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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Culture Tzar

Much speculation has filled the airwaves about the need of a United States Culture Tzar. The position is rather common in other countries, such as France, where their Minister of Culture plays a significant role.

Even before Obama took office, many people in the arts were lobbying for this position. Musician, producer, and Obama supporter Quincy Jones had relayed this idea to Obama very early in the election cycle.

Tzar is not a new concept in U.S. government civil service. Functionally, it's been around for a long time. I believe President Reagon was the first to coin the Tzar title when he appointed a some to lead the war against drugs.

The title has subsequently been applied to a wide range of government roles. You would think that the position of Drug Tzar and Culture Tzar would have little in common, but William Bennett (Reagan's Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Secretary of Education) ended up as President Bush Sr.'s "Drug Czar."

To date more than 31 Tzars have been appointed to the Obama administration. All of them have a direct or dotted line to the President and advise him on pressing matters of the day (such as Technology, Homeland Security, or Science). By some estimates, these Tzars wield six trillion dollars in combined spending authority, and that drives the folks over at Fox News absolutely bonkers.

I just want to make it known that I would be interested in the position of Culture Tzar, should it be offered to me.

I can start right away.

I do have a problem however with the job title. It's not that "Tzar" is a bad title, but we have have seen too much title inflation at the White House. I wouldn't want to be Tzar number 32. It just doesn't have enough prestige. There are too many other little Tzars running around.

I would propose a title that was invented in 1895 by Gilbert and Sullivan and used in their comic operetta "The Mikado." Should Obama hire me, I would want to be known as the Grand Pooh-bah of Arts and Culture. Grand Pooh-bah is more artsy, and does not carry all of the negative baggage associated with the the other Tzars who tend to manage with an iron fist. That's not my management style. I would let artists do whatever they want.

According to Wikipedia, "Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else." [editorial note, I am not a G.S. fan]

I'm the best Pooh-Bah for the job.