WASHINGTON -- President Bush chose his own peculiar way yesterday to let the nation know he's out of his post-election funk: He invited Dana Carvey to the White House to make fun of him.
About 300 staff members hastily summoned to the East Room for a Christmas message from their defeated leader broke into uproarious laughter when the band struck up "Hail to the Chief" and the Bush impersonator from NBC's "Saturday Night Live" strode to the podium.
With the president first encouraging him as part of the audience, then joining the comedian in a duet of famous Bush hand gestures, Mr. Carvey ran through his repertoire of First Foibles -- inspiring more real mirth than the White House has seen in many months.
"I was staying in the Lincoln Bedroom last night, and I couldn't resist getting on the phone," Mr. Carvey told his listeners. He said he called up the Secret Service imitating the president's distinctive Connecticut Yankee-Texas twang:
"Feel like going jogging tonight -- in the nude."
Later, Mr. Carvey said he and his wife looked out their window at the White House lawn and spotted a bunch of agents milling around -- "fully unclothed."
Mr. Bush, who has been uncharacteristically morose since Democrat Bill Clinton thwarted his re-election bid last month, called Mr. Carvey at home recently to invite him to spend the night at the White House after attending the Kennedy Center Honors reception Sunday night.
"Feeling a little nostalgic," Mr. Carvey said, repeating the conversation in his Bush voice. "Thought you might come out. Been quite a year."
"Got a little nauseous there in Tokyo," the impersonator continued, recalling Mr. Bush's first great embarrassment of 1992 when he got sick at a state dinner in Japan. "Should have seen the look on the prime minister's face."
Mr. Carvey drew even bigger laughs from this gathering of the Bush faithful when he began to poke fun at Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire whose independent bid for the White House helped seal Mr. Bush's fate.
"The deficit is like a crazy aunt down the basement," said the pseudo Perot. "No one even pays attention to her and she is just getting ornerier and stinkier. I say take her out, slap her around and hose her down."
The comedian expressed surprise that the more irreverent he got, the bigger the laughs he drew from his host.
"I'm not sure on Nov. 4 that the invitation [to Mr. Carvey] would have gone out and had the same enthusiasm," Mr. Bush confessed. "But we're shifting gears, and I think he's given us a wonderful kick-off to what I hope will be a joyous, totally friendly, very happy, somewhat nostalgic, but merry Christmas for everybody."
But first lady Barbara Bush still had a score to settle yesterday.
Like her husband, Mrs. Bush blames the press for aiding in the president's defeat through biased coverage. And she doesn't mince words about it.
During a morning tour to show off the new White House Christmas decorations, Mrs. Bush said she believes reporters made up some of the unidentified White House sources who criticized the president during the campaign.
"I know darn well you made up some of those people over there," she told reporters on the tour. "And if you didn't, those cheapskates should be willing to put their names on it," she said.
As her parting shot, Mrs. Bush added: "Remember, when you kick him, you kick me."
But that seemed to help her find peace, too. "I feel better now," the first lady said as she walked away to begin her holiday season.