Bush Administration Got Some Sweet Foreign Swag
What's a traditional brown farwa or a bottle of 1977 Chardonnay amongst friends?
President Bush and other administration officials received those and several other gifts during their final year in office, according to a new State Department accounting of official diplomatic gifts.
By law, government officials must surrender gifts received to Foggy Bottom, which keeps a full list of the items, date received and estimated value. The department then sends the prized possessions off to the National Archives or the General Services Administration for display in government buildings. If the gift is edible, it's usually "Handled pursuant to Secret Service policy," meaning they likely destroy it for security purposes. (Who knows what's in that Chardonnay after all!)
Recipients eager to keep their overpriced artwork or Swiss watches can buy the gift from the government at the estimated value. So if President Bush really wanted to keep that brown farwa (gifted to him by Saudi Arabia's secretary general for tourism) then he'd have to fork over $4,589.
All of this reminds The Eye of one of his favorite "West Wing" episode: "The Stackhouse Filibuster." It's the 17th episode of Season Two, during which C.J. and Charlie try to "locate a missing ceramic cat statue given to the President by a Mideastern potentate who expects to see it displayed during his upcoming visit." Failing to display the gift would "cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government," which is the official justification given for acceptance for every single item listed on the State Department list.
Last year's top gift recipients were of course President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but all sorts of government officials got something for their troubles. Review the full list here and peruse a sampling of interesting gifts below:
|Gift Recipient||Gift, Date of Acceptance, Value, Current Location||Identity of Foreign Donor and Government||Justification|
|President Bush||Traditional brown farwa (overcoat), a silver and gold dagger with belt and case, a silver and gold sabre with diamonds and rubies on the hand guard (includes belt and case), and an inscribed book titled "Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia," by William Facey. Received: 1/15/2008. Estimated Value: $4,589.00. Location: Archives Foreign||His Royal Highness Sultan Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Secretary General, Supreme Commission for Tourism, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Bush||A pair of leather boots with hand stitched leather appliqués, a burlap and multicolored denim saddle pad, a painted leather and fabric saddle with copper stirrups, personalized "George W. Bush," "USA," and "Mali" with brass tacks, and a leather halter with brass embellishments and multicolored lead rope, all in traditional Malinese style. Received: 2/12/08. Estimated value: $918. Location: Archives Foreign.||His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic of Mali||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Bush||Bottle of 1977 Chardonnay. Received 4/22/08. Estimated Value: $49. Location: Handled pursuant to Secret Service policy.||His Excellency Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, Prime Minister of Romania||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|The First Family||Artwork: 6 ½” x 9 signed photo of President and Mrs. Bush praying with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in the Oval Office; held in 11 ½” x 15 sterling silver frame with gold Vatican coat of arms and a hardcover book titled "The Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican." Received: 6/13/08. Estimated value: $1,210. Location: Archives Foreign||His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice||Lalique crystal perfume bottle. Received: 6/12/08. Estimated Value: $878. Location: Pending transfer to the General Services Administration.||His Excellency Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the French Republic||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice||18k yellow gold neckace, bracelet, and earrings with Andrinka symbols of Ghana. Received: 2/20/08. Estimated Value: $2,250. Location: Pending transfer to the General Services Administration.||His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice||1.) Diamond ring in wood box. 2.) DVD with musical instrument. 3.) Locket with Qadhafi's photo. Received 9/5/08. Estimated value: $212,225. Location: Pending transfer to the General Services Administration||Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice||Watercolor of Secretary Rice. Received: 6/29/08. Estimated value: $1,200. Location: Pending transfer to the General Services Administration.||His Excellency Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, People's Republic of China||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Admiral Michael G. Mullen||Red Tai-Hwa Potter Luster Color Ceramic Series vase approximately 10' tall with gold leaf neck and painted gold butterflies on body. Presented in box with wood stand. Received: 9/19/07. Estimated Value: $335. Location: Pending transfer to General Services Administration||Admiral Wang Li-Seng, Commander in Chief of the Chinese Navy||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
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