Apparently the answer to both questions is: yes.
It's impressive that not even two months into his term as Messiah-in-Chief, Obama is already in over his head--impressive not so much for the speed at which he revealed his ineptitude, but more because his ocean-lowering "This Is Our Time" speech from the campaign ought to have prevented anything from rising too high for Obama's liking (and if you believe that sort of thing, it appears the oceans might be on the fritz as well).
There have been so many episodes piling up over the last two months of the administrations incompetence that it's going to take several posts to document them. And, in honor of our new President, I will do my best to post them without any semblance of order, prudence, or rationality.
Chapter 1: Receiving Foreign Dignitaries
I know it can be difficult, especially for us men, to pick out good gifts for the people we care about. I'll also admit that I've given DVDs as gifts to said loved ones, though I always chose ones with significant meaning to me and the recipient (and whenever I could afford something better, DVDs usually fell off the gift idea list).
But if I was President of the United States, I can't imagine a situation where an appropriate gift is "a set of 25 classic American movies," much less when they're destined for the non-movie buff, vision-impaired Prime Minister of America's most important ally.
Really, when do you give somebody 25 DVDs, Prime Minister or not? Even if it's just a friend, it tells them you cared enough to remember them as you passed the dollar bin on the way to the checkout at Wal-Mart. One movie says, "This is significant to us and our relationship in someway." For example: "Here honey, I bought you The Fifth Element because it was the first Bruce Willis movie we saw together."
25 movies is both overkill and cheap--though what really underlines the parsimony is when you and your family get these gifts in return:
--"a pen holder fashioned from the oak timber of HMS Gannet, a Navy vessel that served on anti-slavery missions off Africa"
--"a framed commissioning paper for the HMS Resolute, a Royal Navy ship that came to symbolize British-American goodwill when it was rescued by the U.S. from icebergs and given to Queen Victoria. It is the sister ship of the HMS Gannet"...and is also the desk in the Oval Office
--"a first edition of Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill, whose World War II partnership with President Franklin Roosevelt symbolized the U.S.-Anglo alliance"...you know, Winston Churchill. The guy who shared a name and torso with that bronze bust Obama returned to the Brits when he took office.
And we can even include the children's gifts as well:
"For Sasha and Malia, Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, gave each an outfit from Topshop, a British chain of clothing stores, and selected six children's books by British authors which have yet to be published in the U.S.But let's not forget what First Lady Michelle gave to the Brown boys...Marine One model helicopters. Probably not too dissimilar from the $30 kind you can get on Amazon (only four left in stock as of this writing--order soon!).
Surely we can chalk this up to stress and sleep deprivation, right?
I've suffered the effects of being stressed and sleep-deprived on numerous occasions, but I can't say I've been tired to the point that I'm compelled to give gifts so crappy they chilled international relations. Although if I had, I would like to think that would somehow temporarily disqualify me from running the most powerful nation in the world. At least until I could catch a nap or something.
For the true cherry on top, the Obama administration also canceled the customary full press conference and formal dinner. But lest there be any confusion as to whether or not the Obama administration seeks to continue America's "special relationship" with Britain:
Yeah Britain! You think you're better than Nauru, and Liechtenstein, and Iran? Well, you're not.
The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."
Compounding this whole mess with Britain was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton giving her own gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. But what would be suitable to give to a Russian? A "Hillary 2008" ushanka? A sherpa-lined pantsuit? Maybe they could just take shots together?
But no, Madame Secretary went the more obvious route: give the Russians a big red button to push. And make sure the Russian word that you inscribe on it is not "Reset" like you meant, but "Overcharge."
Lavrov apparently is more perceptive than the entire state department:
A few minutes later, he referred to the gift again, noting that he and Clinton had pressed the button together—a move that summoned up thoughts not of easing tension but of launching a nuclear strike.
“It is a very, very large red button,” he said. “I do hope that Russia and the United States and other countries would never ever push any other buttons associated with initiation of destructive hostilities.”
He told Clinton he would put the button on his desk in Moscow.
And then, only a week later, this happened:
White House Misspells Brazilian Leader’s Name, Bumps Visit With Obama to SaturdayWow. Three major meetings with leaders from three of the most powerful countries on Earth, and Obama's team somehow botched them all.
Brazil leader takes regional clout to White House
Friday, March 13, 2009
By Bradley Brooks, Associated PressRio de Janeiro (AP) - His meet-and-greet with the U.S. president was bumped to Saturday, and when the White House announced his official visit, they misspelled his name.
But when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva becomes the first Latin American leader to sit down with President Barack Obama this weekend, he brings undisputed clout
Silva aides said the trip was pushed forward from Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday -- making Latin America once again look like an afterthought. Then, the White House announcement misspelled his name as "Luis Ignacio" and put "Lula" -- a nickname that decades ago became a legal part of the Brazilian leader's name -- in quotes.
Umm, can they do any worse? What say you, Mr. President?
Boy, that didn't take very long. Quoth Hotair.com's Allahpundit:
One of our resident lefty commenters was reduced to arguing in the Headlines thread that President McCain wouldn’t have any better answers to this than The One would. Which may or may not be true, but speaks volumes about the state of Hopenchange these days. From “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” to “we’re no worse than the guy who lost” in less than two months:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Moscow will begin a comprehensive military rearmament from 2011.
Mr Medvedev said the primary task would be to “increase the combat readiness of [Russia's] forces, first of all our strategic nuclear forces“.
Explaining the move, he cited concerns over Nato expansion near Russia’s borders and regional conflicts…
Analysts say the brief war in Georgia exposed problems with outdated equipment and practices within Russia’s armed forces and led to calls for military modernisation.
I took another look at the picture of the button Hillary gave them. What kind of giant red button do you turn clockwise to activate? Did we give them a model nuclear launch dial?
UPDATE 3 (3/19/09):
Seriously? Is there nothing they can't completely screw up? Via Hotair and the Media Blog:
Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.
The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen. Although he mournfully had to put the popcorn away, he is unlikely to jeopardise the special relationship – or "special partnership", as we are now supposed to call it – by registering a complaint.
A Downing Street spokesman said he was "confident" that any gift Obama gave Brown would have been "well thought through," but referred me to the White House for assistance on the "technical aspects".
A White House spokesman sniggered when I put the story to him and he was still looking into the matter when my deadline came last night.