Correction to This Article
A June 30 Style article on the White House state dinner gave an incorrect title for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

There's Good Rockin' Tonight

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi addresses dinner guests, including, from left, Laura Bush, Karyn Frist and Hank Aaron.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi addresses dinner guests, including, from left, Laura Bush, Karyn Frist and Hank Aaron. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Jose Antonio Vargas and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 30, 2006

If there was ever going to be a fun official dinner in this White House, last night's affair would be it.

The George W. Bushes aren't the Reagans or the Clintons. They don't throw too many of these formal things. And, truth be told, the president and first lady never really look like they're having a good time sitting through them.

Last night, however, President Bush, in a lively, jovial mood, was honoring Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, his close friend -- or, as they say in Japanese, shinyu .

The guest list was an interesting mix of sports luminaries and political power. Olympic speedskater Apolo Ohno; figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and her husband, Bret Hedican of the Carolina Hurricanes; and baseball legend Hank Aaron were there, along with Dick and Lynne Cheney; Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld; Norman Mineta, the outgoing transportation secretary; Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert; and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In his toast, Bush said, "This room has hosted many honored guests, and this night it also houses a treasured friend." Koizumi reciprocated in halting English: "It is such an impressive thing that our two nations, who once fought against each other, now share common values and, together as close friends and allies, are tackling a wide variety of challenges around the world." He summed up his country's policy toward the United States by naming the first song he ever memorized in English -- "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."

All day yesterday -- exchanging thoughtful gifts, singing a duet to the Elvis Presley tune, toasting each other with such reverence -- it was a good-old-boy love fest. And why not? At their first meeting at Camp David five years ago, Bush looked Koizumi in the eye and recognized a fellow cowboy.

Both are baseball aficionados. Both love the movie "High Noon." Both come from political dynasties -- Bush's dad was the 41st president, his grandfather was a senator from Connecticut; Koizumi's father was a member of Japan's legislature, his grandfather served as minister of posts and telecommunications.

A quirky and charming hobby of Koizumi's is his fascination with all things Elvis. The prime minister released a CD of his 25 favorite Presley songs in 2001 and the president is accompanying his pal to Graceland today. At the welcoming ceremony in the Red Room early yesterday, Bush and Koizumi exchanged gifts. Koizumi, who is leaving office in September, presented Bush with a bicycle and a big reproduction of the Japanese Babe Ruth postage stamp. Bush surprised Koizumi with a restored 1954 Seeburg R100 jukebox filled with 45 songs, including 25 Presley hits.

If an official dinner at the White House came with a soundtrack, last night's would have included Elvis renditions of "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Let's Be Friends," "For the Good Times," "Steadfast, Loyal and True" and "I Need Somebody to Lean On."

Every White House dinner has an unspoken message:

S?, los Estados Unidos is a friendly, welcoming neighbor to Mexico. Thank you, Poland and the Philippines, for supporting the war on terror and being partners in the "coalition of the willing." Sorry, Kenya, for canceling my planned trip to your country, so here's a toast for you. Yes, the most populous democracy in the world -- that would be India -- is important to the United States.

And Japan? Well, I just really like Junichiro!


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