It’s make-nice week at the White House.
A day after calling Republican challenger Mitt Romney to congratulate him on securing the GOP nomination, President Obama will welcome another chief adversary to the White House on Thursday when his predecessor, George W. Bush, arrives for the unveiling of his official portrait.
Bush will be joined by his wife Laura, whose own portrait also will be unveiled, his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush. Obama will host a lunch for the group, followed by the unveiling ceremony at 1:25 p.m. in the East Room.
The Bushes’ portraits will be hung alongside those of the other former presidents and first ladies.
The gathering could make for some awkward moments, considering that the 43rd president has proved a reliable foil for the 44th. Obama regularly blames Bush’s policies on the war in Afghanistan, tax cuts for the wealthy and lax regulation of Wall Street for leading to the “greatest economic recession of our lifetime.”
And Obama has tried to tie Romney to Bush’s economic record, saying the former Massachusetts governor wants to return the country to the policies of the past.
So will the formal unveiling turn into a presidential sparring match?
Not at all, professed White House press secretary Jay Carney.
“There are differences, without question, between his approach and the approach and the policies of his predecessor,” Carney said of his boss. But, he added, that was also the case between other former presidents, such as George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“I think there is a community here with very few members that transcends political and policy differences,” Carney said.
Carney cited the book “The Presidents Club” by his former TIME Magazine colleagues, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, which details the good relationships between former presidents.
The commonality of the shared experiences, rather than their sharp political differences, is what Obama and Bush will talk about, Carney suggested.
“There is not a lot of need to talk about where they differ,” Carney said.