Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Czars than a Romanov

I'm glad I am not the only one to notice the abundance of czars in Dear Leaders administration. He is stacking the deck, even Sen Robert Byrd thinks so. This is not going to end well, in my opinion.
From American Daughter:

By Nancy Matthis Saturday, April 18th, 2009 at 1:26 am

Obama will rule the country through a group of czars. He is moving swiftly to concentrate power in the White House, bypassing the review of our elected representatives in Congress. Even though the cabinet positions are part of the executive branch, the cabinet secretaries must be approved by Congress, they are funded by Congress, and they can be called before Congress to testify. The czars, on the other hand, are appointed by Obama at his sole discretion, and are answerable only to him. If subpoenaed by Congress, they can claim executive privilege. So far we have:

Jeffrey Crowley, [openly gay white man] AIDS czar
Herbert Allison Jr., bailout czar
Alan Bersin, border czar
Steve Rattner, [maybe, maybe not] car czar
John Brennan, counterterrorism czar
Melissa Hathaway, [soon to be] cybersecurity czar
Gil Kerlikowske, drug czar
Larry Summers, economic czar
Paul Volcker, economic czar number two
Carol Browner, energy czar
Van Jones, green jobs czar
Daniel Fried, Guantanamo closure czar
Nancy-Ann DeParle, health czar
Vivek Kundra, infotech czar
Dennis Blair, intelligence czar
Cass Sunstein, regulatory czar
Joshua DuBois, religion czar
John Holdren, science czar
Earl Devaney, stimulus oversight czar
Ron Kirk, trade czar
Adolfo Carrion, urban affairs czar
Gary Samore, weapons of mass destruction czar

Some observers are beginning to worry. Back in February constitutional scholar Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) expressed concern:

Byrd Calls Obama’s Czars DangerousFebruary 25, 2009
Robert Byrd, the longest serving senator in history, criticized President Obama’s appointment of numerous White House advisors, also called “czars,” saying the presence of the czars gives the president too much power.

These czars report directly to Mr. Obama and have the power to shape national policy on their subject area. So far, Mr. Obama has recruited czars on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Unlike Cabinet secretaries, they do not have to be approved by Congress.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd, a Democrat, said that the czar system “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances,” … Byrd added that oversight of federal agencies is the responsibility of officials approved by the Senate.

“As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, or to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.”

American citizens should take note — the words czar and kaiser come from the Latin root caesar — so we can know what to expect.

Los Angeles Times — President Obama’s czar system concerns some:
As President Obama names more policy czars to his White House team — high-level staff members who will help oversee the administration’s top initiatives — some lawmakers and Washington interest groups are raising concerns that he may be subverting the authority of Congress and concentrating too much power in the presidency….
It’s far too early to tell whether Obama’s quest for efficiency will lead to overstepping the bounds of presidential authority….

Foreign Policy — It’s official: Obama creates more czars than the Romanovs:
It has finally happened. With yesterday’s naming of Border Czar Alan Bersin, the Obama administration has by any reasonable reckoning passed the Romanov Dynasty in the production of czars. The Romanovs ruled Russia from 1613 with the ascension of Michael I through the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in 1917. During that time, they produced 18 czars. While it is harder to exactly count the number of Obama administration czars, with yesterday’s appointment it seems fair to say it is now certainly in excess of 18….

Personally, I think from a purely process standpoint all this czarism is a risky business that ends up producing bureaucratic bottlenecks, tensions and inefficiency when not managed extremely carefully. For now we will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will manage it well. Though please, please guys, stop now that you are ahead, now that you are officially the most prolific czarist dynasty in history.

Politico — West Wing on steroids in Obama W.H.:
President Barack Obama is taking far-reaching steps to centralize decision-making inside the White House, surrounding himself with influential counselors, overseas envoys and policy “czars” that shift power from traditional Cabinet posts.

Not even a week has passed since he was sworn in, but already Obama is moving to create perhaps the most powerful staff in modern history – a sort of West Wing on steroids that places no less than a half-dozen of his top initiatives into the hands of advisers outside the Cabinet….
Pulling power close is something all recent presidents have done – and on the campaign trail, Obama spoke out against George W. Bush’s attempt to expand his executive authority.
But when it comes to building his own team, Obama is taking the notion of a powerful White House staff to new heights, leaving little doubt who will set policy and guide the politics of the his newborn administration….

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