The most powerful writer since Julius Caesar

More embarrassing, unbecoming, grovelling sycophancy from America’s artists and intellectuals when it comes to Barack Obama. Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is lauding our president’s literary gifts, saying he is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar:

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.

I know that he is not saying that the President is a writer of powerful works; rather, that he is a powerful man who writes. And, yes, he can call down nuclear weapons–whereas Julius Caesar could only put nations to the sword in the old fashioned way–so that makes him powerful, a powerful writer of a memoir. But the comparison to the divinized overthrower of Rome’s republic remains unsettling. Still, what our arts czar says isn’t even true. Lots of presidents since Teddy Roosevelt wrote their own books, from Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton.

I know tODD says that some of this artistic adulation is ironic. It just has to be. Maybe it is in some cases. But go to your local gallery, mention Barack Obama, and see what people say. No, this emperor-worship is NOT good for American artists.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “… the first to write them really well since Lincoln.” (Landesman)

    What BOOKS did Lincoln write?

    “… Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.” (Landesmam)

    Even if Landesman’s assertion were true, HOW would it be good for American artists? I’m flummoxed.

  • Tom Hering

    “… the first to write them really well since Lincoln.” (Landesman)

    What BOOKS did Lincoln write?

    “… Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.” (Landesmam)

    Even if Landesman’s assertion were true, HOW would it be good for American artists? I’m flummoxed.

  • Carl Vehse

    With its linked updates discussing books actually written by former Presidents, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, Powerlineblog concludes about 0bama-appointed NEA Chairman Landesman:

    “It would be hard to pack so much ignorance into one short paragraph if one were really trying. We can deduce that Landesman doesn’t even have to try.”

  • Carl Vehse

    With its linked updates discussing books actually written by former Presidents, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, Powerlineblog concludes about 0bama-appointed NEA Chairman Landesman:

    “It would be hard to pack so much ignorance into one short paragraph if one were really trying. We can deduce that Landesman doesn’t even have to try.”

  • Dan Kempin

    Your perception of subtleties is acute, Dr. Veith.

    Has the die been cast?

  • Dan Kempin

    Your perception of subtleties is acute, Dr. Veith.

    Has the die been cast?

  • http://www.utah-luthern.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Watching Saturday Night Live this last week it occurred to me that Obama will not make a second term. No one is happy with him, though some are still a bit deluded. He has accomplished nothing, and everyone is taking notice.

  • http://www.utah-luthern.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Watching Saturday Night Live this last week it occurred to me that Obama will not make a second term. No one is happy with him, though some are still a bit deluded. He has accomplished nothing, and everyone is taking notice.

  • rlewer

    The NEA chairman worships Obama. Obama appointed one of his cronies who is obviously ignorant of that which he speaks. What does this say about the future of government sponsored culture? How will the Democratic control of government paid for media show itself? Was Orwell a prophet?

  • rlewer

    The NEA chairman worships Obama. Obama appointed one of his cronies who is obviously ignorant of that which he speaks. What does this say about the future of government sponsored culture? How will the Democratic control of government paid for media show itself? Was Orwell a prophet?

  • Terry Culler

    This sounds so much like Soviet stooges praising Stalin that it’s scary. And I also ask what books Lincoln wrote. If you want a President who wrote something worth reading by himself read Grant’s autobiography. I’m afraid the entire Obama administration is becoming something of a joke.

  • Terry Culler

    This sounds so much like Soviet stooges praising Stalin that it’s scary. And I also ask what books Lincoln wrote. If you want a President who wrote something worth reading by himself read Grant’s autobiography. I’m afraid the entire Obama administration is becoming something of a joke.

  • Carl Vehse

    In the meantime CNN (where I go for all my 0bama clymer news ;-)) reports:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden challenged Republican voters in New York’s 23rd congressional district to teach conservative “absolutists” a lesson in the special House election Tuesday by voting for the Democratic candidate in the race

    Oh?!? So did Rocco get a lateral promotion to Joe’s position?

  • Carl Vehse

    In the meantime CNN (where I go for all my 0bama clymer news ;-)) reports:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden challenged Republican voters in New York’s 23rd congressional district to teach conservative “absolutists” a lesson in the special House election Tuesday by voting for the Democratic candidate in the race

    Oh?!? So did Rocco get a lateral promotion to Joe’s position?

