There was nothing solemn about the unveiling of official portraits of the former president George W. Bush and Laura Bush at the White House. Barack Obama kicked off the jokes by thanking his predecessor for the cable TV sports package he had left behind. "I use it," he said.
Noting a portrait of George Washington, Mr Bush ventured: "When the British burned the White House ... in 1814, Dolley Madison [the wife of the fourth president, James Madison] famously saved this portrait of the first George W."
Michelle Obama should be sure to do the same should any such calamity recur, he said, pointing at his own painting. "Now, Michelle, if anything happens, there's your man," he quipped.
Comedy, of course, can camouflage all kinds of tension, such as Mr Obama thinking about how blaming Mr Bush for everything that ails America is going to be a mainstay of his re-election campaign.
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