Former French president plied Obamas with gifts


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 - Page 6

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, were clearly taken with US President Barack Obama and his family back in 2011.

The Sarkozys gave the Obamas more than US$41,000 worth of presents that year, becoming the most prolific foreign gift-givers to the US first family, documents released on Friday show.

The gifts ranged from designer golf and travel bags and fine crystal to soaps and perfumes, according to the US Department of State’s Office of Protocol, which catalogs gifts to US officials from foreign leaders and publishes an annual accounting, often one or two years late due to processing.

Among the goodies presented to the Obamas by the Sarkozys were a large black Hermes golf accessory bag worth US$7,750, two Baccarat crystal table lamps on silver pedestals worth US$5,500, two Baccarat crystal statuettes depicting golfers, a monogrammed black leather Louis Vuitton business bag, his-and-hers Christian Dior bathrobes and a black leather Dior clutch.

Sarkozy also gave Obama a glass sculpture of Alexander the Great’s horse, a Lacoste shirt, a fountain pen and, perhaps in a nod to his tobacco-using days, a Ligne 8 lighter.

However, do not expect the Obamas to furnish a post-White House residence with the items, because under law, most non-perishable gifts to the president and other US officials must be transferred to the National Archives or General Services Administration, unless the recipient reimburses the US Treasury for their estimated value.

The Sarkozys’ largesse may have been a function of France hosting the G8 summit in 2011, at which the world financial crisis was a main topic of conversation, but most other leaders’ gifts to the Obamas were more modest.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example, gave the president an autographed Toronto Raptors basketball, while the Australian prime minister presented him with a green and white iPod shuffle and Australian football jerseys.

One exception was a variety of artwork worth US$13,200 that was given to Obama by the governor of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Although the Sarkozys were the top presidential gift-givers in 2011, the single most valuable package of goodies — US$29,450 in art, watches and electronics — was given to former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen by Kuwait’s emir.

Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell may have received the most unusual gift in 2011, a silver hookah worth US$1,500 from a giver whose identity is classified.