Mark Steyn responds to National Endowment for the Arts chief’s Rocco Landesman’s hyperbolic flattery of the Chosen One.
In his keynote address to the 2009 â€œGrantmakers in the Artsâ€ Conference, Landesman hailed Obama as â€œthe most powerful writer since Julius Caesarâ€. He didnâ€™t mean a â€œpowerful writerâ€ as in a compelling voice, gripping narrative, vivid characterization, command of language, etc. He meant a â€œpowerful writerâ€ as in Caesar was king of the world, and now Obama is. He came, he saw, he stimulated: â€œIf 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.â€
I suppose so. He could invade somewhere and force the natives to accept degrading roles in NEA-funded performance art. He could take out the Iranian nuclear program by carpet-bombing it with unreadable literary novels. That is, if you â€œaccept the premiseâ€ that the United States is the most powerful country in the world. Rocco Landesman may, but itâ€™s not clear, from his actions (or inactions) in Eastern Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere, that the President does. But, even so, it seems an odd pitch to â€œAmerican artistsâ€. Rocco Landesman, Speaking Goof to Power, isnâ€™t the first Obama groupie to enjoy the kinky frisson of groveling obsequiousness, but heâ€™s set an impressive new standard in public revelation thereof. Roccoâ€™s aunt, Fran Landesman, is the great lyricist of â€œSpring Can Really Hang You Up The Mostâ€ as well as â€œThe Ballad Of The Sad Young Menâ€. But surely there are few sadder middle-aged men than her nephew prostrating himself before his master as the most literate global colossus in two millennia.