Sunday, September 06, 2009

For Mr. Elwood Blues

Big news of the day: Van Jones resigns from his czar position in the administration.

THIS was a good way to wake up today!

The Jones debacle got me thinking--actually, thinking AGAIN--about czars. What are they paid? HOW are they paid? (for example, Congressional staffers get paid by their sponsor member, who have a pretty tight budget for such things--is the same true for the President's non-confirmed staff? Or does Obama saying "he's with me" mean automatic entitlement to Senior Executive Service pay?) And do these czars have to take an oath to the Constitution, like every other employee of the federal government does?

So I ran a google search. . .which led me to yahoo's questions site where a "lilmisspriss200533" had asked "how much are the Czars in the Obama Administration being paid?" As one of the responses (and it should be noted that ANYBODY can respond until the answer is considered "resolved"), Mr. Elwood Blues posted the following:

OMG!! Look at all these Obama czars!!

Donald E. Powell.
Oh, sorry that was Bush’s Czar to Rebuild Gulf Coast; see…

John P. Walters.
Oops, that was one of Bush's Drug Czars; see…

Karen Hughes.
No, that was Bush's Public Diplomacy Czar; see…

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.
Bush's 'War Czar' -- see…

Then there's Bush's 'Copyright Czar' -- see,2817,233…
And Bush's Spy Czar -- see…
And Bush's Heath Czar -- see…
And Bush's Privacy Czar -- see…
And Bush's Corruption Czar -- see remarks of White House spokesman Scott Stanzel…

Randall Tobias.
Bush's AIDS Czar. See…

Dr. Mark Dybul.
Bush's other AIDS Czar. See…

Richard Stickler.
Bush's Mine Safety Czar -- see…

John Negroponte.
Bush's Intelligence Czar -- see…

Otto Reich.
Bush's Latin America czar -- see…

Yeah, all these czars are just terrible, now that Obama is appointing them! Somehow it just wasn't a problem under G.W. Bush though -- why do you think that is?

And I thought: fair enough. I don't like czars under any administration, because all they do is help obfuscate that which should be perfectly transparent. If there were czars under Bush, that's just as bad as czars under Obama.

But that list seemed long to me. I could remember Hughes and Rove--who could forget?--but the rest kinda left me curious. So, in the spirit of Phineas and Ferb, I knew what I was going to do today: look at this list and see how many of them were "czars" in the same vein as the recently-resigned Van Jones.

By name:
* Powell, Donald E. Served as Bush's "czar" to rebuild the Gulf Coast AS AN EMPLOYEE OF DHS, and therefore his employment was subject to oversight by Congress, who confirmed the Secretary of DHS.
* Walters, John P. Served as Bush's drug "czar" WHEN THAT POSITION WAS A CABINET-LEVEL POSITION and therefore subject to Congressional oversight. Walters was confirmed by the Senate on December 5, 2001. Guess who ended that position's responsibility to Congress? I'll give you a hint: it was after January 20, 2009.
* Hughes, Karen. Served multiple roles in the Bush White House, but in the position described by "Mr. Blues" above, she was actually in a Senate-confirmed position as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. So even a "gimme" for the czar list turned out to be a non-starter in this argument.

Shall I go on?

oh, why not?

* Lt Gen Douglas Lute was nominated by Bush to serve as Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan. He was confirmed by the Senate on June 28, 2007.
* "Copyright Czar"--as a position--didn't exist until October 2008, when Bush signed the PRO-IP act. He never appointed someone to fill the position.
* "Spy Czar" is the fun name for John Negroponte's position as Director of National Intelligence, a position that was confirmed by the Senate.
* "Health Czar"--near as I can tell--refers to Dr. John Howard, who, as a corollary to his position as director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also was appointed by Bush to work as special coordinator to handle the medical issues afflicting 9/11 rescue workers, specifically those at the World Trade Center site. This was not a new job unto itself; rather, it was an additional duty he did on top of his work as NIOSH director--which, as part of the Department of Health and Human Services, fell under Congressional Oversight.
* "Privacy czar", I don't believe, ever existed under Bush, either. The article Mr. Blues links to goes no further than saying Bush considered creating such a position in 2002; I cannot find anything about that position eventually coming to fruition.
* "Corruption czar"--again, several press releases about Bush's intent, but nothing to be found regarding the creation of the actual post.
* Tobias, Randall. Nominated by Bush--AND CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE--to be the first US Global AIDS Coordinator. Later he became the first US Director of Foreign Assistance, serving concurrently as Administrator of the US Agency for International Development--for which he was confirmed by the Senate in 2006. That's the history of Bush's so-called "AIDS Czar".
* Dr. Mark Dybul, Bush's other "AIDS Czar", was the Global AIDS Coordinator, a position within the State Department that reports directly to the SECSTATE and requires Senate confirmation.
* Richard Stickler, Bush's "Mine Safety Czar", actually held the position of Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Granted, he was never confirmed by the Senate--although Bush submitted his name twice. He was a recess appointment, and regardless of his confirmation status, he was asked to testify before Congress numerous times due to his role with the administration.
* John Negroponte--that would be the "spy czar", so see above.
* Otto Reich, Bush's "Latin America czar", was really a recess appointment to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere position, and then he was appointed US Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere. That second job is a little sketchy--I don't know what a Special Envoy does, and I can't find if it is a job that falls under SECSTATE.

So of Mr. Blues' list, only ONE is even questionable as a non-Congressional oversight position. The lesson there, I would think, is that just because the NYTimes, LA Times, Newsweek, and other liberal organs in the media report that someone is a "czar", that doesn't mean that they are so. All of these folks under Bush (again, except for possibly Reich) had a responsibility to report to Congress, and most were approved for the positions they held by Congress.

Compare that with what Obama has done. Do you remember Van Jones appearing before Congress in his role as Green Jobs adviser? (He appeared before his appointment--and note that key word, "appointment", as opposed to "nomination" or "confirmation") What about any of Obama's other "advisors"?

Yes, that is a problem. Especially for an administration that signalled at one point to be all about transparency and accountability. What, Obama, don't your cabinet members have the ability to lead?

Or is the problem higher than that?

And again, I ask: HOW are these "advisors" paid? And do they, like every other Federal Employee, take an oath?

Enquiring mind wants to know!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, you've shown that almost all of Bush's "czars" were hired by a department with a congressionally approved head. Now you need to show how many of Obama's "czars" are NOT hired by a department with a congressionally approved head. You're halfway there, but you haven't yet proven your point.

And while we're at it, who exactly supplies the label "czar"? Is it the administration or the media? Or was it mostly the administration under Bush and mostly the media under Obama? Because if Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh can just go and re-label a bunch of bureaucrats as "czar" then the label is beginning to lose its meaning.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:33 PM  

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