In yet another head scratcher of a move, President* Donald Trump has appointed self-proclaimed “Dance Mom” and Florida political consultant, Mary Anne Carter, to succeed musician and artist Jane Chu as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
In keeping with his penchant for valuing policy chops and qualifications more highly than PR potential and visibility, President Obama appointed Chu to the chair of the NEA after the position had been vacant for more than a year:
Opting for arts-administration and fundraising credentials over star power, the White House announced Wednesday that President Obama will nominate Jane Chu, president and chief executive of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Even under normal circumstances, Chu would have been a tough act to follow. As CEO of Kansas City’s Kauffman Center, Chu was a widely respected if low-profile arts administrator:
In Kansas City, Chu oversaw a $413 million campaign to build the Kauffman Center — home of the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera of Kansas City — which opened in 2011. Prior to that, Chu, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who was raised in Arkansas, had been an executive at the Kauffman Fund for Kansas City and vice president of external relations for Union Station Kansas City. She has advanced degrees in music, business administration and philanthropic studies.
Now, compare Chu’s background to that of her successor, Mary Anne Carter…
With a mind sharpened by political combat and an ability to inspire loyalty as well as fear, the woman behind Gov. Rick Scott’s conservative agenda can be as hard-charging as the bold policies she shapes.
Mary Anne Carter is the most powerful person you’ve never heard of in Florida’s government.
Indeed, an examination of Carter’s public financial disclosure report shows that she worked on Trump’s inaugural committee, and also arranged “special events” for him in Florida during the 2016 campaign. Carter has also served as Rick Scott’s “political quarterback” in Florida, earning a reputation as a “no holds barred” political operative.
An expert in opposition research, Carter enjoys a smoky bar in the shadow of the Capitol, rubbing elbows with fellow grizzled political operatives. A 5-foot-10-inch blonde, she laughs in a way that seems to say, “We both can’t believe I just said that”…
She dismisses reporters as liberally biased and treats them like political opponents, researching their marital status, number of children and building a matrix of stories they write.
This description of Carter’s approach to the world of politics reads as disturbingly reminiscent of that of Trump’s controversial choice for Secretary of Education, Michigan’s own Betsy DeVos:
…the DeVos family is famously secretive–indeed, furtive–in their disdain for the public spotlight. They prefer to do their work, like most political operatives and lobbyists, in the background. This is one of the reasons that directly connecting any of the DeVos family members to specific policy actions can be so difficult; connecting the dots between a DeVos and a matter of public policy is like nailing Jello to the wall. There are always several layers of “plausible deniability” between Ms. or Mr. DeVos and their fingerprints on a policy move or piece of legislation.
At this point, you may be wondering how a grizzled back-room political “fixer” who fundraised for Trump’s inauguration bash, and strong-armed Rick Scott into the governor’s mansion in Florida, had the background and expertise in the arts to become the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Well, look no further than Carter’s “official” NEA bio statement–and I swear I’m not making this up:
Her support for the arts stems from her daughter, who was diagnosed with learning difficulties at the age of seven. Carter found a school that infuses the arts in every course, allowing for the learning process to be productive and enjoyable for her daughter. Carter understands the power of art, as her family lives it every day.
While eschewing the label “Dance Mom,” Carter is constantly on the road driving her competitive dance daughter back and forth to the studio.
What’s next, Mr. President*?
Ivanka’s book club president as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities?
Don, Jr.’s kids’ middle school band booster coordinator as head of the Kennedy Center?
Melania’s yoga instructor as the artistic director for the American Ballet Theatre?
If background, education, and skills do still indeed matter, then it’s perhaps worth noting that Jane Chu holds bachelor’s degrees in piano performance and music education, master’s degrees in music and piano pedagogy, a PhD in philanthropic studies, an MBA, and three honorary degrees, all from prestigious universities.
Mary Anne Carter, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed “dance mom.”
Welcome to The Swamp.
No qualifications required.