Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama to meet Queen Elizabeth; gifts for Obama, Brown kids


WASHINGTON--When President Obama heads to England in a few weeks with First Lady Michelle, he has a visit with Queen Elizabeth planned at Buckingham Palace, according to The Sun.

Other highlights from the article:

*Obama gave British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "25 top US movies as a gift after talks in the US."

"Mr Brown's wife Sarah gave Mr Obama's two daughters Topshop outfits. And the First Lady gave Mr Brown's two boys toy helicopters."


Bravo! And, what will make me most proud of my President is his poise, grace, relaxed air, polish and impeccable manners. President Obama will sweep Europeans off of their feet!

The Obamas are so CLASSY.......

wow,.. 25 DVDs,.. nice low class "gift".

Wow! I can't believe how embarassing the Obamas are. They have no class at all. No flags for our visitors and a 25 dvd gift set. Brown on the other hand showed class even in the face of the insulting Obama's.

A retort to Michelle Obama's remark during the campaign... Thanks, for the first time in MY life - I'm embarrassed for my country.

God, this is so embarrassing and so tacky.

Gordon Brown's gift to Obama was richly symbolic, chosen with great care and sensitivity: a penholder carved from the hull of a 19th century British ship that chased down slavers crossing the Atlantic - and a sister ship of the HMS Resolute - the timbers that made the Oval Office desk. And he gets a set of DVDs he won't even be able to play in the UK (the system is different there) and will be unlikely to use anyway: Gordon Brown is partially blind. I don't imagine he wastes his sight watching "Raging Bull".

I voted for Obama and I am ashamed.

Yes, I want to see my president spend an obnoxious amount of money at this time...


With the stock market in the toilet, perhaps Obama was being thrifty by re-gifting a present he got for Christmas. Maybe he was just trying to show all of us what a good role model he is. Besides, with all of the money he saved by giving a set of DVD movies to the British Prime Minister, he will have more money to fly Air Force One around for photo ops. :)

O's probably going to give Her Heiress a HODDIE.

That gift was too good for a pig like Brown. Obama doesn't trust the British because he's much smarter than Bush was.

"The Obamas, Barack and Michelle both, pretty much diplomatically botched the recent visit of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife. Oddly enough, the U.S. Old Media seems uninterested in the story that is a hot topic in England, a story that's left many Brits a bit miffed.

As the visit of the national leader of our closest ally began, the President informed the Brits that he wouldn't be attending the joint press conference that was planned to be held once PM Brown's plane touched down. This threw the visiting delegation into a tizzy leaving them scrambling to explain the sudden change in plans to the folks back home. Still, meetings were had and things smoothed out. Eventually the visit seemed to right itself... then came the Obama's gift gaffes.

It is well understood that visiting diplomatic delegations come bearing gifts and gift giving is returned in like fashion by the host country. It is an ages old human practice in diplomacy after all. Usually the gifts are valuable, representative of the products of the nations involved, or at least symbolic of the history of those nations.

For his part, PM Brown gave two symbolic gifts and one that expressed national pride. Brown came bearing a pen holder carved from the timbers of the sister ship of that which gave the wood to create the famous "Resolute Desk," the desk that has been in America's charge since 1880. He also gave Obama the framed commission for that famous ship, the HMS Resolute. His third gift was a seven-volume biography of one of England's greatest leaders, Winston Churchill.

So, what did President Obama give the British PM? 25 movies on DVD. Yeah, that's it. Brown gives a symbolic gift like the pen holder fashioned from a famous British warship and Obama responds by sending a staffer to WalMart to pick up a few quick movies.

How thoughtful. Or not.

And I'm not the only one to scoff at this thoughtless gift. The entire British press is up in arms. Many in Britain are seeing this as entirely gauche and indicative of the low esteem in which the Obama's hold England.

Worse, no one is 100% sure that Obama was smart enough to know that DVDs made in America don't play on European DVD players. American DVDs are created in the "Region One" format while those in Europe play in "Region Two" format. A U.S. DVD just won't play on a machine made for the English market.

Not to be out done in tastelessness by her husband, Michelle got into the act, too. Mrs. Brown came bearing two outfits for the Obama girls from Topshop, one of Britain's trendiest and expensive women's wear retail outlets.

In return, Michelle apparently had a staffer run down to the White House gift shop and grab two toy Marine One helicopter models for the Brown's boys.

Class all the way, huh?

All of this is on top of the snub of the Brits that Obama tossed off immediately upon entering office. One of his first official acts was to summarily return to the Brits the generous gift of the most famous bust of Winston Churchill that has sat in the Oval Office since the attacks on 9/11.

This threw British diplomats into a tizzy really blindsiding them. Even when they reiterated that Obama could keep the generous gift to the American people, he rejected it without comment leaving the Brits at a loss for words.

