Some truth about czars

Although my irony meter has been damaged beyond repair by these folks complaining about Barack Obama making an “end run around Congress”, I’ll give Morissey props for both 1) more or less properly relating the administration’s position, and 2) for including a few more facts (if not quite all) needed for contextualizing the administration’s response on the “czar” silliness (that even Lamar Alexander) jumped on:
The real truth about the czars….

Oh yeah – 3) Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now was fantastic…

A statement from the post that needs further scrutiny:

What we can see here is that Bush created five non-confirmed positions in his administration — in eight years.

NicholasThis is likely misconstrued from the preceding chart which shows five non-confirmed positions Obama has continued from the previous administration. The chart Morissey has included does not reference all sixteen czar positions from the GWB Administration. Considering that Clinton only had seven, it’s logical that GWB either created or re-upped at least nine czars.

Using the list on this page, I count five positions that do not require Senate confirmation identified as new positions created by GWB on this chart:

health IT
bird flu

There are thirteen others not requiring Senate confirmation identified in the GWB Administration – at least two of these must have been new positions created by GWB: health czar for the World Trade Center (WTC), and Gulf Coast reconstruction.

In addition there were two positions requiring Senate confirmation that avoided it. After the Senate refused to confirm GWB’s mine safety czar (reckon why) and his regulatory czar (reckon why), he filled the positions with recess appointments.

So, I think Morissey made a mistake here.

Another statement that requires further scrutiny:

In contrast, the Obama administration has created 17 “czar” positions in seven months, all but one of which avoid Senate confirmation and Congressional oversight. At least two of these positions will or have already enforced regulation: the Pay Czar and the Auto Recovery Czar…

It simply isn’t clear that Morissey is correctly characterizing the actions of Feinberg and Montgomery as having “enforced regulations”. He doesn’t cite the instances he is talking about, and I can’t read his mind – so I can’t check his work there. But I would be suspicious, especially given that positions that do not require Senate confirmation by definition do not have the power to enforce regulation. Perhaps these folks asked for enforcement from another office and it was actually carried out by someone empowered to do so. We need more info here.

If there is a violation of the authority of Congress going on, it is this point – not whether there are two “czars” or two hundred – that needs attention. Who is doing work they are not empowered to do without Congressional review under the Constitution? My suspicion is nobody. Or at least no “czar”. If we’re talking about Bagram AFB, that’s a whole other question.

Yes, Obama has employed more special advisors and policy coordinators than previous Presidents have, and has done so earlier in his administration. But guess what. That’s what they are. Not actual Romanovs.

So… That’s that. How did I do?

10 comments to Some truth about czars

  • RW

    It simply isn’t clear that Morissey is correctly characterizing the actions of Feinberg and Montgomery as having “enforced regulations”.

    I (guess) think he means the regulations put forth by the Obama admin (memos, commands, orders, etc.) not LAWS. We had regulations in place determining which auto dealerships were going to be shut down, how much GM stock the unions were going to be given (unbelievable), how much a CEO was going to be allowed to make, what criteria was going to be in place for the cash for klunkers program (in my car’s case, it depended on where the catalytic converter was located; if it were within a few inches of the motor, I qualified….a few feet, I didn’t qualify) and things like that. Again, just a guess, but there were gov’t regulations put in place for many programs and they didn’t evolve from congressional legislation (I don’t think).

    BTW, the Lindsay Beyerstein link about czars in your links section is illustrative of what I’m seeing a lot more of: Angry bloggers who have nothing to offer other than various ways of writing “God, I hate those people”. I had a reminder yesterday (you may have noticed on FB) about what is truly important in life….it ain’t about putting screws to your political opponents by way of typing on a keyboard, folks. If you’re getting angry about some politician or some opinion-writer, back away from the computer & take a walk with your loved ones.

  • RW

    BTW, kudos to you for keeping an eye on your senator. I follow politics and I have to go out of my way to find out what my guys are doing, which is why I’ve long called them “GOP suits who could be replaced by another GOP suit and no one would know the difference”.

