Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 16, 2009

HOW BIZ-CZAR.... Shortly after President Obama's inauguration, many on the left noticed that the Republican Party was effectively being led by Rush Limbaugh. There was a leadership vacuum, and the right-wing radio host was filling it.

But as the year has progressed, the GOP seems less influenced by Limbaugh, and more influenced by Glenn Beck. It was Beck who launched a crusade against Van Jones, eventually helping force his ouster. It was Beck who's waged war against ACORN, leading to votes like these.

And it's Beck who believes Obama administration "czars" are part of some kind of nefarious plot. And what was once an idea driven by fringe, right-wing paranoia has now been embraced by Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Jack Kingston's (R-Ga.) has rapidly signed up 99 co-sponsors for his Czar Accountability and Reform Act of 2009.... All but one of them are Republicans: the member of the majority party backing Kingston's crusade to prevent presidential advisers who haven't been approved by the Senate from collecting salaries is Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) All are Republicans. (See update below.)

At 2:15 p.m., at least three House Republicans will join Kingston (R-Ga.) for a press conference on "their efforts to bring about increased transparency and accountability for President Obama's czars."

A group of GOP senators is starting to take this seriously, too.

We've been over all the reasons why this is absurd. But the one angle that strikes me as the most salient is the fact that President Obama's use of officials is entirely routine. The Washington Post noted today, "By one count, Bush had 36 czar positions filled by 46 people during his eight years as president."

If even just one Republican lawmaker or Fox News personality had expressed even the slightest concern about this, it'd be easy to take their overwrought anguish seriously now. But that never happened -- Bush's legion of "czars" was fine. Indeed, the "czars" employed by all of the modern presidents weren't the least bit controversial. But with Obama, it's grounds for apoplexy? (In some instances, conservatives thought Bush didn't have enough czars.)

Several of the White House's "czars" have been confirmed by the Senate. Some of these "czars" are filling positions created by Congress. Nearly all of these "czars" are filling offices that existed long before Obama became president. Indeed, "czars" is just a colloquial shorthand for officials with long titles -- no one in government actually has the word in his or her job title.

What we have here is the Republican Attack Machine following Beck's lead, looking for the next baseless attack to throw a tantrum over.

UPDATE: Clay of Missouri is not a co-sponsor of this legislation. It was reported erroneously due to a clerical error. Hotflash at Show Me Progress has the whole story.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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But Bush wasn't a black muslim terrorist foreigner who wants to kill grandma.

Posted by: Conservatroll on September 16, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

If you take the word "czars", change the "s" to a "y", and reverse the ordering of "zar", you've stumbled onto something crazy.

Posted by: qwerty on September 16, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

facts and reality mean zero to those who have nothing to lose...

Posted by: mr. irony on September 16, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

We need to drive the market up on straw because if the price of straw went up maybe Beck and his ilk would think twice about spending so much on strawmen!

By what misery
do we have to overhear
Beck the hurt Banshee? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 16, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

even crazier is the confusion they have about czars and what they meant for the Communist Revolution, especially when you see signs at Tea Parties that say:
"No more communists czars" or "We have more czars than the USSR"

Posted by: Monica on September 16, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think you meant to title this "Show Biz-Czar". It would certainly fit better.

Posted by: Michael W on September 16, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

There's a point at which we must question the motivation for applying a vast array of double standards to President Obama. I can no longer see this form of outrage as merely ideological, but rather something like the "tests" administered to black voters under Jim Crow.

Posted by: Jim on September 16, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

You expect some sort of logic from the republican party? Seriously?

Those fools think Glen Beck is smart.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on September 16, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Czar" is usually reserved for people who have an interdepartmental role, people who try to insure that people working in different parts of the government who have influence over an important administration initiative are all working to the same goals. A drug czar or an energy czar are typical examples.

Recognizing that interdepartmental conflict may torpedo reform is actually a pretty savvy way of trying to govern in Washington, and it permeates that Obama approach. See, for instande, Holbrooke's presentation of the Afghanistan team.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on September 16, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Jay, the idea of these roles is good and can be used to good purpose, but Glenn Beck and his ever-expanding collection of GOP foolowers will not let mere good sense affect the discussion.

Posted by: freelunch on September 16, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

When do shouts of "You Lie!" begin to ring off the halls of Congress? As long as the President is not present, it is OK, right?

Posted by: st john on September 16, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

If Limbaugh is no longer the leader of the GOP does and they are taking their marching orders from Beck does that mean that Glen Beck is the Czar of the GOP?

Posted by: nerd on September 16, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

(In some instances, conservatives thought Bush didn't have enough czars.) -- Steve Benen

Well, of course not.

A bureaucrat, appointed by the president, who doesn't have to go through the Senate confirmation process (and the Senate's chance to block straight out, or at least postpone indefinitely the day that person takes office) is an asset. He's more likely to be ideologically "pure", he's more likely to be loyal to the president only and he's a possibility of extending the president's executive reach.

So, naturally, "conservatives" (don't know what they thought they were conserving; it wasn't the Constitution) approved of it, when Bush was president. They approved of any and every extension of the executive powers *then*; they'd have approved had he suspended the Congress entirely. But, that much power concentrated in *Obama's* hands??? Oy gevalt!

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi (what's becoming to Jove is not becoming to an ox) or, as y'all say:IOKIYAR.

