Feature

The GOP’s czar war

Has President Obama named too many policy ‘czars,’ or are Republicans overreacting?

President Obama’s White House has “an unprecedented 32 czar posts,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in The Miami Herald. This “new class of federal officials” is largely free from congressional oversight and approval—a clear and “dangerous" affront to the separation of powers laid out by our Founding Fathers. If Obama insists on having a “car czar,” “pay czar,” and “information czar,” to name a few, they need to be "vetted”—just look at Van Jones.

Unprecedented? President Bush appointed 46 people to 36 “czar” positions, said Steve Benen in The Washington Monthly. “If even just one Republican lawmaker or Fox News personality had expressed even the slightest concern” then, this “absurd” Glenn Beck–driven “tantrum” over “entirely routine” offices—some created by Congress, others confirmed by the Senate—would have more credibility.

There were in fact “lots of complaints about czars” in the Bush years, said Jazz Shaw in The Moderate Voice, “particularly from Steve Benen.” On the other hand, I couldn’t find any from Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, who just “jumped on the bandwagon of Republicans” decrying Obama’s czars as a “dangerous trend.” So what does that tell us? “Czars are good! No, they’re bad! No, they’re good! Who the hell knows?”

Part of the problem is that there isn’t “any real agreement on what constitutes a czar,” said Katie Connolly in Newsweek. They’re special assistants, advisors, or envoys, and presidents have had them since at least Coolidge. “Lack of accountability for public officials” should always concern us, but the GOP getting “all hot and bothered” over this, and the Democrats’ “going nuts in response,” smacks of “partisan hackery.” (watch the DNC’s “Dancing With the Czars” ad)

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