Return Of 'Woodstock Museum' To Appropriations Bill Noted

Mar 28, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

You have to feel bad for the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Their stated purpose is "to improve the quality of life in Sullivan County and the surrounding region by promoting economic development in an economically depressed area of [New York State] through arts, education, and culture at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts." It's a pretty innocuous mission, similar to thousands of other tourism sites across the country. Yet its biggest advantage as a tourist attraction - the fact that it's been built on the site of the original Woodstock concert - has been used against it: both as the official GOP poster child for "earmark reform," and as grist for John McCain's spotty career as a comedian.

McCain got mileage out of the BWCA earlier this year, when he mined Hillary Clinton's support for the economic development project for a cheap debate laugh line, later transformed into a campaign commercial. Today, on The Politico's "The Crypt" blog, the publication makes mention of it again:

The mammoth appropriations bill now being considered by Congress contains a gift for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), though it's a politically hot one that she may want to keep the receipt for.

Indeed, here's the full text of the provision in question. Feel that political heat:

The amended bill does not include a general provision proposed by the Senate that prohibits the use of funds by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the Bethel Performing Arts Center and make certain other funding adjustments within the IMLS and and Health Resources and Services Administration accounts. The House bill did not include a similar provision.

The Politico itself notes that "bill doesn't specifically earmark funds for the museum, but re-opens the possibility that it could be funded if a federal agency chose to." But strangely, they go on to intimate that the "hippie museum" would only get the "green light" if the "omnibus bill passes as is."

In truth, Bethel's Center for the Arts has been going strong, and, over the past year, has hosted a fairly politically ecumenical roster of performers along with the typical Woodstockesque fare, including the Boston Pops, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trace Adkins and the Manhattan Transfer. For fairness' sake, we'll point out that they have also hosted shows from Widespread Panic, yet it would appear that our Republic has nevertheless survived that onslaught of hackysackiana.

So it's hardly fair to suggest that Clinton is backing a thinktank of leftist subversion. Frankly, the whole idea neatly exemplifies the extent to which almost anything countercultural can be commodified and capitalized (something anyone who's ever been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium - situated in a coastal tourist trap themed around the writings of John Steinbeck - can tell you). Absent the need to score a few cheap political points, you'd have to imagine that a conservative might smile at the irony.