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Much ado about nothing. In due course, some entertainer will die, or some couple will split up, or some politician will sleep around, and they’ll yap about something else, then.

    The limelight and public opinion is no comfortable place.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Much ado about nothing. In due course, some entertainer will die, or some couple will split up, or some politician will sleep around, and they’ll yap about something else, then.

    The limelight and public opinion is no comfortable place.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Take a drive through Illinois, and you’ll see that every two bit politician has a highway named after himself, and the signs were put up while the politician was still in office. No waiting for history to judge what you’ve done there; you get it while the getting’s good. Obama simply comes from this mold, and therefore doesn’t clue in when the clueless start flattering him in increasingly bizaare ways.

    No insult intended to two bit politians, of course.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Take a drive through Illinois, and you’ll see that every two bit politician has a highway named after himself, and the signs were put up while the politician was still in office. No waiting for history to judge what you’ve done there; you get it while the getting’s good. Obama simply comes from this mold, and therefore doesn’t clue in when the clueless start flattering him in increasingly bizaare ways.

    No insult intended to two bit politians, of course.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    No doubt Landesman’s comment is silly, though it is also in no way the main point of the speech in which it was delivered, so charges of Republican carping over the most trivial of details will continue to be levied.

    That said, Dr. Veith, how did you arrive at the conclusion that Landesman’s an “artist and intellectual”?! He’s a Broadway producer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    No doubt Landesman’s comment is silly, though it is also in no way the main point of the speech in which it was delivered, so charges of Republican carping over the most trivial of details will continue to be levied.

    That said, Dr. Veith, how did you arrive at the conclusion that Landesman’s an “artist and intellectual”?! He’s a Broadway producer.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Now you’re insulting the president’s Arts Czar, tODD! Broadway producers consider themselves artists and intellectuals, and on their behalf I declare myself personally offended! You right wing conservatives just continue to show no respect to our President’s team.

    As to your point, I believe the point of the speech before this group of grantswriters–more artists and intellectuals–is that President Obama will be especially good for the arts. Do you think he will be good for the arts beyond giving them more money?

    The track record of Caesars is not all that good, with the exception of Augustus and Virgil. Julius Caesar caused the deaths of Cato and Cicero (who defended the republic against him). Nero caused the death of Lucan, who was also a republican.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Now you’re insulting the president’s Arts Czar, tODD! Broadway producers consider themselves artists and intellectuals, and on their behalf I declare myself personally offended! You right wing conservatives just continue to show no respect to our President’s team.

    As to your point, I believe the point of the speech before this group of grantswriters–more artists and intellectuals–is that President Obama will be especially good for the arts. Do you think he will be good for the arts beyond giving them more money?

    The track record of Caesars is not all that good, with the exception of Augustus and Virgil. Julius Caesar caused the deaths of Cato and Cicero (who defended the republic against him). Nero caused the death of Lucan, who was also a republican.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Grant, T. Roosevelt, and Eisenhower were men of substantial experience and accomplishment who were, also, gifted writers.

    Obama, so far is a man of little experience and accomplishment who wrote at best two mediocre books. Dreams of My Father is a vaguely written personal memoir; Audacity of Hope, is a typical Obamian exercise in political rhetoric. The fellow has trouble making hard decisions going back to his remarkable 139 votes of “present” as an Illinois senator.

    The fellow is likely a colossal fraud, a fact that the American people are just beginning to understand.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Grant, T. Roosevelt, and Eisenhower were men of substantial experience and accomplishment who were, also, gifted writers.

    Obama, so far is a man of little experience and accomplishment who wrote at best two mediocre books. Dreams of My Father is a vaguely written personal memoir; Audacity of Hope, is a typical Obamian exercise in political rhetoric. The fellow has trouble making hard decisions going back to his remarkable 139 votes of “present” as an Illinois senator.

    The fellow is likely a colossal fraud, a fact that the American people are just beginning to understand.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith (@11)! And you once told me you “seldom do sarcasm”!

