Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barack Obama is the Most Powerful Writer Since Julius Caesar

says Rocco Landesman, chairman of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

I saw the headline on Drudge Report, and I had to see the original to believe it. So here it is, from NEA's own web site. The paragraph that compares Obama with Julius Caesar appears about half-way into the piece:

We Know Art Works: Rocco Landesman Addresses Grantmakers in the Arts (10/21/09, NEA)

"My answer is pretty simple. There is a new president and a new NEA. The president first. 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."

That has to be good for American artists?? Was Julius Caesar writing war memoirs good for Roman artists?

Mr. Landesman is a theater producer on Broadway whose appointment by Obama as chairman of NEA was confirmed in August 2009.

Here are some snippets from the speech:

"Our conference title, “Navigating the Art of Change” refers, with some subtlety, to our present circumstances, and since I’m always reading about how blunt I am, I will go along and translate that as “The news is bad.”" [He's using the "change" theme, overused by this administration. What the bad news? That the money is steering away from the arts, according to him.]

"I’m a theatrical producer. Fewer than 20% of the shows that open on Broadway earn back their investment, it is an absolutely terrible business and the people who invest in it know that. So why do they do it? Because they’re optimistic." [Sure they're optimistic. Probably that 20% of the shows more than make up for the bombs.]

"Which brings me to President Obama, our Optimist in Chief." [That Optimist in Chief has been threatening catastrophe and dire consequences unless people don't do his bidding. But clearly since Mr. Landesman is quite willing to do his bidding, NEA is all set for optimism.]

In conclusion, he says this:

"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."

"Will we realize our hopes? Hey, I’m an optimist. I produced “The Producers,” so I’m sure Mel Brooks would give me permission to appropriate and butcher some lines from that show. We are optimistic, irrational, unrealistic and delusional. But we can’t help it. We’re grantmakers in the arts."

He says NEA does not advocate a particular program of this president, but quite willing and enthusiastic about promoting his agendas in general.


You can read his entire speech by clicking on the link above.

For your information, Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was Roman military and political leader. He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire (

His literary works entirely consist of memoirs from his military campaigns.

To match Julius Caesar, President Obama would have to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., as the commander on the front line, and come back to Washington D.C. to reminisce about his exploits, along with astute observation on geography, economy and the peoples.

Not so much about talking (or reading the teleprompter).


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