Conservatives have been making a lot of noise about czars recently as a threat to the Constitution. The first clue that their argument is based upon a number of factual errors is that, as Factcheck.org points out, this charge is being led by the idiotic and irresponsible Fox anchor Glenn Beck:
There’s been a certain fascination with calling Obama’s advisers and appointees “czars.” Fox News host Glenn Beck has identified 32 Obama czars on his Web site, whom he has characterized as a collective “iceberg” threatening to capsize the Constitution. Beck and other television hosts aren’t the only ones crying czar, either. Six Republican senators recently sent a letter to the White House saying that the creation of czar posts “circumvents the constitutionally established process of ‘advise and consent.’ ” Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah issued a press release saying that czars “undermine the constitution.” And Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post complaining about the czar menace, including the factually inaccurate claim that only “a few of them have formal titles.”
While Beck claims that Obama has appointed 32 czars, Factcheck shows that the number is actually only eight:
- Nine were confirmed by the Senate, including the director of national intelligence (“intelligence czar“), the chief performance officer (“government performance czar“) and the deputy interior secretary (“California water czar“).
- Eight more were not appointed by the president – the special advisor to the EPA overseeing its Great Lakes restoration plan (“Great Lakes czar“) is EPA-appointed, for instance, and the assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs (“border czar“) is appointed by the secretary of homeland security.
- Fifteen of the “czarships” Beck lists, including seven that are in neither of the above categories, were created by previous administrations. (In some cases, as with the “economic czar,” the actual title – in this case, chairman of the president’s economic recovery advisory board – is new, but there has been an official overseeing the area in past administrations. In others, as with the special envoy to Sudan, the position is old but the “czar” appellation is new.)
- In all, of the 32 positions in Beck’s list, only eight are Obama-appointed, unconfirmed, brand new czars.
I’ve previously noted that many right wingers who are engaged in a smear campaign against Cass Sunstein, including Glenn Beck, are falsely claiming he is a czar despite the fact that he requires Senate confirmation for his position.
The actual czars are generally in positions where there is no permanent post which is subject to Senate confirmation. Often czars deal with managing new areas of interest for a current administration, holding positions which are often temporary and which did not exist in the past.
Putting this number in perspective Factcheck notes that the Democratic National Committee counts 47 czars appointed by George W. Bush. Factcheck also disagrees with the characterization of some of them as czars and reduces the number to 35. This included the “faith-based czar” and the “cybersecurity czar.” Once again, the right wing has suddenly discovered a problem under Barack Obama which they were never concerned about under Republican administrations.