Sunday, July 19, 2009
A Plethora of Czars
An article called “Obama’s Czars ‘R’ US!” at GlobalResearch.ca lists 31 “czar” positions in Obama’s White House, a few of which have not been filled. Pundits on the conservative side have been sounding warnings about the dangers of this situation, and, to me, the closer one looks at it, the more frightening it appears.
I suppose most everyone knows that a “czar” is supposed to be someone of great power who rules over others. The word comes from “Caesar.” It is not an official title as used here, but has become a common way to describe important advisors who are White House appointees who generally work independently of the Cabinet and Congress.
Czars are appointed by the President and often do not require Senate confirmation, and thus they are accountable only to the President without congressional oversight. Obama previously said something about transparency in government, but his leadership style demonstrates the opposite of transparency. His “shadow cabinet” czars seem to have as much authority as Cabinet officers confirmed by the Senate, or perhaps more.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) is sponsoring legislation to bring czars under congressional oversight and subject them to Senate confirmation. It seems only reasonable, since they have so much power and no accountability except to the President. As Kingston points out, these 33 or more czars with their staffs and their ample pay comprise a significant bureaucracy with corresponding potential for corruption and abuse.
One of the most disturbing of these appointments is Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein as regulatory czar. Sunstein is no friend of free speech, having suggested that a form of the Fairness Doctrine applying to the internet would be worth considering.
Julian Sanchez at juliansanchez.com states that Sunstein does not support these ideas now since they would be seen as unconstitutional. But to have seriously suggested them is grounds for concern.
He wrote, “A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, it is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government. Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom's name.”
Kyle Smith discusses the possible chilling effect Sunstein could have on the blogosphere in an article called “Gag the Internet,” concerning Sunstein's new book, On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done. See it at http://www.nypost.com/seven/07112009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/.
Sunstein has stated that he favors banning hunting (for sport) in the U.S., which shows he is not a fan of individual rights and not fond of the Second Amendment.
Sanchez claims that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the White House Office of Management and Budget(the proper name of Sunstein’s czar domain) is not particularly powerful.
The Wall Street Journal takes a different view, reporting as follows:
“Mr. Sunstein, who declined to be interviewed pending his Senate confirmation, expected this month, has been picked to run the obscure but powerful Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House Office of Management and Budget. Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 to reduce paperwork and weigh the usefulness of new regulations, the office is the final clearinghouse for rules written by agencies government-wide.” 
Sunstein was a colleague and friend of Obama at the University of Chicago who has admittedly radical leftist ideas. He has been mentioned a possible Supreme Court nominee.
The very existence of many of these czars raises serious constitutional questions, and call into question Obama’s leadership style, which appears to be to avoid scrutiny wherever possible and wield great influence without having to deal too much with checks and balances. He learned his methods from the Chicago Democratic machine and likely developed some of his techniques as a community organizer.
There are 30-plus czars in all at present, many more than Reagan or Bush had. Probably, there should never have been any. They are assigned to do things that should be done by the existing cabinet departments or not done at all. But then these things would have to be more or less out in the open. Under czars, they are pretty well hidden, so that no one is quite sure what they are doing, let alone given much opportunity to question them.
I have only discussed one of these czars, one who is subject to Senate confirmation, but there are many more who are not, some with potentially a great deal of power. Sunstein was chosen for this article because he has shown anti-liberty leanings and is in a powerful position when ever-more regulations are being issued. Obama also has czars for cars, pay(!), climate, energy, the economy, the Middle East, and numerous other things. I hope to write more about them over the next several weeks. This arrangement certainly needs to be examined and the public needs to know what is happening. Don’t count on finding out much from the Administration. If they wanted us to know these things, they wouldn’t be using a system like this. By comparison, Bush’s “secretive” administration looks like a glass house.
Photo: portrait of Cass Sunstein found at Worldnet Daily - http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=96301.