(The Dalai Lama being escorted out the service entrance after visiting President Obama at the White House)
When the Dalai Lama visited the White House last week, President Obama reportedly gave him a pair of White House cufflinks (available at the White House gift shop for $35.00) as a gift.
What exactly is the Dalai Lama supposed to do with these? Perhaps he could pin his robe together with them. Or perhaps he could pin them directly to his skin, punk-style, as a reminder of the suffering of the Tibetan people at the hands of the Chinese.
We've seen evidence of Obama's unique gift-giving style before. When he received Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain at the White House last year, Brown presented him with a pen holder fashioned from the wood of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship HMS Resolute provided the wood for the Oval Office desk). Obama in turn presented Brown with some DVDs of American movies -- which weren't even formatted correctly to play on British television sets.
When Obama met Queen Elizabeth, he presented her with an iPod containing videos of his own speeches.
Obviously, not a lot of thought has gone into these gifts. So, in order to save the White House further effort, I would like to make suggestions for upcoming state visits:
When Prime Minister Angela Merkel of Germany visits, Obama should give her a tie. You know, one of those nice White House-motif ties, perhaps with a USA flag tie pin, of the type which Obama refused to wear during the campaign.
When Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi comes calling, perhaps Obama should present him with the complete DVD set of the Godfather movies -- the director's cut version. (If he waits till they're on sale at Walmart, he can probably pick them up for less than $30.) Oh, and maybe a pair of lifts to put in his shoes.
Perhaps Obama could give Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada a "President Obama magnet," available at the White House gift shop for just $1.50. (No need to spend the big bucks on Canada, and now that Obama is a deficit hawk the twenty or thirty bucks he'll save will help out at the Treasury.)
When Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China comes to see how his investments are doing, perhaps Obama could give him a nice White House cobalt money clip (available at the White House gift shop for just $25) in which he can hold his collection of U.S. bonds.
When President Nicolas Sarkozy of France visits, Obama could present him with an XXXL gray "Air Force One" t-shirt, along with a matching one in navy (available at the gift shop for just $16 apiece). Sarkozy might not exactly be an XXXL, but better too large than too small: at least he'll be able to fit into it
And when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin comes to Washington, perhaps Obama could give him "The White House Cookbook, Secrets from the White House Kitchen" (available for $19.95). This would save the KGB the trouble of having to spy on us in order to obtain those secrets. Then perhaps Obama could throw in "The Barack Obama Presidential Coloring Book" ($5.99) as well.
I hope that helps. Sometimes it's just hard to spend a lot of time thinking of appropriate gifts when you're busy trying to stuff a health care bill down the throats of an unwilling public.