WASHINGTON – After discussing war and peace in the Middle East, President Bush squeezed in a 10-minute photo-op Friday with finalists in the hit television show "American Idol."
They got the photos. Bush got a harmonica engraved with "American Idol 2006."
The 10 finalists dropped into the Oval Office to see Bush in between his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and another photo session with top high school students in the nation.
The president gave the performers a quick tour of the Oval Office and talked about his job. Bush posed for a group photo in front of his desk, and then individual photos with each finalist. He urged them to stick to their beliefs, even if their celebrity status grows.
Taylor Hicks of Birmingham, Ala., the most recent winner on the show, also gave Bush a black T-shirt emblazoned with "Soul Patrol" — the name of Hicks' fan club. Hicks has a personal connection inside the White House: Susan Whitson, Laura Bush's press secretary, taught him ninth grade English at Hoover High School in Birmingham.
Besides Hicks, the finalists from last season who met with Bush were: Katharine McPhee of Los Angeles, Calif.; Chris Daughtry of McLeansville, N.C.; Paris Bennett of Fayetteville, Ga.; Kellie Pickler of Albemarle, N.C.; Ace Young of Denver, Colo.; Bucky Covington of Rockingham, N.C.; Mandisa Hundley of Antioch, Tenn.; Lisa Tucker of Anaheim, Calif.; and Elliott Yamin of Richmond, Va., who arrived a bit late for the meeting.
Their tour and photo opportunity with Bush — with still cameras only, no reporters allowed — came during their one-day visit to Washington for their "American Idols Live" tour.
It's unclear how familiar Bush is with their talents. Asked whether he had ever seen the show, the White House responded that he was "aware" of it.