The British have begun to worry about the “special relationship” in the Anglosphere since the election of Barack Obama. First, the visit from Gordon Brown failed to get the usual Rose Garden joint-presser treatment from the White House this week. Now the Daily Mail reports that Obama cheaped out on the traditional gift exchange, rustling up some DVDs in exchange for a thoughtful gift from Brown:
Gordon Brown has been given a collection of 25 classic American films on DVD as his official gift from Barack Obama.
The Prime Minister flew home from his successful trip to Washington this morning with the ‘special collector’s box’ of films hidden in his luggage.
No 10 had tried to keep the present a secret, refusing to answer reporters who asked what President Obama had given to mark the reaffirmation of the special relationship.
Wow. You know, Amazon often sells collections like that at steep discounts, even in Blu-Ray. Thankfully, Obama saved the US taxpayers a few bucks. I’m sure that Brown put a similarly negligent amount of thought into his gift, right? Right?
Mr Brown’s gifts included an ornamental desk pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, once named HMS President.
Mr Obama was so delighted he has already put it in pride of place in the Oval Office on the Resolute desk which was carved from timbers of Gannet’s sister ship, HMS Resolute.
Another treasure given to the U.S. President was the framed commission for HMS Resolute, a vessel that came to symbolise Anglo-US peace when it was saved from ice packs by Americans and given to Queen Victoria.
Finally, Mr Brown gave a first edition set of the seven-volume classic biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.
Brown also brought gifts for Obama’s daughters, a rather gracious act, especially considering the reciprocity. The Daily Mail also notes that Brown isn’t a film buff anyway, which makes the DVD set rather pointless.
People objected when Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill to the British Embassy, which had loaned it to George Bush eight years ago. I didn’t find that surprising, especially given the history of Obama’s grandfather, or at least how Obama understands it. I’d not likely keep a bust of Oliver Cromwell in the West Wing if I were President, gift or not, for similar reasons. (I’m an admirer of Churchill, though.)
However, this seems like a rather deliberate insult, or at best diplomatic incompetence. It’s one thing to cheap out on a gift for a friend or relative at Christmas, but the British have stood by the US for many long decades, through some very dark times. Despite unpopularity at home, they remained at our side in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve a little more effort from this administration, and a hell of a lot more appreciation.
Update: Ace and Moe Lane have more thoughts about the thoughtlessness, which extends to the First Lady as well. Two plastic replicas of Marine One from the White House gift store for Brown’s sons? Wow. Don’t strain a biceps with that effort, Mrs. Obama.
Update II: People wonder why I took a shot at Oliver Cromwell. All one has to do is read about his campaigns in Ireland, which amounted to a brutal ethnic cleansing, to understand, but even apart from that, Cromwell was a rather despicable figure. Ironically, I can quote Winston Churchill from his History of the English-Speaking Peoples as an authority:
If in a tremendous crisis Cromwell’s sword had saved the cause of Parliament, he must stand before history as a representative of dictatorship and military rule who, with all his qualities as a soldier and a statesman, is in lasting discord with the genius of the English race.
Churchill blasts Cromwell for his actions in Ireland, too, describing them as “merciless wickedness [which] debased the standards of human conduct and sensibly darkened the journey of mankind.”