When the White House changes party hands, there's a tradition among outgoing staffers to play harmless prank. Junior Clinton officials famously rubbed the Ws off the keyboards in the West Wing before President George W. Bush took office. But the current commander-in-chief has just pulled a doozy on his successor.
There are 14 seats on the National Council on the Arts, who review and
recommend grant recipients from the $145 million annual National
Endowment for the Arts budget. They also serve as advisers to the
NEA chairman. President Bush's
latest appointed, Lee Greenwood, was sworn in today to a six-year term
on the Council.
Yes, among his last acts as president is to leave newly elected Barack
Obama with the man responsible for "God Bless the U.S.A." That'll teach
him not to wear an American flag pin.
The first appointees to the Council by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964
included musicians Duke Ellington and Leonard Bernstein, writers Harper
Lee and John Steinbeck and actors Sidney Poitier and Gregory Peck. You
know... elitists. Let me say upfront that I am indeed proud to be an
American where at least I know I'm free. And that I won't forget the
men who died who gave that right to me. But memorializing that sentiment
in a song which has spawned scores of YouTube videos featuring eagles
in soft focus and sunsets over wheat fields hardly seems like a
qualification for the job as defined by the NEA's website: "The
Presidential appointments, by law, are selected for their widely
recognized knowledge of the
arts or their expertise or profound interest in the arts." What, was
Thomas Kinkade busy?
I don't mean to be cynical. Here's hoping Greenwood steps up to the
challenge and schools himself in artistic endeavors beyond the
jingoistic ballad. I'll take him at his word when he says, "My
appointment to the council of the National Endowment of the Arts is a
great opportunity for me to be involved in searching out the best in
art in our American culture and to lend a hand to help develop talented
artists and artistic programs that would otherwise go unnoticed." He'll get to serve with the amazing painter Makoto Fujimura, who founded the International Arts Movement.
But I can also imagine President Bush chuckling to himself with the
thought that Greenwood is the only Council member scheduled to serve the entirety of
Obama's first term.