State officials give each other gifts when they visit. Nothing strange there. But one gift deserved special mention. CNN reported an “odd” present that was given to US President George W Bush. It came from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. You’ve got to ask: Just what was he thinking?
Gifts to U.S. officials include jewels, pillows, Abs Exerciser
Anti-American sentiment in Arab nations may be at a historic high, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was adorned with more than a quarter of a million dollars in jewelry from Arab leaders over the past year.
Saudi Arabia topped the State Department’s annual inventory of gifts to top administration officials. In July, King Abdullah presented Rice with a ruby and diamond necklace with matching earrings, bracelet and ring worth $165,000.Jordan’s King Abdullah II came in a close second with a $147,000 emerald and diamond necklace, bracelet and earrings set. The king and his wife, Queen Rania, also gave Rice a more modest necklace and earrings on a separate occasion.
The list, prepared by the State Department’s Office of Protocol, itemizes all presents to top administration officials. The recipients do not keep them, as they are turned over to government archives in accordance with federal law, which prohibits officials from accepting personal gifts.
President George W Bush and first lady Laura Bush also were remembered by their Arab friends. The Saudi king gave the first lady an $85,000 sapphire and diamond jewelry set and a $10,000 piece of artwork made of gold, depicting a desert scene of Bedouins, camels and a tent.
The first couple also received embroidered pillows with the names and pictures of the first dogs, Barney and Ms Beazley. The pillows were given to Laura Bush by the wife of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The gifts range from the extravagant — like the jewelry — to the modest — a $6 assortment of nuts and dried fruit given by the Dalai Lama to Laura Bush. Some gifts were downright odd, like the Abs Exerciser given to President Bush by the prime minister of Singapore.
Many of the gifts are related to the recipient’s post. Defense Secretary Robert Gates received an Arab knife valued at $3,200 from the Bahraini government and a steel dagger from Jordanian King Abdullah.
Despite Russia’s tensions with the United States over Georgia, U.S. Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received a machine gun from his Russian counterpart.
The source of gifts to U.S. intelligence officials is classified, but CIA chief Michael Hayden raked in $8,000 in gifts, including a gold cow plaque, a silk rug and a strand of pearls.