A follow to my earlier post:
Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, issued a lengthy statement this afternoon in which he distances himself from the much disputed conference call with United We Serve, the NEA's communications chief, Yosi Sergant, and other arts and service organizations.
Landesman, in fact, says he arrived at the NEA the day after the conference call.
He writes to the Huffington Post, "This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism."
"The former NEA Director of Communications acted unilaterally and without the approval or authorization of then-Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell."
"Some of the language used by the former NEA Director of Communications was, unfortunately, not appropriate and did not reflect the position of the NEA. This employee has been relieved of his duties as director of communications."
His full letter is here.
One note about the arts community: It's not the only reason, but a reason, that this story has resonance on the right is it fits into the larger narrative about Obama that extends back to summer of 2008, when the McCain campaign introduced his famous "celebrity" ad. Industry conservatives see the devotion to Obama by his entertainment industry supporters as a little odd, they call him The One, as if they were following in the footsteps of a messiah and not a Chicago pol. The more extreme view is that it's an effort to indoctrinate kids --- which is kind of a common refrain these days. That's probably why the United We Serve campaign --- a general message to get people involved in their community --- instead appears like a celebrity led effort to once again unite behind Obama. They also argue that the furor would be just as great or greater had it happened during the Bush years at the NEA. (I have a feeling there's plenty of searching going on for parallel examples). Update: They are here and here.
The net result is that the NEA will probably be very, very careful in handing out grants, to ensure guard against the perception that grantees are getting their funding because of some kind of political agenda.
Obama, by the way, will be appearing with President George H.W. Bush on Oct. 16 to promote service at the Bush Library: The president for United We Serve, the former president for the Points of Light Foundation. So it will be interesting to see the reaction from Limbaugh, et. al. at this bipartisan meeting.
Update: The Edge of the American West blog coins a new verb: "beck v. trans. beck-ing, beck-ed, to be baselessly attacked by an idiot with a megaphone, then have those accusations alter your life for the worse because it’s politically expedient for your spineless superiors to demote or fire you."