Now, I thought that Obama was going to improve our relations with "the world" once he took office? So far, all he's done is tell our enemies he's their friend and carelessly wave off our actual friends.

And, as I mentioned at the top, the U.S. Old Media has been ignoring this story.

Imagine that?"

I am surprised at the faux pas Obama and Michelle committed. I think they should have had guidance if they did not know how to give gifts to a visiting dignitary and his wife. The set of books on Winston Churchill were also a great gift, and the symbolic gift of the pen desk set was well thought out. Etiquette and politeness is important in the political arena as well in all of our lives. I am a supporter of Obama’s and Michelle. I am embarrassed! I would not of wanted those gift myself.

if obama would have given multiple, extravagant gifts to the brits, everyone would be complaining that the administration was being insensitive to the depression and the americans suffering at this time.

this is just a way for whiners to whine. get over it.

Yes, our so called Commander and Chief is embarrassment. Why hasn't the NY Times, commented on the inappropriate, thoughtless gift that Mr. B.O. gave Prime Minister Brown? It is truly shameful!

his dad (whatever) got his 'a' kicked by the brit's in kenya. but does that mean he'll behave like vito corleone at the palace...should he go there?

Arthur Godfrey used to have this annual Christmas party where he gave out gifts to his staff people.

The white kids got fancy toys. The black kids got a toy table and chairs ~ same kids, same table, year after year after year, except that sometimes Arthur gave them new clothes.

I think the Brown's are onto the new clothes thing.

I cannot believe this story. Our most staunch ally for decades pays a visit bearing thoughtful, historically significant gifts and we give movies. This cannot be anything but a throw away, afterthought gift. This is going to be a long four years.

...the Obamas

This was a centuries old practise and the audacity of this dope, is
Shaming our country. I can't believe he's worse than bush!

The obamas are the begining of a NEW ERROR!

A Lot of folks think the Obama's are so classy, glamorous, fashionable, etc. However, this just shows that without their handlers to show and/or tell them what to do and what is expected, they'll screw up every time.
He can't even speak without a teleprompter.

Brown is also losing his eyesight and is struggling to deal with his loss.
The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that they were told Obama was "too tired" to give the Browns a proper welcome.
So either this administration (and Michelle) are incompetent or callously arrogant; unfortunately, they seem to be both.
My apologies to our British allies. I'd send you a gift myself, however, the Democrats are quickly spending/losing all my money.

people are going to run with every mistake he makes . this one was a very embarrassing one for all americans . up till this point we know very little about obama or his ideas and manners . hopefully he will stop having a good time celebrating and display some style and intelligence in the future with economic decisions and internal and foreign affairs . this is my personal opinion but i hope he starts showing a serious side and considers the average american as he goes forward . i am curious if he really puts any thought into any of this or is he just a pawn in this position with a teleprompter. thats what it seems like because i have yet to see him approach congress or the senate or the american people with any of his own ideas or had any objection to some of this stuff going on in the congress and senate . does he have the backbone to stand against is own or does he not see these mistakes hes making so early in his term ? i hope he can pull it together and actually make some decisions that will inspire us all ! as far as those praising him for how he handle the visit only shows there lack of style . the bottom line is , that was a mistake hopefully , and i hope he learns from this and responds with an apology .

tacky! no thought to the uniqueness of a gift was given, it doesnt have to be expensive but at least make it interesting and dont "re-gift" what someone gave you in the first place. i dont have a personal opinion about mr. brown but he came representing England. i apologize for our clueless president

Ambassador Donald Ensenat
U.S. Chief of Protocol

Donald Ensenat

It is a custom for a visiting leader to give gifts to the President and Mrs. Bush, as well as to the American officials who have assisted in the preparations for their visit. We do the same when the President visits overseas. The Gift Officers in my office propose and purchase gifts for the President to give when he visits overseas, and receives and distributes the gifts that foreign leaders give when they visit. These exchanges are generally done "protocol-to-protocol" meaning the American and foreign gift officers arrange to meet during the visit and exchange the gifts. Occasionally, the President or the visiting leader want to give their gift personally. One of the most memorable is when the President gave then Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan a jukebox with 50's and 60's rock and roll records because the Prime Minister is a huge Elvis Presley and rock and roll fan. The President also took the Prime Minister to Graceland - one of the more unusual visits by a foreign leader.


God gave the world the platypus. America gave Obama.

Classy???? Please google the London media outlets and you will see how offensive and un-appreciative the English view Odrama!

Brown gave him a pen set carved from a recovered, historic English vessel which was the sister ship to the one that the desk in the oval office was made from and a set of books by one of Englands most respected author's. The Brown's gave the Odrama children dresses created by a top of the line London Fashion store which has just opened its first store in the US in NYC. In addition they were given jewelry to go with the dresses. All gifts obviously required thought and preperation.

