The GOP is going after the NEA. Again.

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About two weeks ago, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) issued an open letter asking President Obama to ‘take the necessary steps to ensure that the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] and the American arts community it supports remain independent from political manipulation by the White House.’ Now, 10 more GOP senators have piled on.

The issue arises from a telephone conference-call last month in which the NEA joined with the White House Office of Public Engagement to enlist artists on behalf of the administration’s ‘United We Serve’ volunteer service initiative.


Charges of inappropriate political manipulation in Washington don’t get much more trivial; but, to see how truly lame this desperate NEA teapot-tempest is, let’s take a quick look at what Sen. Cornyn had to say in the wake of the 2006 firing of David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico, ostensibly for ‘performance-related issues.’

Iglesias, one of nine federal prosecutors fired in a scandal still under investigation for Bush White House political manipulation, was contacted in the run-up to the Nov. 2006 election about pending corruption cases by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.).


--During an interview on ABC’s ‘This Week’ (3/18/07), Cornyn said investigation of the firings was ‘basically a political witch hunt.’

--Speaking on the Senate floor two days later, Cornyn said: ‘This president has replaced eight U.S. attorneys whom he himself appointed, and that, for some reason, is supposed to be all about politics, all about dirty pool. Well, it just does not stack up.’

--That same day Congressional Quarterly reported that Cornyn said, ' I don’t see what the hubbub is about relieving eight U.S. attorneys of their job.’

Fourteen months later, the Department of Justice’s inspector general issued a report on the ‘hubbub.’ It states that Iglesias had been wrongfully terminated because he had refused to pursue two prosecutions -- one against a well-known New Mexico Democrat, the other against the community organization ACORN.

‘The real reasons for Iglesias’ removal were the complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about how Iglesias handled voter fraud and public corruption cases in the state,’ the inspector general said. The report shows that the impetus for the move came from the White House.

So far, Sen. Cornyn has not issued a public statement concerning the relative significance of the federal prosecutor scandal he thought didn’t stack up versus the NEA’s support for a volunteer service initiative that has made him apoplectic. I’ll let you know if he does.

--Christopher Knight