WASHINGTON - Set aside the images of lawmakers in hallowed halls of the Capitol yelling about who's lying and why, and picture this:
Two Republican heavyweights and the Democratic president they tried to eject from office a decade ago, perched together as elder statesmen in a gilded chamber reserved for events that transcend partisanship.
"We were sort of a triangle," former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott recalled Wednesday of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton. They all joined Lott's colleagues, staff and family to unveil the Mississippi Republican's official portrait. "Even though we had our differences, we found a way to come together."
It was a striking counterpoint to the events that transpired down the hall a day earlier, when the House voted largely along party lines to rebuke Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. for shouting, "You lie!" at President Barack Obama as he addressed a joint session of Congress.
"Maybe it would be a good time to show that a president, a majority leader, the leaders ... can come together," Lott mused. "When you leave these offices you remember the good things and you forget all the slights."
The Republican-controlled House impeached Clinton for lying to prosecutors in the Paula Jones case, and Lott's Senate tried and acquitted him. Gingrich called Clinton a "misogynist" for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Then Gingrich's own marriage fell apart because he was having a relationship with a woman he later married. None of that was mentioned Wednesday.
Nor was Lott's most difficult period spelled out explicitly. Lott stepped down from his leadership position in 2002 after remarks he made at Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party that were deemed racially insensitive.
Actually, the three shared friendships behind the scenes, born of similar temperaments and a shared experience as public figures at the apex of government.
"We were slightly confused by the experience," Gingrich said.
"I'm still wondering what I'm doing here," Clinton joked.