The Washington Post

Of presidential gifts and other world affairs


Seems President Obama’s gift-giving skills have vastly improved since he famously offered up duds such as an iPod for Queen Elizabeth and a slew of DVDs for Gordon Brown, then prime minister of Britain.

We hear that a White House staffer was making inquiries on the president’s behalf, trying to track down an artifact — perhaps a pen or other classy objet — once owned by Thomas Jefferson, which Obama planned to present to Hillary Clinton as a thank-you gift for her service as secretary of state.

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

According to one antiquities dealer who was enlisted in the hunt, the president thought Clinton would find particular meaning in something from Jefferson, who was not only the third president but also the country’s first secretary of state.

No word on what gift Obama finally settled on. Perhaps he did come up with the right Jeffersonian relic — though the White House flack we asked professed not to know.

No matter the gift, it’s the thought that counts, right? And the president’s clearly on the right track there — he might be taking a page from Brown’s gift-giving handbook, in which history and symbolism make for thoughtful gestures.

While Obama gave the prime minister copies of movies such as “The Wizard of Oz,” the prime minister offered Obama the framed commissioning papers for the HMS Resolute, the source of the oak used for the Oval Office’s desk, as well as a pen holder carved from the timber of the anti-slavery British warship the HMS Gannet.

Ambassador Kennedy?

Camelot appears to be coming to Obamaland. Those reports that Caroline Kennedy might be named envoy to Japan mean the political scion could soon be packing her bags.

Hillary Clinton’s departure helped pave the way for Kennedy’s possible new job, we hear: As an ambassador, Kennedy would report to the secretary of state. And though talks about Kennedy potentially taking an ambassadorship predated John Kerry’s arrival at Foggy Bottom, her relationship with Clinton is just a touch strained — recall Kennedy’s blockbuster endorsement of then-Sen. Obama over Clinton, the party favorite.

Kennedy’s rapport with the new secretary of state is much stronger. Kerry was the junior partner in the Senate to Kennedy’s uncle Teddy for decades.

As for where she’ll be dispatched, that’s apparently not final. Fox News reported this month that she was in line for a posting in Canada, but she apparently wasn’t overly keen on that. (Unclear how the Canadians felt.) There was also talk of her going to a job at State, in the area of diplomacy.

The Bloomberg News report that she’s heading for Japan may be closer to the mark. We understand that someone who had been penciled in for that job backed out.

It seems the White House and State are still working on this, but the feeling is that Kennedy’s looking at the idea favorably and that the Japanese — enamored of the “big-name” ambassador, like former vice president Walter Mondale and Capitol Hill titans Mike Mansfield, Tom Foley and Howard Baker — are delighted at the possibility.

ER for FTC

Team Obama makes a stride in diversity with the president’s pick, as reported by our colleague Hayley Tsukayama, of Edith Ramirez to head the Federal Trade Commission.

Tapping Ramirez, currently an FTC commissioner, is likely to assuage some criticism that the White House has sacrificed diversity in recent appointments. But while FTC chief is a plum job, it’s not Cabinet-level, and the second-term Cabinet still remains devoid of Hispanics.

If confirmed, Ramirez will replace Jon Leibowitz, who announced his resignation in January.

More change at State

The exodus at the State Department continues, as lawyer and human rights advocate Mike Posner heads for the hills. Actually, his destination is a little more civil than that: He’s joining the faculty of New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Posner, who has served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor since early on in the Obama administration, will begin teaching in the fall semester and will help establish a center for business and human rights at NYU Stern, the school announced.

Posner’s principal deputy, Uzra Zeya, will fill in until a successor is named, a State Department spokesman said.

Other recent high-profile departures from State have included Deputy Secretary Tom Nides  and Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan .

With Emily Heil

The blog:
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate on Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa say...
For Trump, the victory here was sweet vindication, showing that his atypical campaign could prevail largely on the power of celebrity and saturation media coverage. But there was also potential for concern in Tuesday's outcome. Trump faces doubts about his discipline as a candidate and whether he can build his support beyond the levels he has shown in the polls.
The Post's John Wagner and Anne Gearan say...
Hillary Clinton, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams to his supporters.
People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry for solutions.
Hillary Clinton, in her New Hampshire primary night speech
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
Donald Trump, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See results from N.H.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.