Could This Art Historian Serve in a Ted Cruz Cabinet?

Victoria Coates uses artworks to bolster an argument for Western values.

Victoria Coates.
Image: Courtesy of @VictoriaCoates on Twitter.

Ted Cruz is running neck-and-neck with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump in the crucial state of Iowa, and one of the people helping him outline his foreign policy is an art historian.

It’s not such an unlikely trajectory, University of Pennsylvania PhD Victoria Coates told the Houston Chronicle, saying that “Art history is just a specialized kind of history.”

HUMBOLDT, IA - JANUARY 7: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at a campaign stop on his 'Cruzin to Caucus' bus tour on January 7, 2016 in Humboldt, Iowa. Cruz began a six-day bus tour of Iowa ahead of the state's February 1, caucuses. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)

HUMBOLDT, IA – JANUARY 7: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at a campaign stop on his ‘Cruzin to Caucus’ bus tour on January 7, 2016 in Humboldt, Iowa. Cruz began a six-day bus tour of Iowa ahead of the state’s February 1, caucuses. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Coates has long been interested in ancient and Renaissance art. She was co-curator of the exhibition “The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection,” which opened in 2012 at the Getty Villa in Malibu and traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2013. She’s also contributed articles to the periodicals The Sixteenth-Century Journal, Gazette des Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Studies.

Her new book, David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art, uses artworks to bolster an argument for Western values. Tellingly, she included a Bible passage in the opener to an excerpt on Michelangelo’s David at The New Criterion, in which David says that he will conquer the Philistines with the hand of the Lord.

In the book, Coates argues that there is a “synergy between liberty and creativity” and that her chosen works serve as “tributes to the free political systems that fostered them.” Among her other examples are the Parthenon, Rembrandt’s Night Watch, the Elgin Marbles and Pablo Picasso‘s Guernica.

Coates has forged an unlikely path from the library stacks to what could be, according to some unnamed insiders alluded to in the Chronicle, a potential cabinet position in a Cruz administration.

After writing a dissertation on the Italian Renaissance, Coates assisted former Secretary of Defense Donald “you go to war with the army you have” Rumsfeld with research for his memoir. She also advised Texas Governor Rick Perry on foreign policy in his ill-fated 2012 campaign (in which he fizzled after being unable, during a debate, to name all three government agencies he would dismantle as president).

In December 2014, Coates wrote a speech Cruz delivered at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In it, he aimed to demonstrate his “realism” by warning that toppling the regime of Syrian president Bashar al Assad would empower ISIS. The Washington Post editorial board wrote that the thinking behind the speech was “shallow and counterfactual.”

Besides holding contentious views, Coates is given to lame puns, judging by the conclusion of the Chronicle article:

Asked to define her own national security philosophy, Coates rejects the usual conservative labels: hawk, neocon or realist.

“I’m a Renaissance woman,” she said.


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