Give Obama a break on the gifts

Well, of course Queen Elizabeth II already had an iPod. She’s the queen. Doesn’t she have everything?

The British press, which pilloried President Obama last month for giving Prime Minister Gordon Brown a set of American film DVDs that don’t work on British players, responded somewhat kindlier to the video iPod he gave the queen. Although the Daily Telegraph hastened to point out that she already has a silver iPod mini that her grandson coaxed her into buying four years ago, others noted that this is an upgrade, loaded with 40 Broadway show tunes and footage of the queen’s 2007 trip to Virginia, and accompanied by a rare songbook signed by “The King and I” composer Richard Rodgers. Some U.S. media reported that the queen actually had requested the new iPod. We don’t claim to be experts on royal protocol, but we’re pretty sure the queen is too polite to ask for a gift. This is, after all, a woman who carries a handbag to a meeting in her own home.

We feel for the Obama administration over these early gift issues. Who hasn’t been there, right? Maybe we never gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a red plastic button that said “overcharge” instead of “reset,” but is there anyone who hasn’t given at least one lame present? (Otherwise, who’s buying all those hideous neckties?) We like the iPod, and the queen is known to like show tunes. Anyway, we believe it’s the thought that counts. We believed that when former Prime Minister Tony Blair gave President Bush a sweater in 2006 and Bush said it was “awfully thoughtful.” Obama said he was delighted with the queen’s gift: a picture of herself with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Some American bloggers are embarrassed by the gadgets Obama has dished out as though he were single-handedly trying to revive the market for U.S. consumer goods. Or, in the case of the iPod, the market for U.S. goods assembled in China. Apparently these gifts are not considered presidential or prime-ministerial material, nothing like the pewter tea set from Libya, the porcelain figurine from Germany or the leather bomber jacket from Bush that Brown has received. Turns out, though, that the Scotsman never officially accepted those fancy gifts, or the stone bowl from Afghanistan, for that matter. Undoubtedly he also would have balked at a more valuable American gift, such as, say, Chrysler.

We think the world should cut the Obama administration some slack. It’s not like the president was caught regifting. Nonetheless, we recommend that for his next official present, he consider doing what most of us now do -- buy a gift card.