Bush shoves a little flag-waving down Obama's throat

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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.