News & Politics

A Brief History of US Presidents and Gifts of Entertainment

Trump got Kim Jong-un an Elton John CD, the latest weird chapter in executive branch mix tapes.

Congratulations, you’ve lived long enough to read the headline “Kim Jong-un Receives Elton John CD from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.” According to Korean news source Chosun, the man dubbed by President Donald Trump as “Lil’ Rocket Man” was introduced to the real thing via a gift from the Trump Administration Thursday. Trump reportedly caught wind that Kim was unfamiliar with the song that inspired his infamous nickname and decided to send him over the track with a personalized note. While it’s probably new for the US and North Korea to share mix tapes, the exchange of media between world leaders is anything but. In fact, the White House has a long history with portable media, from CDs to DVDs to kind of sad iPods.

Here’s some of that history in brief:

2001: Bill Clinton packs up his varied CD collection from the White House himself. According to a mover interviewed by Washington Business Journal, Clinton’s collection was eclectic and included music by Tupac Shakur.

2005: The New York Times gets a peek at George W. Bush‘s iPod and what Rolling Stone journalist Joe Levy called his “suggestive but not outright filthy” playlist. Some of the tunes on rotation, installed for the President by campaign strategist Mark McKinnon, included the Knack’s “My Sharona” and John Fogerty‘s “Centerfield.” Levy noted that Bush had “a little bit of a taste for hard core and honky-tonk.”

2007: President Bush receives a $15 “Jazz for Quiet Moments” from the Sultan of Brunei. Later that year, the Governor-General of Australia gifted three of his own: Born to Survive: The Best of Troy Cassar-Daley, by Troy Cassar-Daley; ‘The Very Best of Slim Dusty, by Slim Dusty; and, appropriately, Spirit of the Bush, by Lee Kernaghan. Government documents state the President accepted the gifts because “non-acceptance” would embarrass both the gift giver and the US All gifts were stored in State’s foreign archives.

2009: Before we entered the #FakeNews #Collusion news cycle, Russia gifted Barack Obama a CD holder and a few CDs. For the second time, actually. (Do we think Putin is re-gifting?) Poland, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland, and Brazil all followed suit in years to come. Now that’s what I call music.

2009: Obama may have done a bit of re-gifting himself. In exchange for an ornamental pen holder with wood from anti-slave ship HMS Gannet, Obama gave then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a hefty box of 25 DVDs. Not even Blu-rays. The Daily Mail reported that some highlights of the collection included Casablanca and ET.

It’s the thought that counts, right?



Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.