Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 9, 2009

CZAR STRUCK.... There are now 35 House Republicans pushing a "Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009." The effort is being led by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and luminaries such as Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and most of the congressional "birthers."

With this in mind, this clip from "The Rachel Maddow Show" last night was especially informative. Rachel noted the legion of White House czars created by Bush/Cheney, reminding viewers that "the right did not freak out" at the time "like Bolsheviks at St. Petersburg."

"But President Obama? Clearly his hiring practices are evidence of him forming a communist-fascist-czarist-Kenyan-Martian shadow government here to ... take away your guns. Or, he's doing what American presidents have done without controversy for generations."

On a related note, I received an email yesterday, noting that I wrote a piece criticizing the Bush White House's czars in May 2007. The reader accused me of hypocrisy -- why can I question Bush's czars, but conservatives can't question Obama's?

This isn't complicated. My piece in 2007 didn't argue that Bush was using czars as part of some autocratic fascist agenda; it argued that Bush used czars as a policy catch-all crutch. I never said Bush's czars were illegal; I said they were lazy. Two years ago, for example, there were highly publicized E. coli outbreaks, instances of poisoned pet food, and other bacterial contaminations that undermined the public's confidence in the monitoring of the nation's food supply. Instead of endorsing stronger federal regulations or improving a beleaguered FDA, Bush appointed a "food safety czar." The then-president did this repeatedly -- if his administration screwed up, Bush would pretend to care by coming up with a new "czar's" office.

It was Bush's default way of sweeping a problem under the proverbial rug. As I explained at the time, "First: A public policy controversy erupts, usually as the result of administration incompetence, hackery, or both. Second: The public demands swift action to address the concern. Third: [Bush] creates a new 'czar.'"

My concerns from the time bear no resemblance to right-wing hysteria now. There is no hypocrisy.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

it really has become a world of terri schiavo politics with the insane right wing. nothing is any longer a piece of common sense.

they are quite realistically portraying the mindlessness of 1984, where love is hate, etc.

ronnie rayguns and all who followed him (yeah, big dawg, 2 words: 'welfare reform'), helped mightily destroy the common good that made this country great,

these crazy people and our political clown ministry are destroying common sense.

i think we are seeing the depths of insanity and depravity that racism has woven for centuries in this society. (and for my part, maybe we really shuddah got whitey immediately after the election, like many of these idiots thought we would...)

Posted by: neill on September 9, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

There's a phrase that describes the Replicants' fury over everything the Obama administration does, whether it's Health Care Reform, Economic Stimulus, Van Jones's (correctly) calling them "assholes", or this too-many-czars nonsense:
"The Shaming of the True".
Every time anybody in or near the adminstration says or does anything right, the Replicants scream about how shameful and un-American it is.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on September 9, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

"First: A public policy controversy erupts, usually as the result of administration incompetence, hackery, or both. Second: The public demands swift action to address the concern. Third: [Bush] creates a new 'czar.'"

Or shorter:

1. FUCKUP
2. ???
3. CZAR!!!

Posted by: ogmb on September 9, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

As regards your response to your readers criticism, I fear you may be in danger of arguing with the furniture.

Posted by: sceptic on September 9, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Truly biz"czar" that they even remember Bush czars. Just another inconvenient truth that gets no traction from the lame stream media.

Posted by: Dave on September 9, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that pointing this out would only register with sane conservatives, but Bush's czar-mania only accomplished two things: expanding government by hiring cronies for do-nothing positions, and using taxpayer dollars to provide what were probably six-figure salaries to all those useless bureaucrats.

'Czar Accountability.' Whew. Apparently the GOP plan under this administration is simply to avoid the issues by any means necessary.

Posted by: Matt Sandwich on September 9, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Good lord, the constant droning on about this by Beck and the rightards reached the Today Show today.
Out of curiosity's sake, I'd give a buffalo nickel to know if Republican lawmakers tell Beck, Hannity, And Limbaugh what issues to attack or if Beck, Hannity, and Limpballs come up with it on their own and Repubs just go with it. Since they all parrot one another in a circle jerk it's hard to know who jerked first.

Posted by: oh my on September 9, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

The truly crazy (hmmm...y czar = crazy) thing about the czar controversy is that the only folks who use the word czar to describe these administrators are the media...like Fox.
"Obama appointed another czar today." Then they get bent out of shape over a word of their own creation.
Here's an idea. Stop using the word. No, wait, that wouldn't allow them to vent their manufactured outrage.

