U.S. President Barack Obama "looks forward to" having predecessor George W. Bush at the White House Thursday, despite their differences, Obama's spokesman said.
Obama was to preside over the unveiling of the official portraits of Bush and former first lady Laura Bush in a celebration the White House said would set aside political differences.
Obama has blamed Bush for the "mess" he inherited of a nose-diving economy and highly unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just last week, Obama accused presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of "peddling the same bad ideas that brought our economy to the brink of collapse."
"That was tried, remember?" he told a crowd in Redwood City, Calif. "The last guy did all this."
White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked if having that "last guy" with Obama at the unveiling ceremony would be awkward.
"Oh, not at all," he said. "I know the president looks forward to it."
Carney acknowledged "there are differences, without question, between [Obama's] approach and the approach and the policies of his predecessor. That was certainly the case when I believe President George W. Bush had President [Bill] 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, as did President Bill Clinton with President George H.W. Bush," Carney said.
"I think there is a community here with very few members that transcends political and policy differences," he said.
"There is so much shared experience between the men ... that there is much to talk about that they hold in common," Carney said. "So there is not a lot of need to talk about where they differ."
Former Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said he agreed Bush would not find the meeting awkward.
"This is not his first time at the rodeo," Fratto told McClatchy Newspapers. "I think he has a pretty mature view of politics and the people in the office and the ability to distinguish between the two."
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were to meet with the Bushes -- who were to be joined by George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, as well as other family members -- for lunch at 12:10 p.m. EDT in the White House Red Room, typically used for small dinner parties.
After lunch, the Obamas were to officially welcome the Bush family guests for the unveiling at 1:25 p.m., the White House said.
Bush joked at a 2008 unveiling of another painting in Washington's National Portrait Gallery, "I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging."