Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Obama Art

Power Line commented on the blog post of the current chief of the National Endowment for the Arts (it's doubtful anyone calls them a chief over there). For context, here's the comment..
This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.
..and here's Power Line's. And for fun, another view.

But that's not the meat of the article. Reading further on this site--which by the way is a dot gov site--reveals a bit about the recent firing/demotion/relocation of the NEA's Yosi Sargent over the telecon with various artists designed to promote a hopenchangey volunteerism:
Am I starting to sound like an advocate? Well, that seems to be a touchy subject. Some quote-unquote “journalists” have recently accused this agency of losing its independence and becoming a propaganda machine. While I want to state in no uncertain terms that the NEA is not a political agency and that when art becomes propaganda I lose all interest in it, I also want everyone to know that the days of a defensive NEA are over. We have a plan and we are going to, quote, “advocate” for it.
The quote unquote journalist(s) are Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck, the former who is indeed in the news business and the latter who is not a journalist, which should be even more embarrassing to the real journalists who weren't going to cover the story had it fallen into their laps. Context is important though--this is another example of a government employee overtly taking a jab at a private media figure and a website called "Big Hollywood". Your tax dollars at work! Continuing:
Remember, please, that the NEA is an unusual agency within the federal government. We have always been considered the champions of the arts and artists in the public sector.
That's nice, but that's not what the quote unquote journalists were complaining about. The complaint was about the NEA advocating for Obama, which is what got Sargent demoted.
We are grantmakers, not a regulatory or enforcement agency. And will we “advocate” for the President’s agenda as well? If it’s a particular program – e.g. health care reform – no, of course not. But the President picked me for a reason and I decided to go to Washington and sign on with a federal bureaucracy – ugh! – for a reason. And that reason is that within the ethos of this White House, where words like change and hope and aspiration have real meaning, the arts can play a starring role. Whatever might be said on television, radio or blog sites, I have no intention of walking away from the compelling themes of this presidency and a historic opportunity in arts policy.
Emphasis added to point out that change and hope are euphemisms for policy positions and changes. Oddly, that's not what he seemed to suggest back in September, when he was last trying to defend the conference call:
Landesman nevertheless defends the call, saying it "was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism."

He goes on to say that the "call was completely unrelated to NEA’s grantmaking" and that "favoritism or political affiliation plays no role in NEA grantmaking."
Yet now he's saying he's there to promote hopenchange, and oh by the way, he controls the grant money. OK. Well, if there's any notion of a quid pro quo, ie, receiving a grant in exchange for partisan activities that promote a presidential agenda (as opposed to simply promoting the arts, which most Americans favor as long as it's not something like piss Christ) then it should be a no-no. Simple. Not rocket science. Just imagine Karl Rove calling artists and asking them to draw something other than Bush Chimpy murals. OK, that really doesn't work as an analogy.

But seriously--we already have the president out there trying to dictate which cable news outlet is "real", now we have one of his subordinates also making a comment about real journalists while adamantly saying he'll advocate for hopey change in his public position no matter what the fake journalists say. Just sayin...

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