A meeting of the minds

A MEETING OF THE MINDS…. Barack and Michelle Obama will be the honored guests at the White House this afternoon for “a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic,” the New York Times reported.

It will almost certainly be a pleasant get-together. The President and the First Lady will give the Obamas a tour of the White House, and the men will eventually “split off to begin the formal transfer of power.” Obama told reporters on Friday that he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.” It’s unlikely, for example, that either will bring up the often sharp criticism each directed at the other during the campaign. (Remember when Bush traveled to Israel’s Knesset to condemn Obama’s foreign policy as “appeasement” along the lines of Chamberlain? Good times, good times.)

And while everyone would no doubt love to be a fly on the wall for the Oval Office chat, I’m going to guess that Bush is going to spend quite a bit of time talking about the floor, or more accurately, what’s covering the floor.

Nothing says power like the Oval Office. The paintings of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The bust of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The desk used by both Roosevelts.

And then there’s the rug. Don’t forget the rug. President Bush never does.

For whatever reason, Bush seems fixated on his rug. Virtually all visitors to the Oval Office find him regaling them about how it was chosen and what it represents. Turns out, he always says, the first decision any president makes is what carpet he wants in his office. As a take-charge leader, he then explains, he of course made a command decision — he delegated the decision to Laura Bush, who chose a yellow sunbeam design.

Bush has told this story hundreds of times, on the stump, to foreign dignitaries, and in media interviews in the White House. He insists the rug says “optimistic person.” Former White House communications director Nicolle Wallace noted the president’s carpet fixation, telling the Washington Post a while back, “He loves his rug.”

I’d bet just about anything that it’s the first thing Bush talks about when Obama enters the room.

In fact, I have a request of some of the reporters who travel with Obama: ask him after today’s tour if Bush brought up the rug. I just want to see his facial expression.