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Misplaced Fears About the 'Czars' - Former Reagan And Bush Aides Defend Obama's Use Of 'Czars'

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jefferson_dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-19-09 01:08 PM
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Misplaced Fears About the 'Czars' - Former Reagan And Bush Aides Defend Obama's Use Of 'Czars'
Misplaced Fears About the 'Czars'

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) argued on this page this week <"Czarist Washington," op-ed, Sept. 13> that the Obama administration's "czars" are effectively in those positions unconstitutionally because their hiring creates "precisely the kind of ambiguity the Framers sought to prevent." Far from undermining the separation of powers, however, the president's right to organize his White House policymaking apparatus is protected by that very constitutional principle.

The White House czars are presidential assistants charged with responsibility for given policy areas. As such, they are among the president's closest advisers. In many respects, they are equivalent to the personal staff of a member of Congress. To subject the qualifications of such assistants to congressional scrutiny -- the regular confirmation process -- would trench upon the president's inherent right, as the head of an independent and equal branch of the federal government, to seek advice and counsel where he sees fit.

As Hutchison points out, the result of a president seeking counsel where he likes may well be embarrassment -- as was the case with "green jobs czar" Van Jones, who recently resigned over revelations of his ties to radical groups and his apparent endorsement of Sept. 11 conspiracy theories. Barack Obama has taken the political hit -- and he is not the first president to pay that price. In 2006, Claude Allen, a domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, resigned after being accused of shoplifting.

This raises a second point in the Obama administration's favor: Some of the positions many are now criticizing have existed for years. As The Post reported this week: "By one count, Bush had 36 czar positions filled by 46 people during his eight years as president." Historically, presidents have turned to special advisers.

However much the czars may drive the policymaking process at the White House, they cannot -- despite their grandiose (and frankly ridiculous) appellation -- determine what that policy will be. The Constitution's "appointments clause" requires that very senior federal officials be appointed with the Senate's consent, though lesser appointments can be made by the president, agency heads or the courts, as Congress provides. Well-established Supreme Court precedent holds that an "officer" subject to these requirements is one who exercises "significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States."

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