Skip to comments.For George from Tony; not a million dollar oil painting, just a toilet bag
Posted on 07/15/2003 11:31:33 AM PDT by bedolido
The Saudis presented President George Bush with a million-dollar oil painting. From the Italians he got an exquisite alabaster sculpture depicting the Allegory of the Triumph. Tony Blair gave him a toilet bag. For someone who has spent most of his presidency being reviled or ridiculed around the world, Mr Bush certainly gets a lot of presents from foreigners. The unease stirred by the Bush doctrine of military pre-emption has not stemmed the flow of official homage to the leader of the world's sole superpower.
The list kept by the state department reflects the shifting fashions in official gifts which often seek to echo the president's interests.
"We happen to have had a lot of presidents who have ranches: Johnson, Carter, Reagan and Bush, and they get gifts related to that, like saddles," said Sharon Fawcett at the National Archives department dealing with presidential libraries. "Presidents who like golf, like Clinton, get a lot of golfing gifts."
George Bush received several pairs of ornate cowboy boots before September 11. Afterwards, presidential gifts have tended to echo America's embattled circumstances, including a Japanese ceremonial arrow "to defeat evil and bring peace on earth" and several portrayals of St George slaying a dragon.
It's not entirely clear what the bag of toiletries from Mr Blair represented - possibly a witty echo of Mr Bush's remark at their first meeting that the two men used the same toothpaste. It was clearly no ordinary bag as it was embossed with a gold monogram and officially valued at $351 (£216), probably much more if it ever found its way onto eBay.
It was certainly not the cheapest gift Mr Bush has been given since coming to office. He got a $3 jar of fish bait from Morocco, and a paperback book on fighting terrorism from the Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski. The Canadian prime minister, Jean Chretien, gave him a marble and wood pen holder which must have been particularly naff, as it is officially registered at a value of only $20.
The toilet bag might have been the smartest gift of the lot. It was useful, personalised and cheap enough for the president to keep. He is legally obliged to declare any foreign gift he decides to hold on to. Otherwise the presents are handed straight over to the national archives, and may eventually end up in the vaults of presidential libraries, never to be seen again.
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