    “Do you think [Obama] will be good for the arts beyond giving them more money?” I don’t see how any President could be good for the arts “beyond giving them more money”, and even that is actually in Congress’ hands, no?

    No, if anything, artists — at least modern ones — do much better in times of strife, in times when they’re angry at the establishment. I’m pretty certain Reagan and the latter Bush “inspired” way more artists than Clinton did (or Obama will). I’m not saying all such art was good, but you could sort of tell there was more direction in general during those times, sort of like how America always seems at its best when we’re united against some enemy.

    All of which is an entirely different discussion from whether particular administrations support the arts more or not.

    And say what you will about the track record of Caesars vis-a-vis art, but I think we can all admire their supporters’ rather adamant opposition to bad verses, their supporters’ rather adamant opposition to bad verses.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith (@11)! And you once told me you “seldom do sarcasm”!

    “Do you think [Obama] will be good for the arts beyond giving them more money?” I don’t see how any President could be good for the arts “beyond giving them more money”, and even that is actually in Congress’ hands, no?

    No, if anything, artists — at least modern ones — do much better in times of strife, in times when they’re angry at the establishment. I’m pretty certain Reagan and the latter Bush “inspired” way more artists than Clinton did (or Obama will). I’m not saying all such art was good, but you could sort of tell there was more direction in general during those times, sort of like how America always seems at its best when we’re united against some enemy.

    All of which is an entirely different discussion from whether particular administrations support the arts more or not.

    And say what you will about the track record of Caesars vis-a-vis art, but I think we can all admire their supporters’ rather adamant opposition to bad verses, their supporters’ rather adamant opposition to bad verses.

  • J

    This is not about the producer who said Obama writes like Ceasar. It’s about how much disdain y’all can pile up on the president day after day after day.

  • J

    This is not about the producer who said Obama writes like Ceasar. It’s about how much disdain y’all can pile up on the president day after day after day.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    I seldom do, but sometimes the temptation is too strong and I fall. At any rate, the rest of what you say here I agree with.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    I seldom do, but sometimes the temptation is too strong and I fall. At any rate, the rest of what you say here I agree with.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Given some of the scandals that have occurred with the NEA, I would actually disagree with the proposition that government money helps the arts. More often, it seems to shield them from the consequences of boneheaded decisions.

    (or, put differently, it’s no surprise that the decline of high culture in the U.S. seems to correlate with government funding of the arts)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Given some of the scandals that have occurred with the NEA, I would actually disagree with the proposition that government money helps the arts. More often, it seems to shield them from the consequences of boneheaded decisions.

    (or, put differently, it’s no surprise that the decline of high culture in the U.S. seems to correlate with government funding of the arts)

  • Dan Kempin

    Terry and Peter,

    Not to quibble, but I read Grant’s book, and I wouldn’t call him a gifted writer. It was a great read and very compelling, but that was because of the mountain of momentous history to which he was witness, not his dexterity of prose.

    Now Caesar . . . that dude could write! “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . .” Gripping stuff. You can hardly put it down!

  • Dan Kempin

    Terry and Peter,

    Not to quibble, but I read Grant’s book, and I wouldn’t call him a gifted writer. It was a great read and very compelling, but that was because of the mountain of momentous history to which he was witness, not his dexterity of prose.

    Now Caesar . . . that dude could write! “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . .” Gripping stuff. You can hardly put it down!

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dan, many writers, including Mark Twain, Matthew Arnold, and Gertrude Stein regard Grant’s autobiography to have been remarkably well written. Like his style of warfare, he wrote concisely with an elegant directness.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dan, many writers, including Mark Twain, Matthew Arnold, and Gertrude Stein regard Grant’s autobiography to have been remarkably well written. Like his style of warfare, he wrote concisely with an elegant directness.

  • Dan Kempin

    Far be it from me to teach Mark Twain about literature, but I personally thought his writing style to be a bit dry. Perhaps President Grant’s contemporaries had more invested than those who see him from the perspective of history. To each his own.

  • Dan Kempin

    Far be it from me to teach Mark Twain about literature, but I personally thought his writing style to be a bit dry. Perhaps President Grant’s contemporaries had more invested than those who see him from the perspective of history. To each his own.


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