President-Elect Obama is a fast learner.
I've just seen footage of his visit today to the White House. After the photos, Bush and Obama turned and walked into the house. Obama placed a hand on Bush's back and pushed him through the door slightly ahead of himself.
This is a well-known assertion of superiority and precedence amongst world leaders. Sometimes a curious gavotte takes place as two leaders struggle to be last through the door.
Among lesser mortals, it's more usual for the host to usher their guest through the door first. But different rules apply in international politics. Last over the threshold is top dog. And the usual means of achieving this is the hand on the shoulder or the palm in the small of the back.
I think it was an Australian Prime Minister who caused controversy a few years ago by manhandling Her Majesty The Queen in this way. This was partly because he aimed too low and some thought he was attempting to pat her bottom. But he didn't realise that the Queen, although a Head of State, is an exception to this rule. Because she has no actual power she is exempt from the power push. (And safe from a putsch, of course, for the same reason.) There's also the atavistic absurdity that to touch the British monarch is considered an act of lesé majesté.
That Bush allowed himself to be gently pushed through his own door even a few centimetres ahead of his guest is a sign of how quickly power has drained from his Presidency.
And we'll be able to judge the relative power of Obama's new America by how many world leaders Obama sweeps through doors with the deft touch of a basketball player's hand.