Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA): “Vesting such broad authority in the hands of people not subjected to Senate confirmation and congressional oversight poses a grave threat to our system of checks and balances…the current administration has more czars than Imperial Russia.” [Washington Post, 7/30/09 ]
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT): “The president's decision to expand the executive branch and bypass cabinet officers with a group of presidential assistants given the title of ‘czars' undermines the Constitution.” [Sen. Bennett Press Release, 9/15/09 ]
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kit Bond (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Bob Bennett (R-UT): Six GOP Senators Wrote A Letter To White House Requesting The Authority, Qualifications And Transparency Of 18 Czars Appointment By The Obama Administration. “The creation of ‘czars,' particularly within the Executive Office of the President, circumvents the constitutionally established process of ‘advise and consent,' [and] greatly diminishes the ability of Congress to conduct oversight and hold officials accountable.” [Politico, 9/16/09]
For a historical perspective, NPR's Andrea Seabrook and Michele Norris explored the history of the term "czar" in American politics. The show aired in May, 2007 after the appointment of Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute as President Bush's so-called "war czar" for Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, the term first surfaced in reference to Second Bank of the United States president Nicholas Biddle in 1832.
SEABROOK: And as Mr. Cordesman stated more recently, John Love became the first energy czar under President Nixon in 1973, followed in 1989 by President Reagan's drug czar, William Bennett. There's been lots of U.S. czars since then right up to food safety czar, David Atchison, who took office this month.
NORRIS: Well, it turns out that the government czars don't particularly appreciate the term.SEABROOK: Hurricane Katrina recovery czar Edward Blakely, former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
NORRIS: And as we mentioned, President Bush avoids using the term czar. He's called General Lute the full-time manager for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Obama White House has recently issued a "Reality Check" on this issue:
Just to be clear, the job title "czar" doesn’t exist in the Obama Administration. Many of the officials cited by conservative commentators have been confirmed by the Senate. Many hold policy jobs that have existed in previous Administrations. And some hold jobs that involved coordinating the work of agencies on President Obama’s key policy priorities: health insurance reform, energy and green jobs, and building a new foundation for long-lasting economic growth.The DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan issued a statement in response to the Republican critics.
"Most telling of the credibility of these attacks is that they come from the same Republican party that didn't utter a peep about the 47 documented czars in the Bush administration even when the so called 'abstinence czar' was caught soliciting. They come from the same Republican party that, not satisfied with the number of czars in the Bush Administration, asked for the creation of additional czars on multiple occasions. They come from the same Republican party that themselves served as czars in the Bush administration. In leveling these ludicrous attacks, Republicans have crowned themselves the czars of hypocrisy."
Watch Dancing with the Czars: