Sunday, March 08, 2009

Obama's second rate gift to Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown's trip to visit Barack Obama was of no great significance, but what has got the UK media talking is the disparity between the thought and imagination put into Gordon Brown's gifts to Barack Obama and his family, and what Obama gave in return.

Gifts from Gordon Brown to Barack Obama:
- an ornamental desk pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slavery Naval vessel HMS Gannet;
- framed commission for HMS Resolute, a vessel that came to symbolise Anglo-US peace when it was saved from ice packs by Americans;
- first edition set of the seven-volume classic biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.

Barack Obama's gift to Gordon Brown:

- A 25 DVD set of classic American films including ET, Psycho and Lawrence of Arabia (barely American at all of course). The Daily Mail has the whole list.

Gifts to Malia and Sasha Obama:

- a TopShop dress for each of the daughters and matching necklace;
- Six books by British childrens' authors as yet unpublished in the USA;

Gifts to Fraser and John Brown:

- Two models of the Presidential helicopter Marine One, apparently identical to ones available on at US$15 each.

As Iain Martin in the Daily Telegraph says "Oh, give me strength. We do have television and DVD stores on this side of the Atlantic. Even Gordon Brown will have seen those films too often already." Anyone could have compiled that gift given half an hour on or in a major music/DVD shop.

One suggestion is that the DVDs may even be for Region 1 NTSC format for the US, not playable on a standard DVD player in the UK, I wouldn't be surprised.

On the gift to the Browns' children, the Times suggests it was a last minute purchase "having an aide pop to the White House gift shop for a piece of merchandising does not imply a great deal of thought" and more telling that the one official photo showing Sarah Brown and Michelle Obama meeting is hardly flattering, and may indicate how frosty the exchange was.

Of course if Bush had done it, we'd (rightfully) never hear the end of it (such as when Bush gave Brown a jacket)

It's a minor gaffe, but one helluva insult to the United Kingdom and Gordon Brown. Maybe it's because the new US Administration has aides who are thoughtless and unimaginative, but for Obama to accept a series of thoughtful generous gifts from the UK taxpayer and to give something as common and meaningless as a DVD pack is in astonishingly bad taste.


Anonymous said...

Oh Mr. Obama, you made a horrible mistake with these gifts. I'm sure the adviser who chose the gifts for Mr. Obama will pay the consequences. It is just so disrespectful. I don't know who thought of a stupid gift like that. Mr. Brown fulfilled the given protocol and gave astonishing gifts, Mr. Obama in return answered like a real American, it's sad that situations like these add up to the American stereotype. Lets hope Mr. Obama will choose the gifts himself and very carefully next time.

Take care, Jay

Heidi said...

Oh please, let's not blame someone else ( advisor) for the lack of taste in the Obama family's gifts to the Browns. At the very least, Obama and his wife would have to approve of whatever was given to the representative family of America's greatest ally, even if those gifts were not purchased personally. This shows a lack of respect (intentional or not) or a lack of breeding. Surely it couldn't be that the White House budget is THAT tight?