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One of the most iconic scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark is the one at the end where the Ark of the Covenant is put in a large crate and filed away in a gargantuan government storehouse filled with thousands of other boxes, never to be seen again. When I was an undergrad, one of my more left-wing professors criticized this scene as right-wing propaganda that unfairly portrays government as wasteful. It turns out that the scene was more accurate than either Steven Spielberg or my professor knew
In this moment of heightened public confidence in government, the presidential gift process offers the potential for staggering embarrassment and diminished accountability. The current fragmented process for logging, valuing, and managing gifts to the president defies bureaucratic logic, and appears designed more to frustrate accountability than enhance it. One could not design a more unwieldy system if one started out to do so.