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George W. and Oprah cozy up before Hannity rolls over

"I had a good time," Oprah said before they nuzzled. Photos: Ed Bark

So who bowed deepest Tuesday in the ongoing effort to sell George W. Bush's new book and give him an image makeover as well?

Adulation of the former president came from both a usual suspect (Sean Hannity) and an unlikely source (Oprah Winfrey). He'll take it where he can get it during the full-tilt, nationally televised promotion of Decision Points.

Winfrey, who very publicly supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, effusively welcomed Bush to her show, as did her studio audience.

"I'm really, really, really proud to have you here," she told him after bestowing two air kisses with an audible "Mwah, Mwah."

Bush last visited The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000 when he was still a presidential candidate. This time around she laughed joyously at his self-deprecating jokes, clasped his hand during an emotional anecdote tied to the war in Iraq and told Bush "I had a good time" before cuddling with him while the closing credits rolled.

That last image conceivably could end up being her Sammy Davis Jr./Richard Nixon imbroglio. Not an aha moment, but an uh-oh one.

Winfrey even commiserated with Bush over his administration's admittedly tardy response to Hurricane Katrina. According to his book, he was in part blocked by the state of Louisiana, whose governor (Kathleen Blanco) declined to give him quick authority to send in federal troops. Winfrey said it caused her to think, "Aha."

The show also featured an exclusive peek inside the Bush family's Kennebunkport compound, where No. 41, No. 43 and Barbara gathered to swap one-liners and reminiscences. It was an entertaining hour, even if it sometimes seemed to be originating from The Twilight Zone. Winfrey is nothing if not a gracious host during a daytime show aimed primarily at female viewers. Still, it was odd to see her so buttery in the presence of the man whose policies her man had campaigned so aggressively against. If Oprah can be wooed this easily, then maybe Glenn Beck will soon be making a donation to MoveOn.org.

Butch and Sundance on a slow drive through Crawford.

Over on Fox News Channel Tuesday night, a special edition of Hannity found the host with Bush at his Crawford, TX retreat.

Bush was behind the wheel in the first segment, chatting about his book while Hannity kept nodding in assent or complimenting him for his resolve.

Later on, after a short hike through the woods to a picturesque plateau, Bush again noted that he had intentionally laid low after his eight years as president.

"I understand I'm in the limelight now because I'm talkin' to you, my buddy," he told Hannity. "And the reason I am is because I'm sellin' my book."

His buddy tried on three separate occasions to get Bush to bad-mouth Obama. But to no avail. He otherwise kept extolling the former president's virtues. In the sit-down portion of their "interview," the two even wore matching jeans and pale blue shirts. (Bush had changed from the checked short-sleever he sported in the above picture.)

Amazingly, Hannity didn't ask for a lock of Bush's hair or maybe a piece of belly button lint to treasure as a keepsake. Or at least he didn't on-camera.

MSNBC, otherwise known as the network that won't be getting a Bush interview, predictably went after him with a machete Tuesday. Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and the newly re-installed and self-aggrandizing Keith Olbermann all happily took their turns. In their view, they're not drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to Bush. But their overwhelming partisanship is increasingly hard to swallow. Hannity's a lap dog, they're all attack dogs.

Not that he'll ever get the opportunity, but it's an open question as to whether Olbermann would be man enough to do a one-on-one with Bush. His Countdown show never fails to accommodate an assembly line of like-minded guests. On Tuesday night, he welcomed Michael Moore, who tore into Bush while Olbermann either grinned or nodded appreciatively.

Tuesday's events served to elevate Matt Lauer's initial Monday prime-time interview with Bush. He pressed him on a number of points while also remaining respectful of the office Bush had held. It struck a solid balance. Lauer was no pushover; nor was he a shover.

Bush will keep making the rounds, with Fox News Channel's two other prime-time personalities -- Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren -- in the mix before he eventually turns to CNN's Candy Crowley and Jay Leno's Tonight Show. There's also a Sunday morning interview scheduled with CBS reporter Jim Axelrod. But nothing with ABC. Or, of course, MSNBC.

The O'Reilly interview is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11th, and I'm thinking it could be the best of the bunch. Drill deep down and he might tell you that Hannity's session with Bush not only one-upped him, but sickened him. Way too sycophantic for his much-trumpeted "No Spin Zone."

As for Oprah making nice, well, she knows how to sell books. Decision Points almost assuredly won't make her still potent Book Club list. But its author couldn't have asked for a better time.