Bush Makes Time for 'Idol' Contestants

ByABC News
July 28, 2006, 4:25 PM

July 28, 2006 — -- It was a full day for President Bush.

As the violence continued unabated in the Middle East, the president welcomed British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the White House, announced plans to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice back to the region in the hopes of brokering a peace, and -- what else?

Bush held a photo op with contestants from "American Idol."

Really. Taylor Hicks and the nine runners-up from this year's hit Fox show joined the president for a grip-and-grin in the Oval Office -- the same room in which he and Blair powwowed about the Middle East just hours earlier.

If the timing strikes you as odd, the White House has an explanation.

"This has been planned for some time," said a spokesperson.

Pre-empting any criticism that this might be a poor use of the president's energy, the White House explained that the 10 finalists would be with the president "for just a few minutes" and were planning to be in Washington anyway. Plus, the 2006 "Idol" has a White House connection. The first lady's press secretary, Susan Whitson, taught ninth grade English to "Idol" champion Taylor Hicks back in Alabama.

Sure, the president can change his schedule -- not long ago he indefinitely "postponed" a meeting with the heads of the nation's big three automakers. But perhaps Simon Cowell is scarier than Detroit?

A charitable person might see something charming in the visit. Bill Clinton liked to say one of the greatest benefits of being president is the opportunity to meet anyone in the world -- everyone says yes to a White House invitation.

But it's hard to imagine Bush texting in a vote for his favorite "Idol." So we asked if the president is a big fan of the show.

"The president is aware of the program and knows these folks worked hard to develop their talents," we're told.

So what gives?

Today's "Idol" (idle?) visit has defenders in an unlikely place: Hollywood.

A number of Hollywood producers and executives --