As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Late-In-The-Game Czar Pushback

I'm happy to see some Administration pushback on the bogus czar issue. Anita Dunn penned this blog post debunking some of the Beck-inspired myths about "czars," which is basically a title for an adviser to the White House. This is a media creation, encouraged by past Presidencies who want to be seen as proactive, to label someone with oversight over a particular issue a "czar" to prove attentiveness. The czars have almost always been ineffectual, the most famous example being the head of the ONDCP, or "drug czar". I'd prefer the media didn't use the term for hires who are coordinating various policies, in the same manner as has been done for many, many years.

Still, it's good to see this kind of spirit:

But of course, it’s really the hypocrisy here that is noteworthy. Just earlier today, Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and one of the leaders in calling for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s use of "czars", had to admit to Fox News that he had never raised any objections to the Bush Administration’s use of "czars". Many of these members who now decry the practice have called on Presidents in the past to appoint "czars" to coordinate activities within the government to address immediate challenges. What is clear is that all of this energy going into these attacks could be used to have a constructive conversation about bringing this country together to address our challenges moving forward – and it doesn’t take a "czar" to bring that about! Just some folks willing to act in good faith [...]

Many of the same critics who are decrying these roles have applauded or even pushed for them in the past. Sen. Robert Bennett has criticized czars as "undermining the Constitution," but reportedly prodded President Clinton to appoint a Y2K Czar. In a 1999 CNN appearance, Sen. Bennett said "I think John Koskinen has been superb. I wrote the president six months before John was appointed, recommending that he appoint a Y2K czar." At a 1999 National Press Club luncheon, Bennett told reporters the Koskinen was "there to help, prod, give information, and make analyses and reports" and said he spoke with the czar to ensure "we maintain the kind of bipartisan and across-the-government sort of communication that this never becomes a political issue."

Senator Lamar Alexander has also criticized President Obama’s "czars," calling them "an affront to the Constitution." But during remarks delivered on the Senate floor in 2003, Sen. Alexander said "I would welcome" President Bush’s "manufacturing job czar." That same day in the Senate, he also expressed support for President Bush’s AIDS czar Randall Tobias.

Robert Gibbs followed up on this in the White House briefing room today, even noting that the aforementioned Randall Tobias showed up on the D.C. madam's list, to little comment from the Republican side of the aisle.

All this is fine, but the Beck/Fox News crowd has been riling up their folks about czars for months now. One czar, Van Jones, was already picked off and forced to resign. Uber-wingnut Jack Kingston has a bill with 99 co-sponsors to cut off funding for advisers unconfirmed by the Senate. "Czar" is part of the teabagger lexicon (go about 6:22 in):

The time to go on the offense against this was about four months ago. There is no such thing as "not giving the claims oxygen" by responding. This is a fight, and the opponents don't play fair. The Administration is finally coming around to getting in the arena, but it's way late in the game.

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