WASHINGTON – Talk about an inconvenient truth.
Al Gore finally won his place in the Oval Office on Monday -- right next to George W. Bush.
Forever linked by the closest and craziest presidential race in history, the two men were reunited by, of all things, White House tradition. Gore was among the 2007 Nobel Prize winners who were invited in for a photo and some chatter with the president; Gore got the recognition for his work on global warming.
The two men stood next to other, sharing uncomfortable grins for photographers and reporters, who were quickly ushered in and out.
"Familiar faces," the former vice president said of the media. Bush, still smiling, added nothing.
The two also had a 40-minute meeting in the Oval Office, part of Bush's effort to show some outreach to his longtime rival.
Bush aides said it was private and would not comment on it.
Gore, trailed by the press as he left the White House very publicly on foot, allowed that he and Bush spent the whole time talking about global warming.
"He was very gracious in setting up the meeting and it was a very good and substantive conversation," Gore said. "And that's all I want to say about it."
Gore's presence added unlikely buzz to a photo op that normally would have been buried by Bush's Mideast peace forays. It is not like these two cross paths much. They have not met privately since then-President-elect Bush paid a visit -- short, and not that sweet -- to Gore's residence in December 2000.
That was back when the acrimony was fresh, in a country still in disbelief over an election that seemed never-ending. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court certified Bush's 537-vote victory margin over Gore in Florida to settle the outcome.
Since then, Gore has not shied away from criticizing Bush; his latest book, "The Assault on Reason," is a relentless attack against the administration. And the White House's response when Gore won the Nobel Prize was less than giddy.
Never mind all that.
"I know that this president does not harbor any resentments," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "Never has."
Indeed, the White House tried to make clear that Bush was hosting Gore not out of obligation, but genuine interest.
Bush personally invited Gore. The White House changed its original date to accommodate Gore. And then there was the private Bush-Gore meeting, too.
When it was over, the scene took a bit of turn for the weird.
Gore said he didn't want to comment. But with the media waiting for him, Gore and his wife, Tipper, walked out along Pennsylvania Avenue and up 17th Street, apparently toward their car -- even though the White House is adept at helping people slip away unnoticed if they want.
The media horde followed the Gores for several minutes. When a veteran reporter asked Gore if he missed all the attention, he adeptly turned the question around. "When you leave this beat," he said, "I'm gonna ask you."