The Czar “Controversy”

Ken AshfordBloggingLeave a Comment

You know, I see these thing bubbling and I think, "Well, this is just another mindless rightwing rant that can't be taken seriously".

And then it does get taken seriously.

When will I learn?

The latest Beck-inspired frenzy to have gone mainstream is this whole "czar" business — specifically, that Obama has in his administration a bunch of "czars" who don't have titles and who aren't congressionally-approved, etc.  The presence of these czars is now a major topic of conversation among GOP policymakers and their allies.

"Czars" are nothing new.  Reagan, I recall, created a czar — a drug czar, I believe.  It was understood to be simply a nickname for an actual post.  It still is.

But Beck's rants have gone political mainstream.  Yesterday Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson wrote an op-ed condemning czars in the Washington Post, which also ran an op-ed from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) just six weeks ago on the exact same topic.

Both contain the same theme and the same lies:

Nearly 250 years [after the Constitution], these critical lines of separation are being obscured by a new class of federal officials. A few of them have formal titles, but most are simply known as "czars." They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy. Under the Obama administration, we have an unprecedented 32 czar posts (a few of which it has yet to fill), including a "car czar," a "pay czar" and an "information czar." There are also czars assigned to some of the broadest and most consequential topics in policy, including health care, terrorism, economics and key geographic regions.

Think Progress, among others, noted how very wrong this is.

In fact, ALL of these officials have formal titles. For example, Hutchison cites Van Jones, the "green jobs czar." But Jones had the title of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality. The only person Obama has referred to as a czar is "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske, whose official title is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Additionally, "drug czar" was a term that existed long before the Obama administration.) […]

Hutchison does not list the 32 individuals whom she considers to be "czars." But if she's relying on the same list as Cantor — who also cited 32 people — then several of them are far from unaccountable; they've actually already been confirmed by the Senate.

The other thing that Cantor and Hutchinson do in relation to czars is fearmonger:

So what do these czars do? Do they advise the president? Or do they impose the administration's agenda on the heads of federal agencies and offices who have been vetted and confirmed by the Senate? Unfortunately — and in direct contravention of the Framers' intentions — virtually no one can say with certainty what these individuals do or what limits are placed on their authority.

They're advisors.

The president is allowed to have advisors, Kaye.