We’re less than two months into the Obama administration, and already there’s more than enough grist for one of those scavenger-hunt feature stories, or maybe an entire coffee-table book, on “Where are they now?” You know the genre — the lists of icons, props, characters, all past their 15 minute shelf-life in the headlines and consigned to the oblivion of last week’s news cycle, or even the ancient history of last year… “We are the change we seek” (haven’t heard that lately); the fake stage columns at the Denver convention; Tom Daschle, Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers (well, actually, in his own special way, Ayers keeps turning up…and so does Wright).
The latest candidates for this Obama scrapbook are two inanimate objects — recent tokens of diplomacy-made-new (both of them swiftly disappeared from public view). They are President Obama’s offering to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of a boxed DVD set of 25 “classic American movies,” and Hillary’s gift of a mistranslated “Reset” button for Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
We’ve all read about the awkward encounters in which these items were with handed over. But where are they now? What did Gordon Brown do with the Obama presidential-gift DVD set? (The U.K.’s Daily Mail has the full list of the movies ). Is he tucked up with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at 10 Downing Street for a marathon and timely viewing of Vertigo, Sunset Boulevard and Star Wars: Episode IV?” Did he quietly donate the DVDs to Oxfam? Offer them to the collection at the Tower of London? Or is he maybe using them — as I once used a copy of Das Kapital — to prop open a malfunctioning window? If anyone knows, it ought to be the Daily Mail, which reports only that “his reaction to the box set is unknown.”
As for Hillary’s gift to Lavrov of a toy Reset button, with its gaffe of a label and its unfortunate resemblance to a detonator — once the FSB gets done checking this item for implanted eavesdropping devices, what will Lavrov do with it? Cherish it on his desk as a sample of American diplomatic juvenilia? Install it among the treasures of the Kremlin? Give it to the Spetznaz to play with?
Who knows? But I have an vision of that Reset button resonating somewhere down the line, like “Rosebud” in that vast warehouse of debris and disillusion at the end of Citizen Kane. It’s a chilling vision. If you don’t remember that final scene in the movie, ask Gordon Brown. It’s in his boxed set.