Andrew Ferguson writes in The Weekly Standard about the president’s curious choices to lead “the federal government’s egghead agencies—the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
But Barack Obama? Memoirist, prose stylist of distinction, resident of Hyde Park, prowler of used bookstores, professor of constitutional law? The man whom Michael Beschloss (Distinguished Professor of History, Charlie Rose Tech) called “probably the smartest guy ever to become president”? Surely he would use the opportunity to look beyond the things that divide us as Americans and, drawing on our core common values that we all share as Americans, appoint chairmen who could lift us up and speak to the heart of the American narrative about who we are as Americans. Some artist or scholar—a well-known pottery maker, even. A macramé artist. Pete Seeger. I don’t know.
No, though. Instead Obama has used the agency chairmanships as spoils of political hackery. To run the NEA, he appointed a Broadway producer (“Big River”) named Rocco Landesman, whose chief qualification for the job was to share a business office with one of Obama’s most fertile fundraising “bundlers,” another Broadway producer (“Hairspray”) called Margo Lion, whose generosity earned her a place atop Obama’s “arts policy committee.” …
… Obama made an even odder choice to run the NEH. Jim Leach is a former Republican congressman from Iowa whose only credential in the humanities seems to be his cofounding of the Congressional Humanities Caucus in 2004, after he had been in Congress for 27 years. His other qualifications must have struck the president as more decisive. Leach was perhaps the earliest prominent Republican to endorse Obama for president, an endorsement he throatily reiterated in a full-dress speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.