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Presidents get together in Oval Office

As reunions go, it was an exclusive one, a living tableau of US history for which every surviving president, and the incoming one, came to the White House for lunch.

Barack Obama joined George Bush Jnr, Bill Clinton, George Bush Snr and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office, all grinning for the cameras. The mood was light and collegial. "I love this rug," Mr Clinton whispered to Mr Bush, a variation on his "I love your tie", which he saves for people he does not care for. The event was Mr Obama's idea. Mr Bush jumped at it.

It was the first gathering of all living presidents at the White House since 1981, when Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, then president, came together before leaving for the funeral of Anwar Sadat, the Eygptian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. On that day, they discussed the darkening situation in the Middle East, a subject surely raised at yesterday's lunch. All the former presidents have had experiences with Middle East wars and no doubt had advice for Mr Obama, who will soon be juggling the hot potato of Israel and Hamas.

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