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News Here a Czar, there a Czar, everywhere a Czar Czar

  1. Aug 24, 2009 #1
    I remember when the first Drug Czar was appointed. It was a major announcement and an urgent response to a problem requiring special attention.

    Somehow the need for Czars has grown to include a list of 32 appointments. The President even joked a few weeks ago about a new reality TV show "Dancing with the Czars".

    These appointments are not vetted by Congress. Apparently, they are not accountable to anyone but the White House?

    Is this an expansion of Executive Power or merely a political designation to reward selfless public service?

    Are they authorized to hire staffs and what are their budgets?

    Why is it Constitutional?

    I couldn't find a list on whitehouse.gov and sourced this from http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-296588 on July 11, 2009 (I don't know what the numbers after the names mean)

    "Here is a list of Obama’s current and prospective Czar positions:

    1. Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra. [17].
    2. Drug Czar: Gil Kerlikowske [9].
    3. Copyright Czar: Not appointed yet. [15].
    4. Energy Czar: Carol M. Browner [12].
    5. Car Czar: Ed Montgomery. [17].
    6. Terrorism/WMD Czar: Gary Samore. [17].
    7. Health Care Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle. [7].
    8. Education Czar: Not appointed yet. [16].
    9. Economic Czar: Paul Volcker. [17].
    10. Mortgage Czar: Not appointed yet. [1].
    11. Urban Affairs/Housing Czar: Adolfo Carrion. [10].
    12. Guantanomo closure Czar: Danny Fried. [17].
    13. Great lakes Czar: Cameron Davis. [11].
    14. Stimulus accountability Czar: Earl Devaney. [17].
    15. Cyberspace Czar: Not appointed yet. [16].
    16. Border Czar: Alan Bersin (Former US attorney). [6].
    17. Intelligence Czar: Admiral Dennis Blair. [8].
    18. Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein. [2].
    19. Pay Czar: Kenneth Feinberg [3].
    20. Iran Czar: Not appointed yet. [16].
    21. Tarp Czar: Herb Allison. [17].
    22. Middle-East peace Czar: George Mitchell. [17].
    23. Science Czar: John Holdren. [17].
    24. Green jobs Czar: Van Jones. [17].
    25. Afghanistan Czar: Richard Holbrooke. [17].
    26. Sudan Czar: J. Scott Gration. [17].
    27. Mideast policy Czar: Dennis Ross. [17].
    28. Information Czar: Vivek Kundra. [17].
    29. AIDS Czar: Jeffrey Crowley. [17].
    30. Faith-based Czar: Joshua Dubois. [17].
    31. Climate Czar: Todd Stern. [17].""

    We can fill in the blanks, identify #32, and update as the thread progresses.

    Is anyone else interested in finding out what role these people play in our Government, their qualifications, staffs, budgets, authorities/power, goals, and accomplishments as part of the Executive Team?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2009 #2
    You could try googling some of their names to find out. Richard Holbrooke popped out at me, he's pretty good (Former Ambassador to the UN under clinton).

    As for the constitutionality, why do you think it's not constitutional?
  4. Aug 24, 2009 #3


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    If you're the president of the United States, how can you be in 32 places at one time? You can't! I see nothing wrong with this. Well...32 might be a bit stretching it.:rofl:
  5. Aug 24, 2009 #4


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    I dislike the term "Czar." But having one person whose sole responsibility is to track a single problem isn't a bad idea. Yes 32 seems a bit much, but then when you think of all the problems we have...well, maybe it's not so big after all.
  6. Aug 24, 2009 #5


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    Fun game - go down the list and try and guess if each 'X' tsar is supposed to be working for or against 'X'.
    Then as a bonus, guess if the tsar in question knows.
  7. Aug 24, 2009 #6
    I like to go down the list look the person up on wikipedia, and see which major corporation they used to work for, and watch the stock in that company to see how it goes.

    First one on my list is Energy Czar, and APX, inc.

    "In 2008 she joined the board of APX, Inc., which specializes in technology infrastructure for the environmental commodities markets[18], including those for carbon offsets and the CDM Gold Standard."


    I bet that is a good investment.
  8. Aug 24, 2009 #7
    It's not clear what their responsibilities are - couldn't find anything on the WH site.
  9. Aug 24, 2009 #8
    Hey, you might be on to something - The Czar Index available exclusively through the jreelawg Fund.
  10. Aug 24, 2009 #9


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    Without having gotten too deep into the issue myself, at face value, it just looks to me like if someone is appointed by the President and reports only to the President, then his legal status would be the same as any non-cabinet advisor. Unlike cabinet members, these people are one-issue experts/advisors. Any actions by a "czar" would be tantamount to actions under an executive order. I don't see why there would be a constitutional problem with that.

