It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: the vice-president of the United States likes hunting, and you like the vice-president, so what better token of your appreciation than a gun? Dick Cheney received no fewer than four firearms as presents during 2005, according to the latest financial disclosure forms submitted by the White House.
This was before February's incident involving a shotgun and his friend's face - after which giving Mr Cheney a weapon feels a bit like giving firelighters to an arsonist, say, or pretzels to a president.
But the four guns, including a prewar Colt 45 revolver worth $6,125 (£3,250), barely account for a fifth of the value of the personal gifts Mr Cheney received. His $39,722 total dwarfs President Bush's tally of $17,316, according to the forms.
Even so, Mr Bush did pretty well, getting an iPod and a Bible from Bono, "two hand-carved wooden puzzles" worth $3,000, and a $5,500 mountain bike, as well as a Christmas present from Mr Cheney of a pair of $400 binoculars. He reciprocated with a $338 steel-framed hammock. The rest of the president's haul arguably reflects the relaxation-centred interests of a man who last week told a German paper that the highlight of his term of office involved catching a particularly big perch.
The gifts, which come mainly from private citizens and corporate chief executives, do not include presents from overseas, which the president and vice-president are banned from accepting on a personal basis. Those tokens of international goodwill - such as the 136kg of raw lamb meat Mr Bush was given on one occasion by the president of Argentina - are technically given to the office of the president, and belong to the nation.
In all, the president gets an estimated 1,000 gifts a month, which are stored at the national archives in Maryland, pending the construction of the George Bush Presidential Library once he leaves office.
"We don't keep food," said Susan Cooper of the national archives. "And if the president receives 3,000 baseball caps, for instance, they would probably keep a representative sample. But you'd be surprised at what we do keep. Thousands of things, that really do reflect the personalities, the variety and the public opinion of the Americans who have sent them in."
Bill Clinton's storehouse of gifts, for example, is kept in dimly lit, climate-controlled conditions at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Centre in Little Rock, Arkansas. A reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, who gained access recently, saw boxes labelled "wooden golf duck executive pen set" and "Clinton personal/frog". It will take an estimated 10 years to finish cataloguing the 8,000 gifts Mr Clinton received.
The disclosure forms also shed some light on Mr Bush and Mr Cheney's personal fortunes, though a large amount of vagueness is permitted: we know, for example, that the president's Texas ranch is worth between $1m and $5m, and that the Bushes' personal assets may be worth up to $20.9m - again, a fraction of the Cheneys', which may total $94.6m.
If only money could buy approval ratings. Which in general it can, of course - but not for Mr Bush at the moment, it seems, who is flailing at just 29% support. Times have certainly changed since 1801, when Thomas Jefferson was so well-liked that the citizens of western Massachussetts made and delivered to him a cheese weighing 1,235lb (560kg). It was "the greatest cheese in America, for the greatest man in America", they declared. It has not been kept in the national archives.
Tony Blair can only dream of holding on to the kind of gifts bestowed on George Bush and his firearm-loving deputy. The prime minister is bound by the ministerial code of conduct, which forces him to declare every present worth more than £140. If he is especially taken by one of the knick-knacks from a visiting foreign dignitary, he can hold on to it - as long as he pays for it.
Like Mr Bush, Mr Blair has been touched by the munificence of Bono. Instead of an iPod and a Bible, the U2 frontman gave him a guitar in 2002. Despite his time a student rock star in the Oxford band Ugly Rumours, the PM chose not to keep it, possibly because guitars seem to be the default option when hoping to impress Mr Blair. He received one in August 2001 from Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, another from the Fender company in January 2002, one from the rock singer Bryan Adams in July of the same year, and yet another from the Romanian government in March 2003.
Among the more exotic items he has been given over the last five years are a dagger from the Sultan of Oman, five watches from the Italian government, a rug from the Libyan government and a "selection of merchandise" from the Simpsons production company. Mr Blair was in an episode of the series.
Perhaps the most famous present to have been lavished on him was the six bottles of Château Mouton-Rothschild '89 that Jacques Chirac, the French president, sent for the prime minister's 50th birthday three years ago. The wine, worth £195 a bottle, arrived with a note reading: "Knowing how much you like spending time in France, I have the pleasure of offering you a present that illustrates the quality of regional products in our nation, which you know so well."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006