For art history majors, this is exciting news. No longer do we have to desperately hope some established curator will die, or, even worse, accept a rich, rewarding career in auto journalism. We can become national security advisors, like the one Ted Cruz has.
The fellow art historian in question is Dr. Victoria Coates, who, admittedly, does have a PhD in Art History, as Esquire noted, where I only have a bachelor’s degree. Even so, we still have a lot in common: for example, I would have had a minor in Anthropology if only my school actually gave out minors, and she
Stupid class credits, am I right? Of course I am. I get it.
See, I always felt there was a strong camaraderie among art history students in that almost none of us had a shot in hell of getting a job in the field we studied, which freed us to pursue other passions initially deemed not serious enough to study in school.
For me, that had to do with making art and writing/thinking/driving/obsessing about cars, and for Coates, it seems to have been national security. Either one is a great hobby to turn into a career.
For the good doctor, whose art historical focus was quite traditional (Italian Renaissance; mine was a weird mix of modern and Egyptology), the transition from art history to national security happened when she got a gig as an editor for Donald Rumsfeld’s book Known and Unknown.
Then, after editing Rumsfeld’s memoir, she somehow got a gig with Rick Perry’s campaign as a “national security expert.” If you think about it, she had pretty solid credentials: with a focus on the Italian Renaissance, she’s most likely read Machiavelli’s The Prince, and, as far as we can tell, the United States was never invaded or occupied by a hostile enemy while she was in charge of things. Not even once.
After five grueling months of keeping America safe as Rick Perry kept asking people if his new glasses made him look smart, she, as 25-year US Army Airborne Infantry Ranger Robert Bateman points out in his article in Esquire:
Indeed it appears she’s only ever written five short articles in the past decade, and all of them were of little more substance than an op-ed: Two for the Weekly Standard, and three blog posts on the conservative blog Redstate, none of which were exactly rigorous scholarship.
All of this likely makes it clear why Cruz’s idea of a nuanced, workable policy on the security issues facing the Middle East is to suggest that we start “making the sand glow,” a plan enthusiastically endorsed by some of America’s most influential 9-year old boys who blow shit up with M-80s their cousin Rudy got in Tennessee.
Strangely, other candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have avoided using out-of-work art historians for their national security positions. Bush is going with the Undersecretary of Defense from his brother’s administration, and Clinton is going with a former National Security Advisor to the Vice President. Even Trump has named a non-former-Art Historian, Army Col. Jack Jacobs, even though Jacobs doesn’t seem to be aware he’s on Trump’s team.
But can any of these clowns really give some insight into Michelangelo’s David, or perhaps talk, in detail, about the sorts of wall frescoes you’d be likely to find in Vesuvius-eruption-era Pompeii? What about the use of chairoscuro in Renaissance painting? I doubt it.
So, Dr. Coates, as one fellow not-working-in-his-field art historian to another, allow me to congratulate you on your impressive new position. I can’t wait to hear you make America’s enemies cower in shame as you compare their regimes to the famous Palazzo del Te, full of bizarre Mannerist excesses and deliberate nonsense.
I guess I am being a little hypocritical here—I mean, I’m doing the exact same thing. I’m an art history major, and now I write like I’m a car expert. I mean, I think I’ve studied and thought about and read way more about cars than I ever did Art History, and I’m confident that I do know what I’m talking about, but, fundamentally, I’m doing the same thing.
I suppose maybe there’s a slight difference in trying to write interesting things about cars and deciding how the military might of the US should be used, potentially leading to real deaths. Maybe.
Oh yeah. Eat it, Iran. You want some of this, North Korea? Don’t make her compare you as Donatello’s fey little David to America’s beefcake Michelangelo’s David!
I mean, it’s no auto journalist, but it’s still a nice gig, I guess.