- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

If there's any agreement in Washington over political appointees, it's that no one has a clue who the new director of the National Endowment of the Arts should be. The Bush administration has been scrambling to find a replacement for NEA Chairman Bill Ivey, who announced this spring he would be stepping down in September.
"Usually, there are lots of rumors floating around, but I think they are scratching their heads over this one," says former New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer, now editor of the New Criterion magazine.
"The nominee would have to have some kind of conservative credentials and know something about the arts. Those are not easy credentials with which to get confirmed before a Senate committee."
There are a few names being bandied about: New York State Sen. Roy M. Goodman, 71, a Republican from Manhattan's East Side; Alvin Felzenberg, 52, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and Lynne Munson, 33, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The search is being conducted by Ed Moy, an associate director for the presidential personnel office. He was the official responsible for overseeing the administration's choice for National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) nominee Bruce Cole, an art history professor from Indiana University at Bloomington.
The NEA's reputation has crept up slowly since 1997, when the House of Representatives voted to defund it because of past grants for works deemed by some to be pornographic or sacrilegious. On June 10, President Bush spoke glowingly of federal funding for the arts at a gala at Ford's Theatre. But he has not set out a clear mandate on a Republican arts agenda.
"That's part of the discussions going on with the candidates," says NEA spokesman Mark Weinberg. "That presupposes there is a single Republican view on art."
It's a sure bet these three candidates have differing ideas about a cultural agenda. Mr. Goodman, who served on the NEA National Council — an advisory board — from 1989 to 1996, has been criticized for his support of the Brooklyn Art Museum's 1999 exhibit portraying an elephant-dung-covered painting of the Virgin Mary.
Mr. Goodman, who earned a bachelor's degree and an MBA from Harvard, is serving his 17th term in the New York Legislature and plans to run again. Calling himself "a leader in the moderate wing of the Republican Party" and "the leading legislative advocate of the arts in New York state," he chairs a Senate special committee on the arts and cultural affairs.
"He's the Democrats' favorite kind of Republican; more left-wing on some issues than Hillary Clinton," Mr. Kramer says. "But if the Bush administration appointed a liberal Republican, they'd be in deep trouble with the Republican Party."
However, Mr. Goodman has some powerful backers, including New York Cardinal Edward Egan, who promised to bring up the legislator's name during a meeting yesterday with President Bush. Republican supporters include Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, former Wyoming Sen. Alan K. Simpson, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and two members of the board of the American Conservative Union.
ACU board members Charles Black and Serphin Maltese are dissenting from a letter sent by ACU staff to President Bush that condemns Mr. Goodman. The letter includes signatures of 24 heads of conservative groups, ranging from the Family Research Council to the Christian Coalition.
"Goodman is clearly campaigning for the job," says ACU Executive Director Christian Josi. "He is a good friend of the Bushes. But his record is not the type that would be consistent with a good profile for an NEA nominee. He is the most liberal Republican for the New York state Senate and you have to work hard to get that title up there.
"He's a very decent, nice man, but his record would make him a crusader for all the things that bother Republicans about the agency. It's highly unlikely this agency will be mothballed in the near future, so what we are asking is the appointee be reform-minded."
The second candidate, Mr. Felzenberg, specializes in government affairs and has a doctorate in politics from Princeton. He was senior deputy NEA chairman for a few months in 1990 during the first Bush administration. While assistant secretary of state for New Jersey from 1982 to 1989, he commissioned a performing arts center in Newark and was a principal adviser on cultural policy to former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.
Miss Munson may be the best connected of the three, as she was a special assistant to former NEH Chairman Lynne V. Cheney from 1990 to 1993. Mrs. Cheney is the wife of Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
Last year, Miss Munson published "Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance," a history of the NEA drawn from more than 100 interviews with artists, scholars, critics, curators, museum directors and government officials. The 202-page book, which took her three years to research, asserted that the NEA mandate to fund serious art in the 1960s had disintegrated into politically correct grants in the 1990s.
"I didn't call for an end to the Endowment," Miss Munson says, "but I called for a serious examination of it. I looked at its visual-arts program and traced it from its beginning; when it was strong and why it was strong. And where it went wrong and why it did."
Congress will closely scrutinize whomever the President picks for the position, says Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican.
"It's a huge issue to conservative organizations on who heads up the NEA," he says. "If they appoint a liberal, then we will be at war with the Bush administration."
A minor skirmish has already taken place. At a June 21 House debate, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, proposed a $10.4 million increase for the NEA, which would raise its budget to just over $115 million. She also proposed a $3 million increase for the NEH.
Referring to "some of the unwise cuts made six years ago" when Congress sliced the NEA appropriation from $162 million to $99 million, she said needed reforms had taken place at both the NEA and the NEH. Her amendment, which apparently took Republicans by surprise, passed the House 221-193.
Later that afternoon, Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, attempted to move the NEA money into an energy fund, but his amendment failed 264-145. A Senate appropriations committee has likewise agreed to boost the NEA's budget, but Republicans may fight the increase when the matter hits the Senate floor.

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