George W. Bush returned to the spotlight for a brief moment to attend the unveiling of his official portrait at the White House on Thursday. In the painting, which was crafted by renowned artist John Howard Sanden, Bush stands in the Oval Office, positioned in front of William H.D. Koerner’s “A Charge to Keep,” one of the former president’s favorite paintings. Laura Bush, meanwhile, received a portrait of her own, one that depicts her standing in the Green Room while wearing a midnight-blue gown.
“Thanks so much for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging,” Bush joked.
Although President Obama sang Bush’s praises — he commented the Bush standing with a bullhorn in the rubble of the World Trade Center “conveyed strength” to the world — a few harmless quips were thrown in the former president’s general direction. At one point, Obama thanked Bush for setting him up with an incredible TV sports package, which, the president remarked, he uses. He later added, “We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences. We all love this country. We all want America to succeed.”
Several members from Bush’s administration were in attendance, including Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Andrew Card, and Karl Rove, the latter of whom is often considered to be Bush’s “political mastermind”.
“It’s wonderful to see because so often in American history, you had presidents hiding the portraits of predecessors they didn’t like,” explained presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “In recent years, instead, this has become a rare presidential ritual of national bipartisanship.”