George W. Bush was supposed to have dinner last night with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Jordan's King Abdullah II. The "three-way" became a "two-way" after Maliki bowed out, but Bush and the king and their respective aides apparently had substantive conversations anyway about Syria's role in Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
It sounds like serious stuff -- we're "a country at war," remember -- but Wonkette notes that White House press secretary Tony Snow couldn't help playing it for laughs.
According to the official White House transcript of a "background briefing" on the dinner, Snow told reporters: "Greetings. Welcome to Amman. First, I am joined by my close personal friend, Senior Administration Official, for a background briefing on the president's dinner with the King of Jordan. So let me introduce to one and all, Senior Administration Official, to give you a readout and then answer your questions."
Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq yesterday, bringing the U.S. death toll for the war to 2,882.
Update: Will there come a day when the White House press corps stops playing along with the "on background" joke? Don't count on it. In the New York Times' latest report on Bush's meeting this morning with Maliki, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg passes along quotes from a "senior administration official" who attended the meeting. Stolberg says the official was "granted anonymity" to discuss the meeting -- but then refers to the official as a "she." So far as we know, neither Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, nor Education Secretary Margaret Spellings nor Transportation Secretary Mary Peters made the trip to Jordan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did. Can anyone explain why we're playing this game?