The Odramas on the other hand sent someone to Wal-Mart to get 25 DVDs with a reported value on the street of $33.80 and an aide to the Whitehouse gift shop to get a couple of Marine One helicopter replicas for the Brown's boys. Hopefully, they got the insider discount.

These are gifts only Jeff Foxworthty could be proud of. What an embaressment to our country. And this is not just my opinion, its the opinion of 83% of the English people.

The "economy" excuse is weak. Obama thinks nothing of using Marine One and Air Force One and a herd of secret service personnel and others to run to Chicago for a weekend or Kankakee to tout some socialist legislation or other. The cost for these trips is horrendous. Where is Congress? They jump all over the auto execs for flying to DC in private planes. What's Obama's excuse for all these appearances at anywhere he can think of.

He can not gift a thoughtful tasteful gift that is reflective of our hertiage or significant to the history of our country... because he does not respect our heritage he is trying to change it. There will be no respect here because there is no respect felt. I am saddened and embarrassed but if others feel it is okay then they too are missing the great story that the history of our country has. I hope and pray this was an uneducated blunder but my gut tells me it is much deeper than that. No one said a tasteful gift has to be expensive but it does need to be tasteful. As far as giving the bust of Winston Churchill back, my only comment is well, UGHHHHH! Really that is pretty revolting! And this is no reflection of who I am or what I would want people thinking the rest of America is. So yes I am embarressed and saddened.
As far as the comment about the jukebox and the trip to Graceland, maybe that is a perfect example of a thoughtful gift. I know the expamle was not given to prove that. I know the poster was trying to point out the "class" in that gift, but honestly it was incredibly thoughtful! They found out what about America meant alot to the Prime Minister and made sure he was able to partake in that. The President even went with him to visit Graceland.... but Obama was too tired to greet the Prime Minister when he came, not too sure what point was trying to be made with this. Really it seems to me that you just showed how thoughtless Obama was in comparision. There is a level of class in knowing what responsiblity you have and respecting those you come into contact with because you understand that responsiblity and the responsiblity of others as well. Why this is such a big deal is because it shows he is not taking that responsiblity to heart, and really we will probably hear it mocked on our evening news. It is beyond disrespectful.
I do not expect everyone to see things in the same light I do. But I do expect that we as American's will not sit by and just accept what our politicans do. We hire them we can certainly fire them as well.

The Obama's have exhibited their true colors. They are not interested in representing all of our U.S. citizens, only in exacting revenge for a wrong suffered by their ancestors. What a slap in the face to our greatest allies. Another CHANGE we need Mr. Obama?

Even Jon Stewart was criticizing Obama about this and Jon's been a staunch supporter.

One of the reasons I voted for Obama was in the hope he would improve our relations with the rest of the world which had suffered during the Bush administration.

Right off the bat, he insults the British the staunchest allies the U.S. has - sorry, I don't give preference to Israel as we have to pay for their friendship.

This is truly a little frightening. How clueless can you be to do something this offensive? Gordon Brown is on the British left (like Obama's on the American left). If he doesn't like the British left, how's he going to deal with more right-wing regimes in other countries?

I was sincerely shocked by this. I thought Obama was very sophisticated and intelligent but this is kind of dumb, the type of thing I'd have thought Bush would do. But then again, it is true Obama's a lawyer and a community organizer basically and doesn't have much knowledge of history or - it would seem - any interest in the subject.

For some reason, Obama is distancing
himself from the UK.....The diplomatic language
is very "in your face." I doubt that he respects
the British Monarchy...

Do we have any allies left?

I won't believe for a minute that President Obama intended to offend. He has shown nothing but concern for fellow Americans and world citizens in his past professions, during the campaign and as President today. He obviously cares deeply about the environment, the economy, health care, education, energy and the human condition in general. To me that's class. Let the Brits form their own opinions but as an American I have nothing but respect and admiration for President Obama. He is facing multiple, daunting challenges and needs support, not criticism, from all of us. Could you do what he's doing? Yes, diplomacy is important, but a part of diplomacy is forgiveness - especially for an unintentional slight during hectic, critical times.

I realize this is 'just a gift' but these sort of gifts have huge significance in our relationship with Britain. They always have... I cannot even believe what a buffoon obama appears because of this. It's embarrassing!!! If I could to apologize to Prime Minister Brown for this I would do it. Not only did we give him a rediculous gift and refuse to honor his country by flying his flag, Obama then gave back Winston Churchill bust given by toby blair after 9/11!? If my grandmother gave some rediculously terrible gift, I would never be rude enough to give it back,let alone a hugely significant symbol of our relationship with England. My gosh... I'm horrified.

