Crazy Czar Conspiracies
The right wing's new conspiracy-based campaign against the Obama administration deals with special advisers to the President that conservatives and media are referring to as "czars." Far-right activists are using Obama's appointment of these special advisers to complain that he is trying to vastly expand the powers of the president and remove his appointees from accountability. Many of these attacks have been led by right-wing pundits and talk radio luminaries like Glenn Beck, who has referred to Obama's appointment of special advisers as a "power grab." Beck's most recent scaremongering campaign compelled Obama's green jobs adviser Van Jones to resign his post. While the conservative movement may be portraying the appointment of special advisers as a power grab, the fact remains that the right wing is engaged in mass hysteria and hyperbole. These "czars" have been a staple of American politics and the modern presidency for decades. The lies and misrepresentations are designed to do one thing: to bring the executive branch to a screeching halt. As Fox News' Sean Hannity explained, "We got rid of one [czar], and my job...is to get rid of every other one. I promise you that."
CONSERVATIVE CAMPAIGN AGAINST CZARS: Conservatives have begun using Obama's "czar" appointments to attack the President and remove his ability to appoint sorely needed advisers. The conservative Heritage Foundation wrote yesterday that the use of "czars" is part of the left viewing "the Constitution's separation of powers framework as an obstacle to their remaking of American society." Fox News pundit Neil Cavuto claimed a few months ago that Obama's czars should actually be called "evil despots accountable to no one." In July, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) introduced the Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009 to explicitly block taxpayer money from paying for "any task force, council, or similar office which is established by or at the direction of the President." The bill would effectively curtail the president's power to appoint special advisers. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has gone even further in his attack against "czars," specifically calling into question their constitutionality. As The Washington Independent's David Weigel notes, Pence's attacks on "czars" -- such as the Director National Intelligence (DNI) -- is hypocritical, given the fact he voted to create the DNI in 2004. One of the right wing's next targets is Cass Sunstein, the Harvard professor who has been tapped to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and who must be approved by the Senate. While conservative senators have placed holds on Sunstein's nomination over his advocacy for animal rights, the right-wing Wall Street Journal has praised Sunstein as "a regulator with promise." Despite the fact that Sunstein is going through the Senate confirmation process, Beck has referred to him as a "czar" on "no fewer than 12 episodes of his show."
'CZARS' ARE NOTHING NEW: While conservative pundits and politicians have continued to decry the Obama administration's use of "czars," the fact remains that the appointment of special advisers is nothing new. It is indicative of the partisan nature of these attacks that the same figures decrying Obama's use of czars had nothing to say about past presidents using them. The use of "czars" dates back to President Franklin Roosevelt, who appointed special advisers -- referred to by the press as "czars" -- to handle multiple national emergencies. In the popular press, the term "czar"once again came into prominence after Republican President Richard Nixon appointed former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon as head of the Federal Energy Administration in 1973, a position reporters deemed that of an "energy czar." In 1982, the UPI began to refer to the Director of the Drug Abuse Policy Office under Republican President Ronald Reagan as the "drug czar," a position created to oversee the nation's drug control policies. Obama has actually downgraded the "drug czar" from its previous Cabinet-level status. Former President George W. Bush appointed a number of czars to his White House, including a "cybersecurity czar," "regulatory czar," "AIDS czar," "bird-flu czar," "war czar," and "Katrina czar." This didn't stop former Bush adviser Karl Rove -- himself a former "domestic policy czar" -- from attacking the Obama's use of czars, claiming that they represent a "giant expansion of presidential power."
MISREPRESENTING NON-CZARS AS 'CZARS': One of the smear campaign's most-used tactics is misrepresenting Senate-confirmed positions as "czars" in the Obama administration. Right-wing pundit Sean Hannity exploded in an angry rant a couple of months ago, referring to Obama administration czars as a "select group of unvetted, unconfirmed individuals who are now at the helm of a shadow government right here in the U.S." He cited John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as an example of one of these individuals, even though Holdren "was indeed confirmed by the U.S. Senate." Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin has also deceptively referred to Holdren as the "science czar." In July, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrote an op-ed ripping Obama's "czars," even though three of the people he cited had been confirmed by the Senate. Meanwhile, conservatives have taken to using a list of "czars" compiled by Politico to claim that many officials who were either confirmed by the Senate or held over from previous administrations are "czars."
RADICAL RIGHT -- REP. JEAN SCHMIDT TELLS BIRTHER: 'I AGREE WITH YOU': This past weekend, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) spoke at the Voice of America tea party outside of Cincinnati, OH. Following a tense Q&A session -- during which the congresswoman was booed for acknowledging that the Constitution is a living document -- Schmidt engaged in a heated conversation with a birther off-stage. At the conclusion of their exchange, Schmidt whispered to the birther, "I agree with you, but the courts don't." Schmidt was among the members of Congress featured in Firedoglake's (FDL) Know Your Birthers video. In the FDL video, Schmidt could be seen running away from blogger-activist Mike Stark when he asked whether or not she had any questions about President Obama's citizenship status. In July, following her 15 minutes of YouTube fame, Schmidt's office issued a statement to Ohio's Loveland Magazine to clarify her views. "The President is indeed a Citizen of this country," said Schmidt in the statement. "I voted as a Member of the House to certify the vote of the Electoral College electing him as our President. I may not agree with his politics but there is no doubt he is our president and has my full respect as such." Schmidt's exchange with the birther this weekend directly contradicts her July statement. The footage appears to indicate that Schmidt is a closet birther who questions the citizenship of the President. Politico's Glenn Thrush noted that the Schmidt incident "captures the wink-wink game some GOP pols are playing with the birther fringe."
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Wednesday, September 9
Crazy Czar Conspiracies
From the Progress Report