Obama Gave Brown Unplayable DVDs

You can’t make this stuff up:

While not exactly a film buff, Gordon Brown was touched when Barack Obama gave him a set of 25 classic American movies — including Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins on his recent visit to Washington.

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”.

It’s like the Special Olympics or something.

In all seriousness, it’s not like heads of government purchase these gifts themselves.  Obviously, someone on Obama’s staff screwed this up. And, really, who can blame them?  They’re busy with more important matters like vetting cabinet picks, keeping track of where the bailout money is going, and stuff like that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Funny, I was just watching a region 2 DVD at home last night without hacking or pirating or doing anything in the least bit unlawful. I also often watch region 3 DVDs, especially when I am in the mood for obscure Kung Fu flicks.

    How do I do it? Oh my, I probably shouldn’t say. I’d hate to give out what are apparently state secrets to the British.

  2. SoloD says:

    One might think, however, that you wouldn’t want to embarrass your (more powerful) partner in the “special partnership.”

  3. DC Loser says:

    Look up “region free DVD players.”

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    When you have little experience as a legislator and none as an executive, how would one know what to give a visiting dignitary? Further, when you have been on the receiving end of gifts all your life it is hard to know what to give others. The giving of tax payer money would have been inappropriate in this case. Beside that, it is understandable why Obama would short the Brits. He has little interests in wood from a historic ship or literature signed by Winston Churchill. After all Sir Winston was in the British government during the Kenya rebellion (Mau Mau) was he not. And, it is Bush’s fault.

  5. Bithead says:

    Funny this should come up. I asked this very question, the day the subject of the DVD’s to Borwn came up originally… in a Nightly Ramble, I think.

    When you have little experience as a legislator and none as an executive, how would one know what to give a visiting dignitary?

    I take your point, Zels, but even there is no shelter for the Chosen One. Why did Bush not run afoul on such matters?

    Maybe the difference is, he actually gave a crap?

  6. Bithead says:

    Bernard , it’s also a matter of PAL encoding, vs NTSC. Granted the better players deal with this out of hand, but most cheaper players won’t deal with either the zone or the encoding issues. Granted that Brown isn’t exactly poor, but who knows what he’s got for a player? It’s just one more indication of Obama’s lack of care.

    While I have the editor open, It turns out I asked the question on the 11th of this month.

  7. Michael says:

    Can we all at least agree that region locking is complete BS?

  8. JKB says:

    In all seriousness, it’s not like heads of government purchase these gifts themselves. Obviously, someone on Obama’s staff screwed this up.

    Apparently, they need to put a little effort into vetting the son, daughter, mistress of campaign donor who is responsible for buying gifts for visiting dignitaries. If they can’t get the small appointments right, what hope is there for the Cabinet?

    But your correct, this isn’t Obama’s fault, he’d just the guy who reads the teleprompter. And anyway, he’s trying real hard, reading all the material, and attending all the classes, surely that deserves at least a B.

  9. Bernard , it’s also a matter of PAL encoding, vs NTSC.

    Dude, I know the technical issues.

    My point is I think I’d be more worried about the fact that I apparently have access to better technology in my basement than does the Prime Minister of our closest ally than I would about the fact that one of Obama’s flunkies picked up the wrong box set.

  10. beachrat says:

    “In all seriousness, it’s not like heads of government purchase these gifts themselves. Obviously, someone on Obama’s staff screwed this up.”

    They seem astonishingly inept across a wide array of responsibilities, which certainly does not reflect well on their boss or his judgment. (I hope they will not be getting taxpayer-funded bonuses!)

    Secondly, there were dozens of small slights embedded in Obama’s complete lack of attention to the Brown visit, from possible errors in communication all the way to getting the bum’s rush in the schedule so there would be plenty of time for Obama to meet with Boy Scouts and other miscellaneous people.

    Either Obama is not effectively communicating appropriate priorities to his staff, or they are not competent to act appropriately on head of state priorities. Either way, the buck stops with Obama.

  11. Michael says:

    They seem astonishingly inept across a wide array of responsibilities, which certainly does not reflect well on their boss or his judgment.

    But, to be fair, their ineptitude hasn’t killed anybody yet.

  12. Bithead says:

    Dude, I know the technical issues.

    My point is I think I’d be more worried about the fact that I apparently have access to better technology in my basement than does the Prime Minister of our closest ally than I would about the fact that one of Obama’s flunkies picked up the wrong box set.

    I think you’d best be more concerned that our own WhiteHouse exhibits such a lack of understanding of the simplest of technical issues… and the lack of planning and forethought. It doesn’t take a great deal to foul up international relationships, and Obama’s already succeeded in doing that with the Brits, and in more than this.

    To Micheal’s point, wars have started this way.

