President Obama will host former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at the White House next week for the unveiling of their of their official portraits, bringing the two presidents together at a time when the incumbent has been castigating his predecessor’s record on the campaign trail.
The ceremony next Thursday follows a longstanding tradition of welcoming back former presidents and first ladies to hang their paintings in the White House. Each time a new painting is added, those of other recent presidents are rotated to different spaces in the main floor of the White House and up the large staircase. The first lady paintings are generally hung on the floor below.
Such ceremonies often bring together current and former presidents with rivalries, grudges or awkward relationships. But the timing of this unveiling is particularly delicate as Mr. Obama uses Mr. Bush as a foil on the campaign trail against former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, his presumptive Republican challenger. Although Mr. Obama generally does not mention Mr. Bush by name, he often says Mr. Romney wants to replicate the former president’s agenda but “on steroids.”
At a campaign fund-raiser in Redwood City, Calif., on Wednesday, for instance, Mr. Obama said Republicans wanted “bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” “deeper cuts” in Medicare and education, “even more power” for banks to do as they please, and fewer regulations that protect consumers. “But that’s not new,” he added. “That was tried, remember? The last guy did all this.”