Hardly a day goes by without Obama or his aides talking about the mess they inherited - meaning, from Bush.
It was just one week ago that Obama, revving up campaign donors, turned Bush into a punch line. Obama depicted Republican rival Mitt Romney as a peddler of bad economic ideas, helping the rich at the expense of the middle class, and then added to laughs: "That was tried, remember? The last guy did all this."
Now the last guy is coming back.
So, too, will his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and the former first lady Barbara Bush. The Obamas will hold forth in the ornate East Room as George and Laura Bush are honored for their service before an invited audience of Bush friends and former staff members.
It will be a rare limelight moment for Bush, who has not been back in more than two years.
Obama and Bush have a cordial and respectful relationship, but they are not close. Both are political veterans who are able to separate political tactics from what they see as an overarching community among people who have served in the Oval Office, according to people close to them.
Only 44 men in history, and five men alive, have held the job.
"President Bush has been around politics a long time. He's been around how presidents deal with each other for a long time," said Tony Fratto, one of his former spokesmen at the White House. "He has an understanding for separating the necessities of political rhetoric from the job itself."
Bush showed that all through 2008, when Obama assailed his record on war and the economy en route to the White House. It was hard to remember at times that Obama was running not against Bush, who was finishing the last year of a tumultuous eight-year term, but rather Arizona Sen. John McCain.
When it was done, Bush welcomed Obama to the White House with grace and demanded that his team ensure a smooth transition.
Bush was last at the White House in January 2010. That was to join Obama and former President Bill Clinton in support of Haiti humanitarian relief.