It will be Canada’s first shot at the head table in 20 years. In fact, a state dinner with the putative leader of the free world is no small honour for a greenhorn prime minister of the Great White North. So, the order of the day, off the main menu or a la carte, is simply: Don’t blow it Justin.
Specifically, don’t use the salad fork to cut your rubber chicken. Don’t haul out a bottle of Niagara vino and invite your hosts to dump their overpriced French Bordeaux in favour of it. And, for heaven’s sake, scrupulously avoid lecturing anyone about Canada’s superior health care system and gun laws.
Not that any of this is likely when Mr. Trudeau assembles with his wife and entourage behind the Rose Garden this week in Washington. After all, he’s too smart to blow a free lunch, as it were.
He knows that, at the moment, everyone, including U.S. President Barack Obama, positively adores the cut of his jib. (Why, even the Dread Pirate Trump, whose own Republican Party is figuring ways to make the usurper in their midst walk the plank, has issued a few blandly nice comments about this country’s decidedly Liberal, political honcho).
Still, for Mr. Trudeau, none of this settles the question: What do you give a man who has everything?
Indeed, ‘gifting’ between heads of state is a long, honoured tradition in this and other corners of the globe. Late last year, a Bloomberg Politics report had this to say about the practice:
“The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz lavished the president (Obama) and his family with six gifts with more than $1.3 million. They included a men’s watch for the president, which was estimated to cost more than $18,000, and a ‘diamond and emerald jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch’ for Obama’s school-age daughters.’”
Meanwhile, according to the news item, “Various Chinese officials were also generous: President Xi Jinping gave Obama two computer tablets. Many gifts are traditional offerings – fountain pens, vases, cognac, and the like. Others demonstrate pride, including French wines or traditional garb of a given country. In the past, though, Obama has also received wackier fare, including 20 baseball caps with his face on them, as reported by Yahoo.”
Oddly, there’s very little literature on the subject of official state gifts from Canada’s Prime Minister to America’s Commander in Chief (although the satirical, online magazine The Lapine once had a field day ‘reporting’ Stephen Harper’s bequest of a two-year-old beaver named ‘Slick’).
Certainly, the circumstance demands immediate redress. Mr. Trudeau could choose from a cornucopia of obvious trinkets and delicacies with which to honour Mr. Obama: A plank of pricey salmon from British Columbia; a hockey puck from the 1972 showdown between Team Canada and the former USSR, a cutting of winter ice from the Rideau Canal preserved in a summer cooler.
None of these, though, strike me as novel or even emblematically Canadian in the second decade of the 21st Century.
Might I suggest an alternative?
Somewhere in the back country of New Brunswick, a little distillery with a big international reputation, produces the best gin that has ever passed these (or anyone else’s) lips. As this province helped hand a convincing electoral victory to Mr. Trudeau last fall, it would apropos to ship a case of Distillerie Fils du Roy’s ‘Thuya’ to the White House.
There, behind the Rose Garden, may the two world leaders sip away their worries, plot world peace, and admire the cuts of their respective jibs.