WASHINGTON What, oh what, to give the leader of the free world?
From the looks of an official record of gifts to President Bush last year, it's clear the average pen set and card won't do.
Try an $11,000 Cartier Santos Dumont watch with an 18K white gold case, given to Bush in April 2006 by Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Or, for time spent at his Texas ranch, there's a pair of black leather Hungarian riding boots stitched with an off-white leather "W." Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany gave them to Bush a couple of weeks before the president's birthday in July.
Bush as well as first lady Laura Bush, Cabinet members and other top federal employees received thousands of dollars worth of gifts from foreign leaders and friends last year, according to a list compiled and released by the State Department. Many of these items are from the customary exchange of gifts between United States and foreign leaders, and the pricier ones must be turned over to the U.S. government.
Still, it's the thought that counts. Although many presents were predictable silver plates, cufflinks and vases just as many others were elaborate or downright pricey.
In January 2006, the Bushes each received some "hand-woven emerald green, fuchsia, indigo blue, orange and purple traditional Ghana Kente (cloth) with a stripe and geometric weft motif pattern" from Ghana's president, John Kufuor, according to the description on the list.
That month, a Mexican governor and his wife sent Laura Bush a pure silver, hollow sculpture of a male bust called "The Creator," mounted on a marble base and valued at $1,500. The former librarian also accepted a cashmere shawl, silk scarves, and many books and jewelry items last year.
Such presents didn't just go to the first family.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received a hand painted decorative orb with a picture of herself inside. The $800 gift was sent by a ranking Chinese general, and it's listed for use in the State Department's museum.
But Rice's most expensive gift came from Saudi King Abdullah in February 2006: a white gold-and-diamond necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring, worth $20,000. Eight months later, he sent a similar jewelry set, valued at $12,000.
In fact, Saudi leaders were one of the most generous donors to the Bush administration, according to the list.
Besides Rice, the country presented gifts to Vice President Dick Cheney; Cheney's wife, Lynne; members of Cheney's staff; State Department spokesman Sean McCormack and David Welch, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, among others.
Justice Department officials also had opportunity for treasure.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned earlier this year under an ethical cloud, received a Cartier watch worth $1,000-$1,500 from the attorney general's office in Qatar. This office was the only donor to Justice Department officials last year, the list shows.
Members of Congress, many of whom interact with foreign officials at home and during trips abroad, also were on the list, though many of their presents were worth far less than those given to Bush administration officials.
An Irish and Bangladeshi official each gave White House hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, also a senator from New York, a $200 silver gift. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a senator from Arizona, received a statue, antique sword and a Persian rug, among other gifts.
Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., appears to be one of the House members who fared the best.
Gifts of a bronze sculpture of a fox valued at $325 and an Egyptian silk rug worth $450 were approved for display in the Capitol. Most of his other gifts were transferred to the General Services Administration for safekeeping.
The National Archives and Records Administration stores gifts to the president many of which end up in their official libraries as well as the vice president and members of their families. Under a 2006 rule, recipients may not keep gifts from foreign officials that are worth more than $305, for fear of the potential influence on U.S. policy. They are accepted, however, on behalf of the American people.