"Orszag Sees Health Law in Six Weeks" (Bloomberg): OMB Director Peter Orszag didn't really predict a health care law in six weeks--he said "The goal would be, yes, over the next six weeks or so, maybe sooner." We know all about "goals." But the 6-week frame is not an accident, because something happens in 6 weeks: elections. If Democrats lose big gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, that could produce a new wave of jitters among already skittish Congressional swing Democrats (a possibility Charles Lane pointed to months ago ). That's one of the extraneous factors left out of some sophisticated positive assessments of the bill's chances. Better to get it done before the ax might fall. ... Meanwhile, Ezra Klein says we're on the 10 yard line . Sure! But we are playing 43-man Squamish. ... 1:06 A.M.
The Grants of Others: Lynne Munson's suggested NEA apology is a whole lot better than actual National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman's actual statement, which is just a tad unapologetic and defensive about the Breitbart.com conference call scoop :
a) These were organizations that depend on the NEA for grants. It's not that they were explicitly asked by NEA and other government officials to support the president's policy agenda. It's that they were asked to vaguely but passionately get with the program by people who seemed to have an uncomfortably flimsy idea of the boundaries between promoting the President's public service plans and making art and community organizing ... and supporting the president's policy agenda. Maybe it's all one big activity--the president's "very aggressive agenda" at the national level, with "service" at the local level meaning being an "agent of change" and learning to "connect with ... progressive groups" (as White House official Buffy Wicks put it on the conference call). Praxis ! Cue will.i.am. ...
b) I don't read the what's said on the conference transcript as an explicit call to support Obamacare (though several grantees did just that a few days later). It's a call to support the public service initiative. But what if you are a potential NEA grant applicant and you don't believe there should be a public service initiative? Maybe, like the late Jack Kemp, you think it's a waste of talent. That particular political conviction is apparently officially inconceivable. If you share it, don't expect a fat grant anytime soon. Robert Heinlein interpreters hoping to stage a community theater production of Stranger in A Strange Land: The Musical are advised to look elsewhere.
c) It's obviously not just the fault of the one NEA official who participated in the call and has now been relieved of his assignment, but rather a problem in the culture of the incoming Obamaites --at least the incoming Obamaites who are sufficiently low-level and unwonkish to be assigned to the NEA. Maybe Landesman should order a viewing of The Lives of Others to underscore to them what (in admittedly extreme form) people who worry about politicizing funding for the arts are worried about.
d) Sure, the meeting tarnished the NEA but it also tarnished Obama's public service initiative , which now looks like it's being propped up by subtly coerced participation from government grantees, and steered into being an "agent of change" for "progressive" causes. I await the strongly-worded denunciation from prominent fellow national service supporters like Newsweek's Jon Meacham.
e) Who is this "former NEA Director of Communications" that Landesman keeps referring to? Does he have a name? Is he an un-person? Are they airbrushing him out of group photos? Is his name an unpronounceable symbol, like Prince's? Landesman has only been on the job a few days and he's sounding East German already.