Book: Clinton Gave NEA Little Backing

Wednesday, June 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Actress Jane Alexander complains in a new book that she failed to get the backing she expected from President Clinton when she headed the embattled National Endowment for the Arts, its budget cut heavily by Congress on grounds it sponsored obscene art.

``Personally he was warm and supportive, but his reach didn't seem to extend beyond the next handshake,'' she writes in ``Command Performance — An Actress in the Theater of Politics.''

``I wanted a vision for the next century that was more than `building a bridge,' '' Alexander said.

She was grateful when he said in a State of the Union address that in the new millennium the United States should be ``the world's beacon not only of liberty but of creativity,'' and got a standing ovation.

But, she added:

``He would never run out in front for the NEA or (the National Endowment for the Humanities) as long as the agencies remained a political liability. Why should he? He was interested in winning, and the endowments were not big win issues,'' she added, noting, ``The first lady was out front and did say all the right things.''

The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Alexander is harsh on the enemies of the agency she led from 1993 to 1997, including politicians.

``It is hard to know what a politician believes any more because he is so beholden to the special interests of those who elected him,'' she wrote in the book's epilogue. ``An elected official has to pay attention to the money in his campaign fund first and foremost.''

But she consoles herself with the thought that art is more important than politics.

``No one will remember or revere the F-22 in 100 nor even 20 years,'' she says, ``but Shakespeare is performed all over the world 400 years after he began to tell his stories.''

Alexander, 60, went back to the stage two years ago, appearing last year in the film ``The Cider House Rules.''

Her book was published Tuesday by Public Affairs.