Smart power: Obama's staff didn't know that State Dept has protocol office

Only a few weeks on the job, Obama created a minor diplo-mess when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to the U.S. for a visit. Obama’s historic Oval Office desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford Hayes, is made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute. Brown proudly presented Obama with a pencil holder carved from its antislavery sister ship, the HMS Gannet. Classy! Obama lamely reciprocated with a DVD set of Hollywood movies, including “Psycho.” When Brown got back home, he discovered they didn’t work in his European player. “At a minimum you don’t want to give offense,” says a former White House official who helped orchestrate foreign visits for a previous president. “That was really phoning it in.” (The official, like others quoted here, asked not to be named disparaging a sitting president.) Apparently it was a rookie mistake. According to a person close to the situation, Obama hasn’t yet appointed a chief of protocol and his staffers, still unpacking, didn’t realize that the State Department has an entire office dedicated to foreign visits.