Five presidents in one place is a real photo op

Published 8:46 am Monday, January 12, 2009

It is the wackiest photo-op since Sarah Palin went herself a-turkey-farming. Three ex-presidents, the current president and the future president all kicking it old school, chilling in the Oval Office talking about what cool carpeting abounds. The five of them together is a great image. And if Barack Obama is serious about that economic stimulus plan of his, we could raise a ton of money selling poster-sized copies of this gathering for use as a bipartisan dartboard. And George the Younger conveniently positioned himself in the middle to act as a natural bull’s-eye.

What the New York Post dubbed “Club Prez” was either a power lunch on steroids or the world’s most exclusive fraternity hazing. Can’t you just imagine the elders pulling an Ashton Kutcher and pranking Obama with a dribble glass or faking a Pakistani nuke strike on Kashmir? Nobody knows what subjects were breached, but the general consensus is personal experience was offered up as advice. For instance, the Bush boys and Jimmy Carter might have cautioned against getting stuck in the quicksand of the Middle East, and Bill Clinton probably advocated the installation of an in-house dry-cleaning operation. I’d love to report the five of them fought like raccoons, knocking over furniture and bloodily emerging with torn lapels and black eyes, but they all sucked it up and played nice. I’m sure nobody wanted to answer to Laura if anything happened to the new china.

The Oval Office bonding picture is destined to become as iconic as that Vegas snapshot of the Rat Pack outside the Sands that people regularly Photoshop themselves into. An insertable gap in the photo appears between Clinton and Carter, who reportedly get along like teeth and tinfoil. Something having to do with who deserved the title of “Mister Peace Maker” back in the ‘90s, and who deserved “Mr. Grandstander.” Jimmy Carter (and isn’t he getting a bit long in the tooth to still be called Jimmy?) is starting to exude the smug self-righteousness you normally associate with your priggish Aunt Hoogolah. Starting to look like her too.

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As lease-holder of the residence where lunch was held, Dubyah was the very soul of genial host, but does appear to be chomping at the bit to get the hell out of public housing. “I want to thank the President-Elect for joining the Ex-Presidents for lunch,” forgetting he’s contractually obligated to stick around until Jan. 20. Complaints arose that Obama upstaged the President by addressing the press. But come on, upstaging George Bush? At this point, a No. 2 pencil stuck in a ceiling tile could upstage George Bush.

This is only the second time in recent memory anybody’s seen such a congregation of POTUSes and I doubt the fancy word guys have come up with a plural moniker yet. So here’s our chance for linguistic immortality. There’s the old favorites. Assembly. Army. Pride. Quiver. Swarm. Parliament. Clutch. Caucus. Mob. But I’m shooting for something more suitable — like the locusts: a plague. Or maybe the lapwings: a deceit. Stud of mares — yeah, you wish. Closer to a prickle of porcupines. Labor of moles. An unkindness of ravens. Shiver of sharks. Lamentation of swans. Mutation of thrushes. Nah, none of those work. Gaggle? Giggle? Sludge, flutter, bloat? Jamboree? No. no. no. Wait. I got it. A Port-a-Potty of POTUSes. Unique, alliterative and apt.

Will Durst is a political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of them.