The President’s Many Gifts

by Liz Colville

The State Department has published a list of all the gifts President Obama, his family, and staff received in 2009. It’s a 52-page document that includes the gifts’ value, where the State Department put them, who gave them, and “Circumstances justifying acceptance,” which in every case seems to include the description “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.” In some of the cases, you can just see Obama snapping his fingers in mock regret — 12 silk ties from President Berlusconi! But does he get to keep any of it? It doesn’t look like it. Most gifts are put in the “Archives Foreign” or transferred to “General Services Administration.” Let’s look at a few examples of who gave him what (there are soooo many):

President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia: Wooden CD holder, a book, and fifteen compact discs. A pretty hip present compared to some of the others (Pope Benedict gave him, among other things, some books about himself). But what were the CDs?!

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany: Black leather Montblanc briefcase. Sweet! She also gave him a tea set.

Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan: A desk clock and a black basketball jersey. Someone knows his giftee.

President Shimon Peres of Israel: Bronze statue of a girl releasing a flock of doves.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority: A bottle of olive oil worth $75, which was “Handled Pursuant to Secret Service Policy.” OK!

President Silvio Berlusconi of Italy: 12 silk ties, with a total estimated value of $1,680, plus a Francesco Basile gold watch valued at $6,400. Silvio! This is too much!

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands: a “Holland on the Hudson” bicycle “with an extra bike seat” valued at $1,480. Awesome!

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK: A black and gold pen, and like a million books on Winston Churchill! “Book entitled ‘Churchill and America’…book entitled ‘Churchill: A Life’…book set entitled ‘Biography of Winston S. Churchill’…”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia: A quilt “with white/black stripes and personalized inscription,” which unlike many of the gifts has the note “Permission to Retain for Official Use Only,” as opposed to be put in the “Archives Foreign.”

King Abdullah II of Jordan: A million watches! So many watches. A Tissot watch, a Raymond Weil watch, another Tissot watch, and more.

Here’s the whole thing.

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