Monday, June 29, 2009

Muammar G likes "Leeza" R, all foreign dictators love the Cheneys, and Chimpy got hisself a calf-and-foot massager!


What do you give the crackpot despot who has everything? Certainly not diamonds. How 'bout a lovely DOS dinner plate?

Our pal Al Kamen has been rummaging around the State Dept's latest annual foreign-gifts list for today's Washington Post "In the Loop" column, and among other things has discovered that Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi apparently has a thing for a certain former U.S. secretary of state. No word from "Leeza" as to whether wedding bells might be in the offing.--Ken
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.

Nothing that many of the GSA-bound gifts "go on display or are used in government buildings," Al suggests, "Maybe we can auction them off to help pay for Obama's health-care plan?" (There's no indication whether the uSqueez foot-and-calf massager found its way to the GSA. Our research indicates that the list price on this baby -- not to be confused with the $100-cheaper iSqueez model -- is $499, but surely that would have been a small price for Chimpy the then-Prez to pay to tickle those delicate tootsies.)

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At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Bil said...

I could see why people OUTSIDE the US would shower Condi the Incompetent with gifts, but WE let her keep them?

At 10:54 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Bil, I'm sure our Condi like all our other government servants is subject to the rule of being able to keep only stuff under the specified limit and having to buy anything more expensive. (I'm just surprised to learn that the amount is "around $200." What do you suppose that means? I suppose they have to allow for currency exchange rates, but don't we know what the amount is in OUR currency?

Of course when it comes the the gift of love from a bloodthirsty dictator, can you put a price on that?


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