That, and other news, in today's Roundup and Recap.
After Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood posted a audio recording of last month's conference call with the National Endowment for the Arts and groups pushing President Obama's United We Serve initiative, the White House has issued new guidelines on to prevent such a mix of politics and policy from happening again.
ABC News quotes White House spokesman Bill Burton: "To the extent there was any misunderstanding about what the NEA may do to support the national service initiative, we will correct it. We regret any comments on the call that may have been misunderstood or troubled other participants. We are fully committed to the NEA's historic mission, and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that there is no further cause for questions or concerns about that commitment."
The communications director of the NEA, Yosi Sergant, was reassigned after the call. Artists groups complained that statements he made made them feel uncomfortable that the call was an effort to push the president's agenda on healthcare, education and the environment, and a good government group also said that the remarks were "inappropriate." But the group says that it was not illegal, as it was not explicit politicking as was done during the election.
The danger, obviously, is connecting the politics of artists to the awarding of grants --- or even the perception of it.
What it has done is made some of Obama's enthusiastic supporters during the election much more cautious about what they say and where they say it. Michael Skolnick, political director for Russell Simmons, said on the call: "I’m hoping that through this group, and the goal of all this, and the goal of this phone call, is through this group we can create a stronger community amongst ourselves to get involved in things we’re passionate about as we did during the campaign. But to continue to get involved in those things, to support some of the president’s initiatives, but also to do things that we are passionate about and to push the president and push his administration."
The call was recorded by Los Angeles filmmaker Patrick Couriellech, who used to work with Sergant at their Los Angeles-based publicity firm.
Before he came to Washington, Sergant was heavily involved in campaigning for Obama, although he often made a point of saying that it was not connected to the official campaign. After the election and before he came to Washington, he was anxious to continue to engage artists, again from the outside, on issues of education, health care and the environment.
The whole affair has Glenn Beck, et. al., pushing the whole story as some kind of plot, and they are scouring the connections of everyone and anyone what was on the call.
Yet what I have seen is more a case of naivety than something nefarious, and some of the best safeguards come with the fact that the NEA is overseen by a council made up with a majority of Bush appointees. Some are scouring the conference call participants for their connections to Obama. The NEA chairman, Rocco Landesman, realizes that this is not a battle he wants to wage, as his desire is to get more funding rather than defend the very intentions of the organization itself.
Nevertheless, it is hard to argue the merit of having more safeguards in place, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression.
React to DeLay: Politico sizes up Tom DeLay's dance moves with a handful of expert judges/editors. Anne Schroeder Mullins writes, "When it comes to personality and charm, Tom DeLay hit it out of the park. After all, he loves to shake his tush. (A little too much perhaps.) And who needs dance moves? The Hammer stormed the dance floor and won over an unsuspecting crowd while he enthusiastically air-guitared and lip-synced "Wild Thing." Even Cheryl Burke said her partner is "charming." Tom DeLay gets an A."
For Corzine: Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito will hold a fund-raiser for Jon Corzine, in an uphill battle for reelection in New Jersey. The event, next Tuesday, also will feature Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"Outrage" Pickup: HBO will show Kirby Dick's documentary "Outrage," which discloses closeted D.C. politicos who advocate against LGBT issues. It will debut on Oct. 5.