Since 1978, four paintings by that most American of artists, Norman Rockwell, have hung in the White House. Rockwell’s World War II-era “So You Want to See the President” series depicts a vanished America, including, among others, newspaper-reading photographers cooling their heels, waiting for “newsworthy fare”; a woman dressed in yellow and sitting primly and ramrod-straight, incongruously wearing a “Miss America” sash; and next to her, a slouching baldheaded fellow, camera at his feet. But no more: Politico reported Tuesday that these “priceless pieces of art have been removed from the White House and it’s not yet abundantly clear why.” Even better, they’ve been replaced by massive photos of everybody’s favorite pseudo-president, Old Joe Biden himself.
Politico is uncertain as to why the Rockwells are gone. It reports that “two people familiar with the matter said the family that owns the art wanted them back — and got its request granted sometime last year.” Politico was able to find out where the paintings came from. “Betty Monkman, who worked on the White House curatorial staff from 1967 until 2002 when she retired as its chief curator, told West Wing Playbook the sketches were lent by the descendants of Steve Early, who was Franklin Roosevelt’s press secretary. She said Rockwell gave the prints to Early.”
Politico didn’t have as much success in finding out exactly where the paintings went and why. No one seems interested in talking about why the paintings were removed from Biden’s White House: “West Wing Playbook made valiant efforts over the last few days to reach descendants of Early, and has reached out to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, former Virginia Gov. George Allen (who’s from Earlysville, Va. — named after the Early family), and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society (where Earlysville is located). But we did not get any fruitful responses. A request to the White House to pass along a message to the Early family also received no reply from the family.”
So why were the paintings taken down? No one knows for sure, but there is one obvious problem with the Rockwells from the perspective of Biden’s woke administration. Biden has repeatedly boasted about having a cabinet that “looks like America,” and these paintings are nothing like the image of the country that Biden’s handlers want to project. The Rockwell watercolor and black-and-white sketches have several strikes against them: all of the people depicted in them are white, none of them are transgendered, and several of them are smoking: clearly, this would never do for the Biden Woke House.
In any case, all is well now. Politico reports that “a person familiar with the matter said that several jumbo photos of Biden have since replaced the Rockwell prints, which also were featured in the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ in 1943.” No, the jumbo photos of Old Joe weren’t in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943; the Rockwells were. So Joe Biden has had some classic paintings of America’s heyday removed from the White House and has replaced them with massive photos of himself, which surely makes him a strong challenger to Barack Obama himself for the title of our most narcissistic of Chief Executives.
But big photos of Old Joe are not a good look for this Titanic of an administration. Biden’s handlers have demonstrated a disquieting taste for authoritarianism more than once. This is the administration that called out the FBI against angry parents at school board meetings. This is the administration that established a Disinformation Governance Board, within the Department of Homeland Security, no less, in order to hector Americans into toeing the official line on elections, pandemics, and other issues that just happen to be highly contested issues in the nation today.
And now we have this same administration doing what authoritarian regimes love doing: establishing a cult of personality and putting up massive pictures of the Dear Leader so that he can receive the adulation of the adoring masses. The big posters of The Big Guy so far are only in the White House, but it’s nonetheless both extraordinarily tone-deaf and a bad precedent as well.
The White House, as Politico noted, has over 500 artworks in its collection. It couldn’t find a few in that huge cache that were worthy to replace the offending Norman Rockwells? There was nothing, nothing in this green world, that it could find to fill the empty spaces on the walls other than Old Joe’s cheesy mug? Do Biden’s handlers have some emotional need to be reminded constantly of the presence of their alleged Leader? There is at least one thing we can be grateful for in this curious episode: the “jumbo photos” of Biden are not adorning our highways, byways, stadiums, and post offices. Yet.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.