Leaving Town Alive

Commentary, August 1993.


John Frohnmayer had two purposes in mind when he set out to write this book: he wanted to get even with all the enemies (or perceived enemies) he had made during the two-and-a- half years he served in the Bush administration as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and he wanted to persuade us that he is not the hopeless booby he appeared to be in office. He succeeds in his first aim, but not in his second.

As “an artist in my own right”—he had sung in a church choir—Frohnmayer says he came to Washington to promote the arts in order to “enhance the quality of life in this country,” only to be frustrated at every turn by the politicians. This, mind you, is the same man who begins his book by describing how he pulled every political string within his grasp to bring his name to the attention of George Bush (while concealing the fact that he had not voted for him), yet was surprised to learn that the office he won was not completely isolated from politics.

American Enterprise Institute