Topshop expensive???? Bwahahahaha... listen... topshop is the equivalent of wet seal or forever 21 or I don't know... any one of those trendy middle of the road outlets in American Malls... It's kind of like Banana republic but cheaper. If any of you actually lived in the UK you would know this was very much a non-event.. I don't know why you're all jumping on Obama as if he's desperately unpopular in the UK. He is perhaps the only thing of note about America that actually has been popular over the last 5 years. The only thing of note on tv was that people thought Obama was incredibly tired and looked like he hadn't been sleeping, that led to a week or so worth of "Overworked Obama" stories. Anyway, it's quite smart for Obama to take things slow. Brown is pretty unpopular and it would help to see which direction the political wind blows first. Brits have never forgiven Tony (The Phony) Blair for being so supportive of Clinton then switching sides and forging a close association with GW Bush.

This is exactly what I expected from The Obama's...That's why I DID NOT VOTE FOR HIM!!!!!!
What a shamefull act for a "president."

Wow! Some of the comments on here about how he was trying to be thrifty are just plain stupid. Come on guys are you serious. Are you that delusional to think that Obama couldn't afford a more meaningful gift. No, he was too errogant and thoughtless is more like it. Hope you like the "CHANGE" that is coming, because it is gonna be a disaster.

This is the first time a sitting president will ever meet with "her majesty." Does it bother anyone that the figurehead of our supposed republic is going to grovel before one of the world's last remaining monarchs?
– It was a good sign when Obama sent back the bust of Churchill and treated Brown like the dirtbag he is. But this is quite ominous, unless he's going to tell her to piss up a rope (not bloody likely).
– I believe HRH is going to formally confirm the imperial plans to her new lackey – consolidation of the finance oligarchy, commitment to wars for oil and drugs, nuclear blackmail against Russia and China, and eugenics for the rest of us. "Let them eat carbon credits!"

I am amazed at the lack of understanding displayed by many posting here of the importance of etiquette in diplomacy. What the Obamas brought was deeply symbolic and important. It signals the level of respect that they have for the Prime Minister and how close they want the relationship to be. I voted for Obama and the place where he and Michelle REALLY need to get a grip is on manners, protocol and etiquette. Her outfit for the inauguration and for election night were both shockingly awful and inappropriate. (A "bejeweled" neckline in the MORNING? For the inauguration? I am terrified to see her at a state funeral: red, shiny, glitter?) Her "official portrait" is in a dres that is so badly tailored that if you lookm, there are huge gaps at the top of her arms where it doesn't fit properly -- like something off the rack at Sears (though not unattractive. Her job is to represent the U.S. well and APPROPRIATELY -- she seems to think she's veen voted "America's Top Model." There are plenty of people to advice them on protocol and etiquette -- it looks to me like they refuse to listen. And that is shameful -- and embarrassing.

You thoughtless minded people. All you do is putting our commander in chief down. I think the Obama's are doing an remarkable job. Have you ever put your self's for once into the shoes of our Presidents and what critics and stuff they have to endure every day under pressure? You probably have not. I think it is the highest honor for our President to have an audience with the most historical figure in the United Kingdom ! As such I see your critique as snurdy and absurd! Shame on you people! You have no respect for our commander in chief!

The Obamas are not that stupid - their choice of gifts to the Bush's and other Americans were classy and well thought out. Did you ever think that maybe they are fully aware of what was going on but you all dont see it and that's part of the beauty and clever aspect of it all?

We have had a country bumpkin for a president for the last 8 years, who ruined our country-but it is ok because he is Caucasian. Caucasians can rip this country to shreds and that is fine-because somewhere in your small little minds-you are superior anyway.
Change is what we needed and change is what we got. First, most people are tired of the stuffy arrogance of America anyway. Everyone is tired, who cares what you think-President Obama won by a landslide! He is doing an amazing job and trying to instill a little hope. You are going to dislike anything he does-because in your small little minds-he should not be president anyway. It really is racism at its best-and for the individual who commented about their clothes, she is classy and very well-dressed. She is very a loving, kind, and to be honest, you are just jealous!
Yes, guess what a beautiful African American man and woman are heading our country. They symbolize hope and compassion for others. The so called "HODDY" comment shows ignorance. Learn how to spell it is HOODY!
People like you make me ill-you don't have lives and you are ignorant to the core. Who cares what you deem as inappropriate-going to war over speculation, is inappropriate. The world is tired of stuffy arrogant people who have been handed to them everything in life. The irony is that you think you know everything-the average person is really tired of people like you who don’t have lives and sit back and criticize others. Grow up, get a clue, and try to get out in the community and make a difference-put up or shut up!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 6, 2009 6:16 AM.

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