The White House has become a cultural wasteland


IT IS hard to imagine a presidential duty as easy, uncontroversial and plainly enjoyable as hosting the nation’s greatest artists, writers, actors and musicians at the White House. Such events offer a reprieve from politics and partisanship. They bestow glamour on an administration. They are a routine part of the job—a means of recognising and supporting the indispensable role of the arts in a great civilisation. 

Yet for Donald Trump even this duty is proving difficult. Artists have snubbed him since the inauguration, when musicians like Elton John, Céline Dion and Garth Brooks refused invitations to perform. “Anything that gives aid and comfort to the adversary is a poor idea,” tweeted Joyce Carol Oates, a novelist, in support. By contrast, Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 drew together the very best in American culture—Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, John Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and (for the Obamas’ first dance that night) Beyoncé. 

The country’s cultural elite have…Continue reading

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