Perhaps not a Minister of Culture — more like a Deputy Undersecretary for Cultural Affairs — but the Obama administration has decided to appoint someone to oversee culture in America. Kareem Dale, who ran the outreach to disabled voters during Obama’s presidential campaign, will take a role that has traditionally been part of the First Lady’s unofficial authority:
President Barack Obama has established a staff position in the White House to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs under Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, a White House official confirmed. Kareem Dale, right, a lawyer who last month was named special assistant to the president for disability policy, will hold the new position. Mr. Dale, who is partly blind, previously served as national disability director for the Obama campaign. He also served on the arts policy committee and the disability policy committee for Mr. Obama when he was a senator from Illinois.
Bill Ivey, who served as the administration’s transition-team leader for the arts and humanities, said he was encouraged by the appointment and would meet with Mr. Dale next week. “It’s a big step forward in terms of connecting cultural and government with mainstream administration policy,” Mr. Ivey said in an interview on Friday. The White House declined to describe the position in detail, since Mr. Dale’s appointment has yet to be formally announced.
Dale apparently will double up. The disability policy position was supposedly a full-time job, but either Dale had a lot of free time or he’s decided to leave that position after just a month. Maybe Obama wants to show efficiency in government by having everyone take two jobs.
But why does America need a Minister of Culture, or even an Assistant Sub-Under Secretary/Receptionist for Cultural Affairs? Did the Constitution give the executive power to shape culture? Or did Obama suddenly run out of work and needed to find something to do with his time and energy?
We know the latter isn’t true. After all, according to the latest at the White House website, Obama still has yet to fill seventeen of eighteen top-level positions at Treasury. Obama has yet to nominate most of the Senate-confirmation-required positions in his administration, but Obama insists that economics has been his priority in his first two months as President.
Instead of appointing Ministers of Culture, maybe the Obama administration should focus on selecting people to handle economics. If he did that, perhaps we would get less Deadbeatonomics and more sanity. We need that a lot more than cultural advisers in this White House.
Update: Commenter RBJ notes that someone has to choose the DVD collections for visiting heads of state.