    The left is so dedicated to the fine art of international relationships and negotiations, and yet can’t pull off something this deucedly simple? How are we to take this foulup in light of the tasks ahead with nations and cultures far less friendly to us on the near horizon? [/ScornDripping]

    I note Mark Steyn, this morning, noting the same article as James:

    When the president and his Teleprompter visit London for the G20 summit in a couple of weeks, it would be a tragedy were Barack Oprompta to rise for his big speech to find nothing but the words “Wrong Region” flashing on his screen (although I’m sure the Queen would be very polite and string along and make all the swells stand up and join the toast to “Ron Region”, whoever he is).

    But don’t forget, folks: Somewhere in Texas a village has been reunited with its idiot, and we now have the whip-smartest administration of David Brooks’s lifetime.

    I wonder, if the Obama suppoerts are starting to see how badly they’ve screwed themselves.

    Along with the rest of us, of course.

  13. Bithead says:

    Either Obama is not effectively communicating appropriate priorities to his staff, or they are not competent to act appropriately on head of state priorities. Either way, the buck stops with Obama.

    Or, they ARE in fact acting directly on his order,and correctly reflecting his lack of care in the matters at hand. Which also drops neatly in Obama’s lap.

  14. I wonder, if the Obama suppoerts are starting to see how badly they’ve screwed themselves.

    OMG… I thought people in this thread we basically just kidding around. But, no, you really believe this is a big issue. Wow.

  15. Bithead says:

    OMG… I thought people in this thread we basically just kidding around. But, no, you really believe this is a big issue. Wow.

    Remove the name “Obama”.
    Insert the name “Bush”, or “McCain”.
    Recalculate your response.

  16. Franklin says:

    Yeah, my in-laws brought some cartoon DVDs back from Hong Kong so my kids could pick up some more Cantonese. Boy, they are criminally inept for not realizing that DVDs have region codes. I’m getting a divorce right this minute to get those imbeciles out of my life.

    /for Stupid, this is sarcasm

  17. Steve Verdon says:

    Wasn’t Obama supposed to improve our world image and create good will towards America.

    I’d say he’s off to a jolly good start. Jolly good.

  18. Michael says:

    Wasn’t Obama supposed to improve our world image and create good will towards America.

    Maybe he was making a creative statement about copy protection.

    But probably not. I actually agree with Bithead, I don’t think Obama really gave a crap about giving Gordon Brown a gift just for coming across the pond. Even if the DVD’s worked, they were a about as thoughtful as a gift card to Walmart. Probably most of his wonkish staff felt the same way. Maybe he just needs to hire someone from a social club to handle these things, instead of political intellectuals.

  19. Bithead says:

    Wasn’t Obama supposed to improve our world image and create good will towards America.

    Quite so. Obviously, Obama isn’t delivering. And here’s the thing;

    Compare this to Bill Clinton, who made it quite clear he really didn’t care much for foreign policy even well before election day. The result of that was sending our miltary to more places on more missions than any presdient in history.

    There are liberals among us who when contemplating foreign policy would claim that much use of the military (assuming of course a Republican was doing the sending) constitutes outright failure in foreign policy.

    Follow the trendlines as established to see where that leads us in the next four years.

    And Michael, I’m not in the least convinced this can all be laid off on Obama’s staff. First, because I’m not convinced they’re not working at his direction. Secondly, because even if they’re not, any presdient tends to surround himself with people who are of a mind like to his own. Even absent direct orders to what we ended up with… (And we’ll never know, I suppose the answer to that question, nor that I’d beleive what we were told if they decided to address the question)…I’m unconvinced Obama wasn’t of a mind of what we got, anyway.

  20. Michael says:

    And Michael, I’m not in the least convinced this can all be laid off on Obama’s staff.

    Nor am I, which is why I specifically accused Obama of apathy on this. We’re not really in disagreement here.

  21. Clovis says:

    In President Obama’s defense, in Chicago the only gifts they give or get come in canvas bags with “$” printed on them.

    Usually handed out by some fellow wearing a domino mask and a striped shirt.

    Cartoonish errors lead me inexorably to cartoonish imagery.

  22. Bithead says:

    LOL… Clovis, you’re flirting with ‘snark of the day’ territory, there.

    ;-D

  23. Triumph says:

    Can we all at least agree that region locking is complete BS?

    YES!! The whole region restriction thing is part of the neanderthal Hollywood film industry trying to tamp down on “piracy.”

    It is idiotic and futile. Brown seriously needs to get a region-free DVD player–they are only like $40.

  24. […] heels of snubbing Gordon Brown by not holding a joint press conference with him and giving him a gift that could have been purchased at Wal-Mart, Barack Obama has annoyed Nicolas Sarkozy by sending a […]