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Force of habit

By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor

One of the almost-daily tasks when I was White House Correspondent was the "Oval Office Pool Spray" or photo-op. While it involved neither a pool nor water, it meant the members of that day's press pool would be ushered in to "spray" the room for pictures of whatever gathering was going on, whichever visitor the President was hosting.

Traditionally, the President was prepared to make remarks, take a question or two, and when he was done, a press aide would yell "Lights!," and that would signal an end to the proceedings, and we'd be escorted out. Well, it happened today, and the outcome wasn't optimal. The problem was: the guests in the Oval Office were far from "ordinary" visiting dignitaries. They were: the current President, the future President, and all the living former Presidents. So, out of force of habit, when President Bush concluded his brief remarks, when it appeared that the talking was over, the press aide yelled, "Lights!", and the camera lights went out on cue. The problem? The President-elect had yet to speak... which he did, in the dark (or relative darkness of the natural light coming from behind the five men on a gloomy morning in Washington). Once it was clear what was going on, the lights came back on and it ended well. It is also true that nothing could have marred the visual: such a display of power and personalities -- the most exclusive club in the country -- the men who have known (and one who is about to know) the awesome power and responsibility of that office. Everyone I watched it with noted the body language -- especially the position of President Carter off to the right side -- and the White House actually explained that the standing order was by design, beginning with President-elect Obama in the "traditional position of honor," to the President's right.

George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

It was quite a scene, and we'll spend a moment on it tonight. Again this evening, we have a host of stories to cover, and we hope you can join us.