The Media Created These Communist Czars
One of the latest manufactured controversies is this notion of “czars”. Either they are new ways of titling White House staff or they are unaccountable “super-bureaucrats” that supposedly have more power than Cabinet members.
Neither of these interpretations are particularly true, of course. In fact, the notion of “czars” are a description of White House staff along with the recent hysteria over them can be traced right back to the ratings-obsessed media.
The most prominent and early use of the term dates back to the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Now, is that easier to fit into a news headline than “Bush Appoints Drug Czar”?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
These “czars” have proliferated in recent Administrations as advisors who can handle tough issues that may cross departmental and agency turf lines. In other words, these czars are “interdisciplinary” advisors who can highlight particular issues or address specific White House priorities. Most – but not all – escape Senate confirmation because most White House staff aren’t Senate-confirmable. Few have the power to actually override existing turf. And more than a few are merely policy gurus meant to think big thoughts about issues without worrying about bureaucratic office politics.
There’s nothing wrong with this management style. In fact, it might even be more effective than creating commissions and councils and committees that bring agencies together.
But the notion that these are “czars” is more of a fiction crafted by headline writers in the media than by any undemocratic notion by the White House. And they certainly aren’t designed purposely to evade Senate confirmation.
Although, given that it can take six months or more to check one’s background, submit their name, hold hearings, evade secretive holds, schedule a floor debate, and finally confirm someone for a mid-level job like Army Secretary, I would not blame any President for wanting to avoid the Senate like a plague.