Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Enough of the Czars

It's enough already, don't you think? The Obama Administration is setting all manner of record with the appointment of czars to cover every imaginable aspect of government. The kerfuffle over Van Jones is a teachable moment (the fact is that he wasn't vetted and didn't have Senate confirmation for a key advisory position within the Obama Administration), but I'm sure that everyone will miss the point, so let me spell it out.

More scrutiny must be placed on how the czars are vetted. Some get confirmation, while many others aren't. The Republicans and their partisans have taken to calling this a "shadow government."

Shadow government? I don't think it means what they think it means.

Shadow government has a specific meaning - namely that it is the opposition government and usually occurs in parliamentary systems. It could also apply to a skeleton government to operate if the organs of governance are wiped out (terrorists, nuclear/wmd attacks, incapacitated, etc.).

What Obama and Democrats are doing with czars isn't a shadow government. It's unfettered governance without oversight from Congress, and Congress abdicated its responsibilities, meaning that it lost power to the Executive Branch. It's a vastly expanded use of czars and advisers that started decades earlier, but took on new significance with President Bush, particularly following 9/11 and then the credit market collapse.

In Obama's case, he's filling those slots to the apparent exclusion of policy positions within already established government entities like the Department of Treasury, where key positions remain unfilled. That's a questionable tactic for this Administration, but no one seems interested, least of all the media, when this should be a major story.

No one should have a problem with the president seeking advice and consent from trusted advisers, but those advisers should be thoroughly vetted by the Senate. Obama's vetting process is thorough screwed up and confirmations are only likely to further expose those deficiencies. That too is something that the Congress must address.

I don't think it's ignorance in terms of calling this a shadow government either. I think it's the lack of a term for what Obama is doing to avoid scrutiny of his advisers background by using the czar route instead of Congressional vetting via confirmation. "Shadow government" has "shadowy" and "evil" connotations, which is just how the Republican want it, but the Democrats have to address this now too - they have to justify how and why Obama is going that route, instead of confirmations.

A potential justification - and not one I agree with - is that the kinds of problems facing the country are more interrelated than ever before. Take the car czar position for example. A Dept. of Treasury official on automakers may have the economics expertise, but not experience in the auto market, while the Transportation Dept official doesn't have the economics background. I'd disagree, given that there are experts who are cross disciplinary and should be advising within the existing structures, and even if there aren't, the advisers should be confirmed.

Heck, Congress should be asking those questions, even if it's a Democrat in charge, because when a Republican finally takes the WH at some point in the future, they're going to cite Obama's precedence, and move ahead with still more unelected and unvetted positions.

And the Democrats wont do it, even if it means the loss of power by Congress as an institution, because it would expose the mess within the Obama Administration and how they choose their advisers.

If I were a Republican in Congress (or even any Democrat), I'd be urging a law that requires all "czars" be confirmed - to prevent any end-run around confirmation process, and to make sure that existing positions are filled that are for the same subject area.

In other words, if there's a confirmation-eligible position in the Treasury, you can't go ahead and leave that position unfilled while you create a czar that does the same thing - with a position that is not confirmed via Senate.

It's so common-sense, it wont get done.

Michelle Malkin emails to note that the NY Times did run a story about unfilled positions last month. I should have realized that as well, seeing how I wrote a posting on the same and that the czars were a poor attempt at an end run around the confirmation process.

I note that Freedom's Lighthouse posts video showing Rep. Mike Pence (R) calling for a suspension of all czars and background checks on all those who were already appointed.

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