A Plaque on All Their Houses

Friday, January 16, 2009; Page A03

It seemed at first as if a prankster had hacked his way into the White House e-mail system.

"Ceremony to Commemorate Foreign Policy Achievements," said the advisory from the White House Office of Presidential Advance.

Two wars, the brink of global depression, and violence from Mumbai to Gaza? Par-tee!

With fanfare, they walked into the gilded Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department yesterday: President Bush, the first lady, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rice's deputy, John Negroponte. They had come to praise great people. Namely, themselves.

Rice presented Laura Bush with a framed "Certificate of Appreciation." Then she presented Bush with a "commemorative plaque." And another commemorative plaque, which, like the first, was sheathed in a gold curtain. Finally, she had an honor guard present her boss with five flags in nifty triangular boxes.

"Mr. President, we've been through a lot together," Rice told Bush.

"We've been through a lot together," Bush told Rice.

"Mr. President, history's judgment is rarely the same as today's headlines," Rice assured Bush.

"History will say that Condi Rice was one of the great secretaries of state our country has ever had," Bush assured Rice.

Bush hung a Presidential Medal of Freedom around the neck of Ryan Crocker, his ambassador to Iraq. Everybody stood to applaud, and the president left to a Sousa march.

As one might expect of a Ceremony to Commemorate Foreign Policy Achievements of the Bush Administration, it did not last very long. Happily, that left plenty of time to enjoy the many other ceremonies yesterday in which the nation's leaders were celebrating one another.

On the Senate floor, Joe Biden and his colleagues were aggressively exchanging praise. Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) praised Biden. Tom Carper (D-Del.) praised Biden. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised Biden. "When people talk about Vice President-elect Joe Biden, they talk about his courage, his family, his remarkable career in the United States Senate," Majority Leader Harry Reid praised.

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