    That said, one of the complaints about Bush was that he did too much with executive orders. So that criticism would have to apply to Obama as well, if that is how these things work legally.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  11. Aug 24, 2009 #10


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    Googling for the issue does find articles. Here's one:
  12. Aug 24, 2009 #11
    Obama promised transparency, I anticipate more information will be forthcoming. I guess the most important question will be of duplication of efforts/mixed signals, which could be an issue in some areas. A lot will depend upon the size of their staffs, resources, and ability to make decisions or implement policy.

    As an extension of your observation, Obama will be held accountable for all of their actions.
  13. Aug 25, 2009 #12
    What exactly is not transparent?

    I don't see you specifying where mixed signals are being sent, nor duplication of efforts in any areas.

    Which is how big? how many? how much? I see no actual figures here from anyone.

    That makes no sense.
  14. Aug 25, 2009 #13
    Assuming that they exercise only executive power delegated by the President, the constitution requires that they answer only to the President, not the other two branches of federal government, regarding such power. All executive power is vested in the President.

    Even Cabinet positions, while they must be approved by the legislative branch, only exercise power as delegated by the President.

    But, I also hate the word "Czar", since it historically means king, emperor, or ruler. What would be so terrible with having a Drug "Captain"? Or Drug "Lieutenant"?
  15. Aug 25, 2009 #14
    The point is that they really aren't operational yet. We'll have to wait and watch. As per accountability, if they answer only to the President then Obama will be held accountable for their actions- does that make sense?
  16. Aug 25, 2009 #15


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    Are these subject to the same oversight as traditional cabinet positions?

    You have a secretary of defence and a military chain of command - why do you then have a czar for each country you are fighting?
    Is the inteligence tzar the boss of the directors of cia/nsa/nro ?

    Why a tarp czar, stimulus czar and economic czar when you have a treasury dept?
  17. Aug 25, 2009 #16


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    This discussion is interesting in light of a recent NY Times article stating that only 43% of the policymaking positions requiring senate confirmation have been filled. Basically, the obsession with vetting candidates so that the senate won't find any problems with the appointments greatly slows the process, making it nearly impossible for Presidents to fill these positions in a timely manner. This is not just a problem of the Obama administration; the Obama administration is actually getting these appointments through at a faster rate than previous administrations, yet more than half of these positions remain unfilled:
    So, yes, it is nice in theory for congress to have oversight over the president's appointments. But, this oversight comes at a cost in terms of the efficiency and speed of the process. The creation of these Czar positions may be one means that has evolved to allow the executive to work around the inefficiencies of the appointment process.
  18. Aug 25, 2009 #17
    So then what's the problem?

    Agreed. You should have made this thread after some facts came to light.

    I'm not sure what the word "accountability" means still. In any event, I would assume "accountability" for his appointements are no more or less than what they are for any other person he appointed without the "Czar" title.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  19. Aug 25, 2009 #18
    Why are you asking me? Try Google or CNN....I don't know <shrug>. I simply asked what was not transparent. To be clear, I'm not trying to discredit your question: I think its valid, but your question is not about transparency. It's about role clarity. My question and your follow up question have nothing to do with one another.

    I think those are fair points, and that we should wait for an answer when information becomes available.

    I'm not going to speculate an answer. We'll just have to wait and see. :wink:
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  20. Aug 25, 2009 #19


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    :rofl: That's a good one.

    I was under the impression that this whole Czar thing isnt new to the Obama administration, he simply added a fair amount of new Czars.
  21. Aug 25, 2009 #20
    So does anyone yet have a link that describes what exactly a Czar is (as far as presidential cabinet appointments that is)? Did I miss it?

    So far as I can tell they are just people who research for and advise the president. Maybe they also take meetings for the president with people involved in their particular area and do some political negotiating with the presidents agenda in mind. Other than that I have no idea and so I have no idea where all this "president will be accountable for their actions and decisions" comes from. What actions and decisions are they even able to make?
  22. Aug 25, 2009 #21

    Ivan Seeking

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    I wasn't aware of any potential Constitutional issues, but I really hate the name.

    Seriously, you would think they went out of their way to come up with a name that would bother people. Nixon was probably hammered when he came up with it. Yeah, Czar, that will freak out those hippies! :biggrin:
  23. Aug 25, 2009 #22
    There doesn't seem to be much information available, but a lot of speculation.

    The House Minority Whip Eric Cantor said this in the Washington Post

    Obama's 32 Czars

    By Eric Cantor
    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    "The biggest problems that we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States." -- Sen. Barack Obama, March 31, 2008

    To say President Obama failed to follow through on this promise is an understatement. By appointing a virtual army of "czars" -- each wholly unaccountable to Congress yet tasked with spearheading major policy efforts for the White House -- in his first six months, the president has embarked on an end-run around the legislative branch of historic proportions.

