Despite frequently blaming his predecessor for the “messes” he inherited, today President Obama will welcome former President George W. Bush back to the White House to honor his legacy.
The 43rd president and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, will be back at their former home for the official unveiling of their portraits, an often uncomfortable presidential tradition.
The White House maintained Wednesday that President Obama is looking forward to the event and that it’s “not at all” awkward.
“Look, there are differences… without question, between [President Obama's] approach and the approach and the policies of his predecessor,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “That was certainly the case when, I believe, President George W. Bush had President Clinton to the White House for his portrait unveiling. And I think it is well-established that those two now-former presidents have a good relationship…. I think there is a community here with very few members that transcends political and policy differences.”
Obama often publicly blames Bush for the economic crisis and the nation’s continued high unemployment, as well as many of America’s foreign policy challenges. Today’s event, however, will be free of politics.
“What has been the case and will be the case is that there is so much shared experience between, so far, the men and one day the men and women who hold this office that there is much to talk about that they hold in common. So there’s not a lot of need to talk about where they differ,” Carney said.
This will not be the first time that Obama and Bush have met at the White House. Then President Bush first welcomed then President-elect Obama to his future home shortly after his election in November 2008. They met again at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shortly before Obama took office and, of course, on the day of Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
The last time Bush was at his former home was in 2010, when he joined Obama and former President Clinton in announcing humanitarian aid for Haiti.
This time, the gathering will be a family affair. In addition to his wife, Bush will also be joined by his father, former President George H.W. Bush and his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.