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Of Gifts and Gaffes

Scott on March 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Since President Obama has been filling available space at the White House with a variety of consultants, I have a suggestion for one more:  Martha Stewart.  Or if she’s not available, Miss Manners.  Or maybe both.

“Why the need for more consultants at the White House?” you may be asking.

The simple answer:  Gift Giving.

Based on what has happened over the last week or so, the Obama Administration needs A LOT of help in this area.

EPISODE 1:  THE BUTTON FROM HELL

Hillary Clinton, as the face of U.S. international relations, decided to give the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov one of those cute, funny little button-things from Staples (the office supply store).  OK, well, it wasn’t exactly from Staples, but it was the same basic idea.  The button was supposed to be labeled “RESET.”  The concept was to give a gift to signal the Russians that the idiot, ethnocentric, commie-hater Bush is gone -and- the suave, erudite, citizen-of-the-world Obama is here to save the day (think Mighty Mouse, but taller).  So in essence, Hillary was trying to say, “Let’s reset things to the good old days before Evil Bush, back to the time of the First Black President Bill Clinton when Russia and the U.S. were thick-as-theives.”

PROBLEM:  The button didn’t say “Reset.”  It said, “Overload/Overcharge,” as in “We will overload your country.”  or  “We will overcharge you!” (which I guess could mean that we will either short-circuit Russia or charge them more on their next monthly billing statement)

Either way, it wasn’t a good day for U.S./Russian relations.  Not that the Russians are talking nukes, but it just made us (as in the U.S.) look silly.

But OK.  Languages can be tricky, so let’s just hope that on future travels abroad Mrs. Clinton will know enough to NOT trust the Wikitranslator anymore.

EPISODE 2: HERITAGE AND HISTORY  -or-  CHEAP AND THOUGHTLESS

When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife visited the White House last week, they did so bearing some pretty amazing gifts.  Mr. Brown brought: a pen holder carved from wood taken from the sister ship of the one from which the desk in the Oval Office is carved; the framed Commision certificate for that same ship, the H.M.S. Resolute; and a first edition copy of the 7 volume biography of Sir Winston Churchill.  For the two Obama girls, Mrs. Brown brought each a hand made dress from one of the trendiest and most expensive women’s clothiers in London.

PROBLEM:  President Obama gave a boxed set of 25 DVD’s of some of Hollywood’s most popular movie titles (because I guess they don’t get American made films in Britain) and Michelle Obama gave each of the Brown’s sons a model of the Marine One helicoptor from the White House gift shop.

Not that I am always the world’s best gift giver, but isn’t a gift supposed to demonstrate that the giver values the receiver enough to give them something of significance?  Not that President Obama or his wife Michelle would have the time to go shopping themselves, but when they staffed out this pretty significant and important diplomatic task, shouldn’t they have maybe consulted with some people who KNOW about diplomacy and who UNDERSTAND the significance of gifts?

Martha Stewart could REALLY come in handy at times like this.  If the Obamas were feeling cheap and didn’t have anything like a SNUGGIE or a George Forman Grill to regift, Martha could have walked them through the process of making some really cool hand-made gifts that would say, “We care” without actually costing too much.

Martha could have also explained that when giving gifts of significance, a good rule of thumb is “like for like,” meaning that it works best if you give gifts of a similar type and quality to the ones you are being given.  According to this rule of thumb, DVD’s from WalMart could have been replaced with something that had history and significance behind it, like maybe a toothpick holder made from the stock of the flintlock that George Washington used during the Revolutionary War; and Michelle Obama’s models of Marine One would be replaced with something like Navy Seal combat knives.

I am just saying that they have to do SOMETHING because this kind of gift giving can’t go on.  It is going to be EXTREMLY embarrasing if President Mubarak of Egypt comes to Washington bearing a timeless ancient antiquity, only to be greated with a New Hampshire Honey Roasted Ham.

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