"Barney has been ordered by the White House chief of staff to put up the holiday decorations, but he'd rather play with his ball. If you could lecture Barney about the importance of hard work, that would be great, sir."

The president nodded and said, "Yeah, I can do that."

We put a lavalier microphone on the president and began recording. On his way out, he was getting into his role, saying, "Oh yeah, I can do this."

The president gave a performance that can only be described as masterful.

Pointing to his office, he said: "Barney, this here's the Oval Office. This is where I do my job, Barney. And when the chief of staff gives you a job to do, you do the job, Barney."

He was out there for 20 minutes lecturing Barney. I was having an out-of-body experience.

Blake told me during the filming that the president needed this. "It was a welcome break," he said.

One week later, the president would announce that Saddam Hussein had been captured.

Show time

The first lady unveiled the video at the children's hospital. There was tremendous news coverage of this event, with news networks breaking into their regular coverage to air it live. One network even had a banner that read: "Breaking: 'Barney Cam 2' released."

Visitors swarmed the White House website. It was the most-viewed video of President Bush's entire first term. Emails came in by the thousands. More Barney videos followed.

Now President Obama's dog, Bo, has his own Christmas videos.

But Barney was the first. He let Americans, and the president, forget their problems, if only for a little while.

jimmy.orr@latimes.com

Orr is The Times' managing editor, digital.