No more ‘cowboy’ gifts for Bush

Since his inauguration in 2001, US President George W. Bush has received a plethora of gifts from foreign leaders. But the gifts he is receiving these days are considerably different.

Bush loves to invite guests down to his Texas ranch

During his current term in office, many of the US President’s initial gifts reflected the somewhat ‘cowboy’ attitude he portrayed.

But in a document released by the State department last week, this past years gifts avoided the martial-theme, as it may have contributed to the US leader’s militaristic attitude.

Instead of the multitude of swords, saddles, cowboy hats and boots given to Bush in 2001, artwork, books, jewellery, photographs and rugs were the world’s gifts of choice to the president in 2002, the State Department said.

Every year it compiles a list of gifts presented to senior officials by their foreign counterparts.

Bush received a lone sword, a single saddle, one set of stirrups, a solitary cowboy hat and boots at all in 2002, compared with three swords, six pairs of boots, five saddles and four hats  bestowed upon him a year earlier.

The president did receive an elaborate, gem-encrusted ceremonial dagger – worth an estimated $20,000 from King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

He also received another knife, albeit, less decorative from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah valued at a mere $3,500. But such presents represent the minority.
Rare art gift

One notable exception, if not a piece that may question the perils of taste, came from Romanian President Ion Iliescu, who gave Bush a piece of artwork described by the document as follows: “caricature rendered in pastels of President Bush with a hunting rifle, holding a rabbit with the face of Saddam Hussein.”

Although not a weapon itself, the drawing, valued at $500, is the sole item on the list with a clear link to the conflict in Iraq, the build-up to which was progressing steadily when the gift was presented in November.

Significantly more popular, however, were tokens with religious significance including specially bound copies of the Bible and the Koran, Russian icons and books celebrating the artwork of various faiths, according to the document which was published Monday in the Federal Register.

Enamelled boxes, crystal bowls, ceramic vases and watches were other clear favourites as presidential gifts in 2002, according to the document which describes about two dozen of such gifts worth varying amounts of money.

Another change in this year’s list is the lack of wine and other alcoholic beverages given to Bush by foreign leaders. The 2001 version showed that Bush had been presented with at least 70 bottles of alcohol.

But that number took a nose-dive in 2002  to only nine bottles of wine, with only Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who gave three bottles, and French President Jacques Chirac, who gave six.

Both men forgot the fact that Bush does not drink alcohol anymore.

Under US law, gifts to the president and his top aides, humble or exquisite – must be reported and either turned over to the National Archives or other institutions for display.

First Lady Laura Bush also received a share of valuable gifts from foreign leaders.

Mrs Bush received a $10,000 purse from Queen Sirikit of Thailand. It was woven of grass but carried by a gold handle and diamond-studded clasp.

The recipient of the most expensive present in 2002, however, was Lynn Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, who was given a necklace, bracelet, earring and ring set worth $40,000 by the wife of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in March of 2002.

Other notable gifts listed in the document include a $16,000 Piaget watch presented to Secretary of State Colin Powell by the Sultan of Brunei and a bottle of vodka shaped like an
AK-47 assault rifle worth $450 given to Powell by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

US national security advisor Condoleezza Rice also appears to have sparked the imagination of her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Rushaylo, who presented the unmarried top Bush aide with numerous books and compact discs in 2002.

According to the document, Rushaylo gave Rice a variety of musical selections. Several romantic titles included the “Best of Henry Mancini,” “The Carnival of Love,” “Tango,” and the “Promise of Love”.