 2018, Trump announced that the meeting was cancelled, only to announce that it was back on a week later, on June 1.

Obama greets some — smaller — visitors.
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Obama was photographed many times with kids in his office, some of which have become fairly iconic — like when he played Spiderman or when he leaned down to let a little boy touch his hair. I don’t know about you, but he always seemed like my friend’s super cool dad. As in, he knows he runs the country, but he still wants to just goof around every once in awhile. But like any good dad, that's not to say that he couldn't get serious with kids when necessary. In this October 2011 photo, Obama met with kids featured in the documentary Waiting For Superman, about charter schools and the American educational system.

Definitely a serious topic, but Obama still looks like he's 30 seconds away from telling them all to go set up the sprinkler, sport, while he gets the grill going.

Trump also chats with some kids.
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Trump, on the other hand, gives off a much more business-first vibe in this photo. In this October 2017 photo showing Trump with trick-or-treating children of members of the White House press corps, it looks like he stayed at his desk as the little ones came around, and they all seem pretty excited to see him. And while Obama's pose inserted some casualness into a serious subject, Trump went the other way and managed to get some politics into a trick-or-treating photo op when he used the opportunity to slam the kids' parents, who were all members of the media.

"How does the press treat you? I'll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world," he said, per NBC News. "These are beautiful, wonderful children. You’re gonna grow up to be like your parents. Don't answer."

Obama hosted a meeting with members of Congress.
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In this February 1, 2016 photo, Obama met with Senate leaders to discuss the then-vacancy on the Supreme Court, and it looks like — as vitriolic as the debate over that Supreme Court seat got — things were pretty chill at that time.

The Oval Office, on the other hand, was relatively warm, with striped yellow wallpaper and neutral carpeting. Though the presidential portraits on the walls are pretty traditional, Obama apparently had a penchant for more modern art when he decorated the office, and brought in pottery pieces by contemporary Native American artists, as well as models for mechanical patents to decorate the bookshelves, according to the Today show.

Trump's style sticks with the traditional.
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Trump’s meeting actually has a splash of color, thanks to Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California rocking that bright orange suit. But, outfits aside, a few other details of this December 2017 photo are indicative of Trump. Obama's stripy wallpaper has been replaced with a neutral-toned paisley pattern, broken up by several flags, including what appear to be flags of the U.S. Military branches. As James Fallows suggested in The Atlantic, Trump may be surrounding himself with flags as a way of conveying strength. “The stronger a leader actually is, the less he needs the stage-prop symbols of strength,” Fallows wrote.

I’m not sure if either Trump or Obama were decorating the office to send a message, or if they were just decorating to suit their styles. Either way, at times, that same office has looked worlds apart.