By Al Kamen
Monday, June 29, 2009
A stunningly ungrateful media continued pounding on ruined South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) over the weekend, displaying not a whit of appreciation for his giving them a great story of self-delusion and political collapse. The churlish press went into overdrive Friday in mocking Sanford when he continued apologizing, this time to his Cabinet, and he then compared his adultery and lying to King David's waywardness in the Bible.
"I've been doing a lot of soul-searching on that front," he said as he tried to reflect on his situation -- seemingly oblivious that his career path was likely to make him at best a cable-TV talk show host.
"And what I find interesting is the story of David and the way in which he fell mightily, he fell in very, very significant ways but then picked up the pieces and then built from there."
Well, maybe Sanford saw some comparisons in their early careers?
Although Sanford never slew a giant in battle, he did beat an incumbent Democrat to take the governorship. And that King David analogy surely is understandable for Sanford, since it makes the governor's errant ways seem exceptionally minor. After all, David got in big trouble by getting Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, pregnant. Then David arranged to send her husband into battle like cannon -- or arrow -- fodder, specifically so that Uriah would be killed.
So maybe Sanford's hoping is not lost. David eventually received a modicum of forgiveness from on high and even kept his job. (Most unlikely the voters will be so charitable.) On the other hand, if that is how Sanford's looking at things, maybe mistress Maria's husband might want to watch his back.
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi, a somewhat eccentric fellow, was clearly bewitched by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whom he had taken to calling "Leeza."
So when Rice visited him in Tripoli in September, the two had a private dinner in a small kitchen in his personal quarters, in an area where only women are allowed (except, of course, the leader himself).
Gaddafi gave her several gifts, our colleague Glenn Kessler reported at the time, including a diamond ring in a wooden box, a lute, and a locket with a photo of the leader himself inside. He also gave her a signed copy of his manifesto, "The Green Book," signed "with respect and admiration." There was also a DVD -- probably starring him.
Last week, in the State Department's annual compilation of gifts from foreign officials, we find out that the value of what Rice got from the lovestruck Gaddafi -- as appraised by State Department officials -- was $212,225. Must have been one huge rock.
Rice was obliged to accept the gift; this must be done, according to protocol rules, when "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to the donor and U.S. government." Alas, she was also obliged to turn it in to the appraisers. If it is determined a gift is worth a minimal amount -- around $200 -- the government recipient may keep it.
If it's worth more, the official may buy it for the appraised value or it is handed over to the General Services Administration. The annual report says that the diamond and, sadly, the locket with his picture, are headed to the GSA.
And what did Rice give Gaddafi in return? A plate adorned with the Great Seal of the United States and her robo-pen signature. Gaddafi told her he thought it was lovely. A plate? What? If he's good and she returns seven more times, he has a full service? This from the world's only remaining superpower to our best buddy in North Africa?
Times surely are tough. A small plate with a seal, though unsigned, goes for $39.95 at the State Department gift shop.
Gaddafi's largess was, as would be expected, outdone by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who showered close to $1 million on U.S. officials in 2008. His Highness gave Rice a "gold, diamond and sapphire set with necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings" as well as a "ceremonial robe." Value: $230,145.
But not all gifts are lavish.
Some can be a bit quirky, like a Singapore official's gift to President George W. Bush of a "Creative Zen MP3 Player and an OSIM uSqueez Calf and Foot Massager."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko gave Vice President Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, "Two bottles of 1940 Massandra Golden Collection Wine" the gift list says, noting these, like any perishable gifts, are "handled pursuant to U.S. Service policy." (Bet the wine tasted really good.)
Yushchenko also gave Lynne Cheney "Three Ukrainian cookbooks," valued at $90, which she kept. And he gave the Cheney daughters and grandkids seven Ukrainian children's books, six plush stuffed animals, three girls' blouses, three boys' shirts, and a "wooden toy cart with horses," which they kept.
Even King Abdullah can get practical. He gave Lynne Cheney "two pairs of Dr. Scholl's high-heeled clogs," valued at $450. She declined. He gave daughter Liz Cheney (who was doubling as a deputy assistant secretary of state at the time) three pairs of those high-heeled clogs.
The report doesn't say who gave then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden that "sword with a copper and brass hilt" worth $400, because his travel is secret. And it's unclear who gave some rugs to an "agency employee."
Many gifts go on display or are used in government buildings. Maybe we can auction them off to help pay for Obama's health-care plan?