Harry Reid and Judge Samuel Alito Jr. were posing for photos late yesterday in the lobby of Reid's Senate office. They looked like they'd rather be stripping wallpaper.
"Oh, we have to do more?" Reid said after an initial flurry of shots following a meeting with President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee. An aide steered him toward another bank of photographers.
"Oh, I thought we were done," Reid said again, gamely resetting his perma-smile while Alito trailed dutifully behind, looking at his shoes.
Reid came to this meeting on the rebound. He was a big Harriet Miers guy. There weren't many in the end, but the Senate minority leader was perhaps her leading Democratic fan, and a man whose admiration was among the many things that brought on the wrath of conservatives.
By contrast, things had gotten off to a bad start between Reid and Alito, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge -- and this was before they had even met, for the first time, yesterday afternoon.
On Sunday, Reid told CNN that Alito's nomination would "create a lot of problems." Alito's was "not one of the names that I've suggested to the president."
"In fact," Reid added, "I've done the opposite."
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card called Reid just before 7 a.m. yesterday to tell him Bush was nominating Alito.
"So I guess you've heard by now," said Card, according to a Reid aide.
"Yep," Reid replied.
The news had hit the wires about 45 minutes earlier. Reid and Card's conversation lasted about 10 seconds.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this was "typical of the notification process" and that Reid had received "the same notification that other senators had received," mentioning Bill Frist, Patrick Leahy and Mitch McConnell.
Card had pulled Reid aside the night before during a service for Rosa Parks in the Capitol rotunda. He told Reid that an announcement was scheduled for Monday.
That conversation didn't last more than a few seconds, either.
The White House hadn't consulted with Reid or any other Democrats on the selection, as they had with Miers and Chief Justice John Roberts. Initial reaction from Democrats yesterday signaled that a confirmation brawl had been joined -- one that Democrats had resisted joining over Roberts but which Republican waged largely among themselves over Miers.
Democrat after Democrat used words like "extreme," "out of the mainstream" and "deeply disappointed" yesterday in their first reactions to the Alito announcement. And at the center of this resistance was Reid, the Nevada Democrat who said in a statement that conservative activists had "forced Miers to withdraw from consideration for this same Supreme Court seat because she was not radical enough for them. Now the Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people."
Reid went on to criticize the president for not picking a woman or a Latino, and opting for yet another white male Ivy League graduate who "would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys' club."
Other than that, Reid was thrilled with the selection.
So it was against this backdrop that Reid sat down for a 24-minute meeting with Alito yesterday. Reid made a special request that the two of them meet without aides or White House chaperons, as had been present during Reid's meetings with Miers and Roberts.
And it surprised some onlookers -- including from within Reid's staff -- that the senator would even agree to a photo op with Alito after their meeting.
"It's one of the necessary rituals in Washington," Reid spokesman Jim Manley explained of the photo shoot. Emphasis on "necessary."
About 30 photographers crowded behind a red velvet rope line, a few feet from where Reid and Alito stood before a large painting of Harry Truman. They looked left, looked right and Reid kept his left hand buried in his pants pocket for most of the session.
"Thank you all," Reid said to the photographers. "We had a very nice visit. We spent a lot of quality time together."
Alito stood quietly and nodded, nodded and nodded.
Thank you all," Manley said, signaling the photo op was over and -- to Reid's surprise -- calling for a new group, this one of TV cameramen.
"Oh, there's more?" Reid said again.
He and Alito waited together for 60 seconds, neither saying a word.