    To be sure, the appointment of a few special officers to play a constructive role in a given administration is nothing new. What is new is the elevation of so many czars, with so much authority on endless policy fronts. Vesting such broad authority in the hands of people not subjected to Senate confirmation and congressional oversight poses a grave threat to our system of checks and balances.

    At last count, there were at least 32 active czars that we knew of, meaning the current administration has more czars than Imperial Russia.

    The administration has a Mideast peace czar (not to be confused with the Mideast policy czar), a Sudan czar and a Guantanamo closure czar. Then there's the green jobs czar, sometimes in conflict with the energy czar, who talks to the technology czar, who sometimes crosses paths with the urban affairs czar. We mustn't forget the Great Lakes czar or the WMD czar, who no doubt works hand in hand with the terrorism czar. The stimulus accountability czar is going through a rough time right now, as is the TARP czar -- but thankfully they have to answer to the government performance czar. And seemingly everyone falls under the auspices of the information czar. In a government full of duplicative bureaucracies, adding more layers with overlapping responsibilities hardly seems the way to go.

    Even Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) was fearful enough to pen a letter to President Obama in February highlighting his concerns with the administration's tactics. The Constitution mandates that the Senate confirm Cabinet-level department heads and other appointees in positions of authority -- known as "principal officers." This gives Congress -- elected by the people -- the power to compel executive decision-makers to testify and be held accountable by someone other than the president. It also ensures that key appointees cannot claim executive privilege when subpoenaed to come before Congress.

    As we move forward, proper oversight of the growing lineup of czars is essential. From orchestrating bailouts to making industrial policies to moving toward government-run national health care, Washington seems intent on sailing into uncharted waters -- and the czars are often steering the ship.

    The car czar, who stepped down this month amid controversy over his former firm's role in a scandal, had been managing government's recent takeover of a huge swath of the domestic auto industry and making decisions for auto companies. The pay czar -- also known in White House circles as the "special master for compensation" -- has the power to reject or accept any current and future compensation for the top 100 earners at companies that received, in some cases under pressure, money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program. In the coming months he will decide the fate of $235 million in pending retention bonuses at AIG. And the health czar, meanwhile, has become as influential as perhaps anyone in the Obama administration, spearheading White House negotiations with doctors, hospitals and other health providers. She will play a key role in determining which medicines, treatments and cures are deemed necessary for the public.

    The point here is not that President Obama's reliance on czars is illegal (although it does raise significant, unresolved constitutional issues). Nor is it that these czars are bad people. It's that we have not been able to vet them, and that we have no idea what they're doing. It's that candidate Obama made a pledge to keep Congress in the light. Yet less than six months after his inauguration, the president appears intent to keep Congress more and more in the dark. Dozens of czars at a time.

    The writer, a Republican from Virginia, is the House minority whip."

    I couldn't find a rebuttal to his comments.
  24. Aug 25, 2009 #23
    According to Wikipedia, the term was used by the media to refer to appointed executive branch officials as far back as FDR's administration.

  25. Aug 25, 2009 #24
    Here's another perspective from the NY Times. This article discusses staffing.

    An interesting excerpt:
    "Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled — a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees and a legislative agenda that has consumed both.

    While career employees or holdovers fill many posts on a temporary basis, Mr. Obama does not have his own people enacting programs central to his mission. He is trying to fix the financial markets but does not have an assistant treasury secretary for financial markets. He is spending more money on transportation than anyone since Dwight D. Eisenhower but does not have his own inspector general watching how the dollars are used. He is fighting two wars but does not have an Army secretary.

    He sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Africa to talk about international development but does not have anyone running the Agency for International Development. He has invited major powers to a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but does not have an assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation. "

    "...Mr. Obama has a more intact national security team than his predecessor at this point. But even in this area, vital offices remain open. No Obama appointee is running the Transportation Security Administration, the Customs and Border Protection agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Mr. Obama still does not have an intelligence chief at the Department of Homeland Security, nor a top civilian in charge of military readiness at the Pentagon."

    There is no mention of Czars in this article, but some of the Czar descriptions seem to overlap these openings - or not?
  26. Aug 25, 2009 #25

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re the Washington Post comments by Cantor, it sounds to me like something that should be reviewed, but even Cantor doesn't suggest there is anything illegal. I can easily see where this could simply be a management style issue. Does Cantor accurately represent the decision-making power of these folks; do they simply make recommendations? Perhaps Obama has a lot of Czars simply because he is taking on so many issues; as he promised to do.

    I don't remember if it was David Gergen or another former WH advisor who said this, but it seems that the ruling logic in the Obama WH is that, the longer a President is in power, the less power he has. So the decision was made to do as much as possible, as quickly as possible - presumably with a clear plan in place. This could lead to a management style that is somewhat unfamiliar. That is also why people are accusing him of trying to do too much at once. The idea that he would have more of these Czars than we are used to seeing would seem to be consistent with the stated WH logic.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
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