The Washington Post

In the Loop: Gifts and more gifts . . .


Sometimes, it seems being president is a pretty thankless job — there’s the constant scrutiny, the stress that turns everyone’s hair gray, and the pay? Well, it’s a fraction of what top private-sector jobs offer.

But then there are the perks, like the gifts President Obama has received from world leaders. According to a list of such goods given to Obama and others in 2010, published Friday in the Federal Register, Obama has racked up an impressive list of tasteful presents from fellow world leaders.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Art and other decorative objects are popular — Obama has gotten enough silver plates, crystal vases and the like to fill a china shop. Lots of fine books, too, such as a pair of first-edition “Yates” (sic) volumes from Ireland. And there are some electronics, such as a pocket video camera and some noise-canceling earbud headphones from Singapore.

A few oddities, of course. A “plush stuffed animal” from Brunei. A “plastic watch” from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (what, no leather?), and a three-piece suit from Croatia.

The Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia, did well, too. They got CDs of European music from France’s Nicolas and Carla Sarkozy, batik-printed Nikes from Indonesia, and inscribed Swiss army knives from (you guessed it) a Swiss official.

When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton scored some killer jewels — an emerald and diamond bracelet, necklace, earrings and ring with a combined estimated value of $400,000 — from the Saudis.

Of course, the Obamas and other U.S. officials aren’t allowed to just pocket it all. Still, it’s protocol to accept them if failing to do so would appear as a snub to a foreign dignitary.

Much of it gets archived. Perishable items, such as top-shelf tequila from Mexico, wine (three bottles of 1961 Chateau Bages) from the Sarkozys, and the like are all “handled pursuant to U.S. Secret Service policy.” Can we volunteer to assist with that?

Ballpark bipartisanship

Ask old-timers why Congress is so divisive these days, and many will say it’s because lawmakers of opposing parties rarely hang out and socialize like they did in days of yore.

Harkening to an earlier era, members of Congress are planning a bipartisan evening at Nationals Park, where next Wednesday they’ll leave politics aside and take in a game between the New York Mets and the Nats.

While we can’t guarantee that there won’t be some friction between, say, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and such fanatic Mets boosters as Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the event’s fare is more likely to include hot dogs and beer than political bickering.

Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) are organizing the event, which will include a reception before the game (at which the only rule is “no talking about work”), the Capitol Police Honor Guard presenting the flag and a performance of the national anthem by the Congressional Chorus.

McKinley had initially hoped to throw a bipartisan holiday party, but the “fiscal cliff” negotiations at the end of last year ensured that no one had time for such a fete — not to mention that few were in a festive mood.

It appears their colleagues are now game: McKinley and DeGette initially hoped to get 50 members to sign up for the outing, but they’re at nearly 100, and the new goal is to get 150 participants.

The event benefits the Wounded Warrior project, which helps injured veterans transition to civilian life.

And as if you needed more evidence that it won’t be business as usual, the lawmakers are paying for the $34 tickets (or $36 for seats in the right-field corner) out of their own pockets.

Mulhauser to Ex-Im Bank

Scott Mulhauser, a veteran Senate staffer and former aide to Vice President Biden, is the new chief of staff at the Export-Import Bank.

Mulhauser was a senior adviser to the Presidential Inaugural Committee and worked for the presidential reelection campaign as Biden’s deputy chief of staff. Before that, he spent more than a decade on Capitol Hill, including a stint at the Senate Finance Committee.

“Scott has delivered results in senior roles across Washington,” bank President Fred Hochberg said in a statement. “I am thrilled he is joining us to help the Bank with its mission to create U.S. jobs through exports.”

With Emily Heil

The blog:
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.


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