Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alongside Obama, 'Bush 43' Steals the White House Show

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alongside Obama, 'Bush 43' Steals the White House Show

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- It's Barack Obama's house now, but his predecessor and political foil, George W. Bush, stole the show Thursday at the White House with his wisecracks and grin.

"Thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging," the former president said, referring to members of his family and former staff, invited back to the executive mansion for the unveiling of his and Laura Bush's official portraits. "Behave yourselves," he jokingly admonished his crowd.

Mr. Bush told the current president that he was pleased to know "that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, 'What would George do?' "

Free from the stress of the presidency and after three years spent largely out of the spotlight, a relaxed and jovial Mr. Bush came back with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, for a rare gathering of three commanders-in-chief. Former first lady Barbara Bush was there, too, as were George W. and Laura's daughters, Jenna and Barbara.

While Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and their wives spoke about the warmth between their families, there was little of that on display between the two presidents. They traded handshakes but no hugs. "We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences," Mr. Obama said.

That the Obama-Bush relationship is cordial but not close is hardly a surprise. Mr. Obama is still bad-mouthing Mr. Bush's time in office, blaming him for the economic crisis, the soaring federal debt and the unfinished wars the Democrat inherited from his Republican predecessor. And amidst an election season, Mr. Obama is trying to lump the economic policies of his current Republican rival, Mitt Romney, with those of Mr. Bush.

Standing side by side in the grand, chandeliered East Room, Mr. Obama was mostly formal and subdued, while Mr. Bush was lighthearted and engaging, relishing warm greetings from veterans of his two terms in office. …

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