Hmmmm....maybe if we could sell their manufactured outrage we might be able to stimulate the economy.

Posted by: Gridlock on September 9, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Bush appointed a War Czar. BUSH was the one who called him that. The Commander in Chief of the US military appointed a War Czar.

I do not understand why Gibbs and the rest of the administration don't just remind people of that little fact. Bush was so goddam lazy he had to appoint a War Czar to ride herd on the VAST amounts of information coming in from Iraq and Afghanistan.

By comparison, Obama is relatively czar-less.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on September 9, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

You know who else hate czars, besides Glenn Beck?

BOLSHEVIKS, that's who. Red Russian Soviet Commies.

You can look it up if you don't believe me.

This raises questions. In what other areas does Glenn Beck have common cause with communists?

He has a lot to answer for.

Posted by: scott_m on September 9, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Would the wing nuts rather have a bunch of policy "guys"? We could have a drug guy, a border guy, an AIDS guy, etc.

If they don't like guys, maybe we could have some Kaisers. My dad always wanted the president to appoint a Kaiser instead of Czar, just for a little change of pace. He said the words were from the same Latin root.

Posted by: Emily on September 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm....maybe if we could sell their manufactured outrage we might be able to stimulate the economy.

They're already selling it:

Rupert Murdoch- $8.3 Billion net worth
Rush Limbaugh- $285 Million 2001-2008 contracts, $400 million 2009-2016 pending contracts, + 1988-2000 contracts and a cut in advertising share.
Glenn Beck- $18 Million in contracts and book sales in 2009.
Bill O-Reilly- $9 Million in 2009??

Posted by: oh well on September 9, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

And on NPR yesterday I heard that "Obama is fond of czars" - I forget which show it was, maybe "Talk of the Nation." I mean really, NPR could you try to be a little less embarrassing about how easily you echo the right wing? If Rachel Maddow can get it right why is it so hard for you guys?

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on September 9, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I think your assessment of Bush's reason for creating Czars is dead on, but I don't think Obama's are much different. When he wants to pretend to care about an issue, it gets a czar. The Automotive Czar? I don't think he cares much about the auto industry really, but because they're a topical issue, he needs to show that he's involved--hence the czar. I think that's the case for most of the czars. When I hear "there will be a new czar" I assume that means there will be no movement on the issue.

For instance, when Obama wanted to create an office which had broad responsiblity for health care reform--Dalsche's intended role--he didn't call the it the Health Reform Czar, but the office would have had actual power.

Posted by: TW Andrews on September 9, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

My concerns from the time bear no resemblance to right-wing hysteria now. There is no hypocrisy.

As the self-appointed hypocrisy cop, I'll buy that. How responsible of you to address it, too.

What would be refreshing now is if Republicans changed tack and used the same charge of laziness against Obama. (Which would open them up to charges of hypocrisy, though.) Interesting how that never occurred to them.

Posted by: Grumpy on September 9, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I understand why Republicans didn't want Obama to urge schoolkids to work hard and stay in school. It is an existential threat. The more kids who get an education, the fewer future Republicans there will be.

Posted by: nonplussed on September 9, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

My dad always wanted the president to appoint a Kaiser instead of Czar, just for a little change of pace. He said the words were from the same Latin root. -- Emily, @10:51

So they are, so they are... Which makes me wonder why czars seem to have taken over the American fancy, while poor Kaisers are only allowed to rule buns and Caesars are limited to salads. Not that I mind; as a half-Slav I'm quite happy with the situation but...

Posted by: exlibra on September 9, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of course presidents have been doing this "czar" stuff forever, and Obama is merely following the pattern. But I still object to this approach, whether it's Obama or Bush or anyone, primarily because it can undermine the authority and rightful responsibilities of actual cabinet officers. When there's a "czar" and a Secretary, only the Secretary has to be confirmed by Congress and only the Secretary should be the one reporting to the President directly. These unknown bureaucrats acting as czars just blur the clean lines of authority and responsibility which any good administration needs to have.

Posted by: donald169 on September 14, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

scott_m
In answer to your question. What Glenn beck has in common with commies? His boss Rupert Murdoch is married to one. He wouldn't want to upset the woman who might be running the business in a very few years.
http://www.investingvalue.com/investment-leaders/wendi-deng/index.htm

Posted by: Lee on September 16, 2009 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK
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