  • Just what I have been waiting for. A War On Czars!

    I think the first shots were fired from some representative from Georgia so that tells me all I need to know about it.

    When you live in Georgia you can keep up with your Senators with your eyes closed.

  • I had a reminder yesterday (you may have noticed on FB)

    I will have to go back and look. NetNanny doesn’t like it here at work… Truth is I rarely log on. I was on for a few minutes last night but I didn’t see any updates from you on the front page. I hope everything’s ok & I’ll check it out when I can get back on.

  • RW

    Nah, not me, but a friend of ours. Summary: Lovely lady, absolutely gorgeous, mother of a son who is class with my son & a daughter who is in class with my daughter. We met her & her family at an autism meeting since her son also has autism. She’d had trouble getting pregnant in the past so they adopted three girls (not that it matters, but the girls aren’t lily white like my kids) & when she did get pregnant they had to take her son a month early in order to save her life. Flash-forward to this year when she got pregnant. The ultra-sound shows a little girl and they couldn’t be more excited. Already named “Maggie”, the family & her 800+ friends on FB (!) are awaiting updates on the progress of this somewhat miraculous pregnancy. Well, this week her BP shot up to dangerous levels and her liver shut down. She was admitted to the ER on Tuesday and yesterday, in her 5th month, they had to take Maggie in order to save the mother’s life. Needless to say, Maggie didn’t survive and Mom was ‘iffy’ yesterday. The news this morning was positive as the liver enzymes finally showed improvement and the BP seems to be getting closer to normal. So, that’s the positive: this gorgeous 30-something knockout appears to be no longer on the “maybe will die” list. The negative is that they had a baby girl that died yesterday (they were at least able to spend some time with her in the room) and knowledge that any time she gets pregnant will likely result in similar circumstances. There was the yearly autism fundraiser in our county last night – my wife is VP of the group and I’m the web-master – and there was a cloud of sadness over the event since Maggie died yesterday morning.

    So, that’s why TODAY I’m looking at things like czars or Senate seats on the same level as I do the temperature of the tap water in Phoenix right now. Sorry to be a buzz-kill, but you know how these “close to home” events can temporarily affect you. I’ll be back to my normal a-hole in no time. :)

  • Oh – wow… That’s terrible. And I feel you… Honestly, I’m at an arms length from just about everything bloggy right now. Some days I find something to write just to exercise discipline. This was one of them. My heart goes out to your friend & her family.

  • RW

    Some days I find something to write just to exercise discipline. This was one of them.

    I’m glad you did. I think that the czar thing may end up being like the special prosecutor stuff: okay when it fits your party’s interests, not so good when you don’t get the benefits. Hopefully, they’ll begin to fall by the wayside in future administrations, no matter who wins. I mean, it’s not as though the federal government isn’t big enough already and doesn’t have enough manpower….

  • [i]…not so good when you don’t get the benefits.[/i]

    I’m not sure what benefits any Administration gets from Czars. They set up dual lines of authority and greatly complicated the lives of Cabinent Officers. Imagine your self promoted to some position of responsiblitity and your boss tells you by the way, I’m also naming this other guy as Czar and while he has no line authority over your people, he’ll be out there talking about your work and giving me advice.

  • I’m also naming this other guy as Czar and while he has no line authority over your people, he’ll be out there talking about your work and giving me advice.

    Imagine, hell. My company has a sales department.

    I’m here all week.

    But seriously, I can’t imagine being Prez… If I was, I don’t know if I’d want piles of policy wonks on every issue or not. But, you know, that ain’t my concern, cause I ain’t a Prez.

  • RW

    Bill, if they’re having czars that are serving in redundant roles, sure. But, having a czar over every possible malady that could exist is becoming the norm. Yeah, Obama’s reaping the bennies right now by having czars that can carry out his bidding while bypassing the nasty confirmation hearings that sweep up so many.

    Can anyone imagine Van Jones’ confirmation hearings, for example?

    So, yeah, they all reap some benefits when they bypass oversight, even if it’s token.

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