The Corner

He’s Just Not That Into the Special Relationship

It’s the top story in our web-briefing but, if you haven’t heard, the President gave U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown a gift of 25 DVDs of classic American films. Given enough exposure, no doubt Brown will soon develop a taste for the strange and provincial American cultural expression known as “cinema.” I hear it’s finally starting to catch on abroad. Now here are the gifts Brown gave Obama:

Mr Brown’s gifts included an ornamental desk pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, once named HMS President.

Mr Obama was so delighted he has already put it in pride of place in the Oval Office on the Resolute desk which was carved from timbers of Gannet’s sister ship, HMS Resolute.

Another treasure given to the U.S. President was the framed commission for HMS Resolute, a vessel that came to symbolise Anglo-US peace when it was saved from ice packs by Americans and given to Queen Victoria.

Finally, Mr Brown gave a first edition set of the seven-volume classic biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.

These gifts are even more impressive and thoughtful than these few paragraphs suggest, given the amazing story behind the Resolute and how it is a potent symbol of U.S.-U.K. goodwill. So Brown clearly outclassed Obama in that regard.

But I also love the symbolism of that final gift — Martin Gilbert’s classic Churchill biography. If it seemed a bit tone deaf when Obama returned the Churchill bust that had been in the White House, well it now appears that no less a figure than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is subtly sending a message that Obama should better understand the historical importance of one of his country’s greatest leaders. Well played.

UPDATE — a reader writes:

It would be funny if the DVDs Mr Obama gave Mr Brown were Region 1 NTSC and therefore not compatible with the UK where DVDs are region 2 and video format is PAL.

I would love to see someone on Fleet Street ask Brown whether the President gave Gordon Brown DVDs that are not playable in England. That could prove amusing.


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