I know a few other RSers have hit on this, but the Obamas, Barack and Michelle both, pretty much diplomatically botched the recent visit of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife. Oddly enough, the U.S. Old Media seems uninterested in the story that is a hot topic in England, a story that’s left many Brits a bit miffed.
As the visit of the national leader of our closest ally began, the President informed the Brits that he wouldn’t be attending the joint press conference that was planned to be held once PM Brown’s plane touched down. This threw the visiting delegation into a tizzy leaving them scrambling to explain the sudden change in plans to the folks back home. Still, meetings were had and things smoothed out. Eventually the visit seemed to right itself… then came the Obama’s gift gaffes.
It is well understood that visiting diplomatic delegations come bearing gifts and gift giving is returned in like fashion by the host country. It is an ages old human practice in diplomacy after all. Usually the gifts are valuable, representative of the products of the nations involved, or at least symbolic of the history of those nations.
For his part, PM Brown gave two symbolic gifts and one that expressed national pride. Brown came bearing a pen holder carved from the timbers of the sister ship of that which gave the wood to create the famous “Resolute Desk,” the desk that has been in America’s charge since 1880. He also gave Obama the framed commission for that famous ship, the HMS Resolute. His third gift was a seven-volume biography of one of England’s greatest leaders, Winston Churchill.
So, what did President Obama give the British PM? 25 movies on DVD. Yeah, that’s it. Brown gives a symbolic gift like the pen holder fashioned from a famous British warship and Obama responds by sending a staffer to WalMart to pick up a few quick movies.
How thoughtful. Or not.
And I’m not the only one to scoff at this thoughtless gift. The entire British press is up in arms. Many in Britain are seeing this as entirely gauche and indicative of the low esteem in which the Obama’s hold England.
Worse, no one is 100% sure that Obama was smart enough to know that DVDs made in America don’t play on European DVD players. American DVDs are created in the “Region One” format while those in Europe play in “Region Two” format. A U.S. DVD just won’t play on a machine made for the English market.
Not to be out done in tastelessness by her husband, Michelle got into the act, too. Mrs. Brown came bearing two outfits for the Obama girls from Topshop, one of Britain’s trendiest and expensive women’s wear retail outlets.
In return, Michelle apparently had a staffer run down to the White House gift shop and grab two toy Marine One helicopter models for the Brown’s boys.
Class all the way, huh?
All of this is on top of the snub of the Brits that Obama tossed off immediately upon entering office. One of his first official acts was to summarily return to the Brits the generous gift of the most famous bust of Winston Churchill that has sat in the Oval Office since the attacks on 9/11.
This threw British diplomats into a tizzy really blindsiding them. Even when they reiterated that Obama could keep the generous gift to the American people, he rejected it without comment leaving the Brits at a loss for words.
Now, I thought that Obama was going to improve our relations with “the world” once he took office? So far, all he’s done is tell our enemies he’s their friend and carelessly wave off our actual friends.
And, as I mentioned at the top, the U.S. Old Media has been ignoring this story.