Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things are getting beyond ridiculous

A Yale educated sycophant named Rocco Landesman made a fool of himself the other day. Based on what he said in his address of October 21st to the Grantsmakers in the Arts he would have better spent his time and money studying wrestling at Bobo Brazil University rather than Drama at Yale. Mr. Landesman is Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

He said about President Barack Obama, "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."

First off I'll give him a break and not quibble about the fact that a specific president is a "who" rather than a "that" even though I would have expected better usage from a holder of a Doctorate of Dramatic Literature, even one from Yale.

But let's get on to serious stuff.

Barack Obama is certainly not the first president to write his own books since Teddy Roosevelt because (duh!) since TR there have been many other presidents who have written their own books. Woodrow Wilson wrote multiple books while he was a professor. And Calvin Coolidge wrote books. And Dwight Eisenhower wrote a book. And Richard Nixon wrote books. And John F. Kennedy wrote a book, And even Bill Clinton wrote a book.

It's true that Eisenhower, Nixon, and Clinton arguably had at least some help with their books, and Kennedy almost surely had a whole lot of help. But it has been credibly argued that Barack Obama may have had a bit or more of help writing his books as well.

Now, about that other assertion, that Barack Obama is the first president to write books really well since Lincoln. First off, it's a bit of an odd assertion since Lincoln never wrote a book even though he did a pretty fair job as president and he wrote very good speeches. But regardless, it for sure ain't true, no how, no way; as Huckleberry Finn might have said. For Ulysses S. Grant was a president after Lincoln, and his book was highly praised by no less a critic than a fellow named Samuel Clemens who went by the monicker Mark Twain.

Back before the utter degeneration of university academic standards I would have assumed that a person with a doctorate from Yale would recognize the name Mark Twain; but in case Rocco is reading this, I'll mention that Twain was a middling fair writer back a while ago. One of his many books was titled Pudd'nhead Landesman, or Rocc'nhead Wilson, or something like that.

Now we come to that curious construction whereby Rocco asserts that Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. Aside from it being a tad strange to liken an elected American President with a usurping Roman Dictator, that's simply not true as well, if only because there have been numerous presidents who have certainly been writers, although admittedly some of their books are not very highly regarded.

But if one were to set out to think of a writer president in connection with Julius Caesar, I would have thought it impossible for a Ph.D. to fail to think of Dwight Eisenhower long before thinking of Barack Obama, unless he was on a crusade to find something nice to say about Obama.

For Rocco's benefit I'll point out that, like Caesar, Eisenhower's most famous deed before becoming president, was conquering Gaul. He even wrote about it in his well regarded best selling book, Crusade in Europe, pretty much the way Caesar wrote about it in his well regarded best selling book The Conquest of Gaul.

Now, in fairness to Rocco, I'll mention that they may well not have copies of Caesar and Eisenhower's books at the Yale Drama School, but they're fairly readily available. Really Rocco. Even I have a copies of them.

My copy of Caesar's book starts, "Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est." No it doesn't. I lied. My copy doesn't start that way because I pretty much cruised on autopilot through Latin One and Two in high school. So my copy starts, "Gaul is divided into three parts." Like Rocco Landesman's common sense, of which he must have left two parts back at his other job when he moved to Washington.

In that regard I'm reminded of a little piece of trivia that gives another reason why Rocco shouldn't be quite so ready to praise President Obama's intellectual heft to and beyond the sky in comparison with all presidents "since Lincoln".

President James Garfield, who I'll mention came after Lincoln in case any Yale Ph.Ds are reading this, was said to be able to write an answer in Latin with one hand and in ancient Greek with the other hand in response to a verbal question put to him in English. I just found out he could also juggle indian clubs, with one of which Rocco Landesman should perhaps be smartly tapped upside the head in hopes of loosening the cobwebs in there.

Here's the whole text of Rocco's spiel to read if you think you can stand it. It actually does have some other funny parts besides the paragraph I quoted above; but I don't think Rocco meant them to be funny. They're more like funny pathetic. If he doesn't have a speechwriter he should get one; but before that he should dispose of the crayons they gave him to write and color with at Yale.

Update - Hat tip to Scott Johnson at the Powerline Blog
On reflection I'm realizing that's where I originally learned of Rocco Landesman's speech

And: I also posted this on Zombie Contentions at

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