And, of course, they'll fudge and lie about the numbers and multiply them ad infinitum (vide the Tea Bagging protests); they always do, because it scares more people.

Posted by: exlibra on September 16, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

"If Limbaugh is no longer the leader of the GOP does and they are taking their marching orders from Beck does that mean that Glen Beck is the Czar of the GOP?"

No! Glen Beck is the 'Plantation Massah'!

Posted by: SadOldVet on September 16, 2009 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans genuinely want all the "czars" to be subject to Senate confirmation, they should do something about the fact that every nominee who comes before them has to wait six months while they go through their lives with a fine-toothed comb hunting for anything even marginally controversial. Just sayin'.

Posted by: MAE on September 16, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

MAE, @14:05,

It's the Senatorial version of the insurance companies practice: denial of service/reimbursment on the basis of an -- unrelated -- preexisting condition.

Posted by: exlibra on September 16, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

You're still defending ACORN? Really? Have you seen the video where the ACORN employee tries to get tax breaks for people that claim to have underage sex slaves?

Posted by: Alex on September 16, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Members of the House and Senate have ample proof of how easy it is to whip the Wingers into a feeding frenzy. All kinds of crazy shit has been thrown out there, and if there is just a hint that the bait has been taken, more bloody chum is tossed into the water. This is an example of bait that is helping them reel in bat-shit crazy people who are willing to toss $$$ to the R's re-election coffers. Many of these people don't have a pot to piss in, but just like the televangicals selling their own influence with God, they'll get the Desperately Gullible to send in some 'support' money, the R's will "go after" all of those legally appointed bureaucrats.

And it makes really good television.

Posted by: jcricket on September 16, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

There should be a Czar to look into this. A czar's czar if you will. Drive 'em wild.

Posted by: Tom on September 16, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

CORRECTION: Rep Clay from MO is a republican...remember "blackberry-Davy Crockett" Clay?

Posted by: bjobotts on September 16, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Czar is a term the press uses not the gov. Is there no one to call Beck a fool. A pathetic creature followed by the same.

Posted by: bjobotts on September 16, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Their motives and consistency are suspect as always, but aren't there supposed to rules about advisers, cabinet heads; their appointment and pay etc? At least Steve needs to put out if this is OK by the rules etc, it may well be, so we know the factual background. Just seeing a snarky running down of what oppos are doing, in a factual vacuum, isn't enough.

Posted by: N e i l B on September 16, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Understandable confusion, bjobotts - Missouri has two representatives from the StL area named Clay and Aiken. Wm. Lacy Clay is an inner city black Democrat with an accountability fetish, and Aiken is a wingnut repub who wants to be James Inhoffe when he grows up.

Posted by: Blue Girl on September 16, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

(Update - yes I see the reference to precedent etc, what I meant was: some direct reference to the rules permitting such officers, the rules of their confirmation, who pays them, when established etc. would make it easier if any of us needs to answer to say, "these 'czars' (whatever the basis of the colloquial title) are not authorized by the Constitution/Congressional rules" etc.)

Posted by: N e i l B ♫ on September 16, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

So how are they going to decide who is a czar and who is an appointee? And what if some Democrat makes any penalties retroactive to the last eight years or so?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on September 16, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck - Crazy GOP Propoganda Czar.

Did the Senate appoint him? I don't think so.

Posted by: Gridlock on September 16, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The White House should immediately announce that it has eliminated all czars from the government and replaced them with poobahs and potentates, instead. Then move on.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 16, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

We make fun of the GOP but this whole czar thing illustrates why they whip our butts again and again. They've taken a total non-issue that no one cares about and are hammering it day in and out. Before long, we'll see polls on it. We'll start hearing that people are "concerned" about Obama's czars. We'll hear the Sunday morning shows asking about it, giving a chance for the GOP to go on the attack and the Dems, as always, to go on the defense.

We Dems can't show this sort of constancy of purpose and discipline even in vital and historic matters like, say, invading Iraq and getting health care to Americans. The kick our butts because they are better than we are at delivering (and repeating) a consistent, clear message day after day after day.

Posted by: Ohio Rick on September 16, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

The White House responds to the latest poutrage du jour from the Republicans regarding the horror of too many czars. Be afraid, be very afraid. There is an endless supply of nonsense and stupidity from these people.


Posted by: Ladyhawke on September 16, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ohio Rick: We're handicapped by the fact that we care about governing, and they only care about scoring points. The reason Democrats can't be relied upon to mindlessly chant slogans is that in order to govern successfully, we elect people who can think for themselves. It's a double-edged sword, but I'll take cat-herding over authoritarianism any day.

Posted by: Redshift on September 16, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think an appropriate response would be for the Congressional leadership to revise the rules so that rather than voting "aye" or "nay", congressmen and senators can vote "STFU" when the proposal is just too stupid for words.

Posted by: Redshift on September 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

"The Washington Post noted today . . ."

That's "Even the right-wing Washington post noted today . . . ," isn't it? Sorry if I'm being pedantic.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on September 17, 2009 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

But wait, I'm so confused. I thought that anything the President of the United States wishes to do is both legal and ethical by virtue of being proposed by the President. Wasn't that the logical conclusion of the Unitary Presidency theory?

I guess that theory is no longer operable.

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