Rep. Poe Regurgitates Debunked "Czar" Attack

September 30, 2009 1:23 pm ET

On September 29, 2009, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) took to the floor of the House to criticize the administration over its "czars." However, the nonpartisan website has already debunked this line of attack.

Republicans Fear Monger Over Presidential Advisers Previously Debunked The "Czar" Attack Wrote:

It's meaningless to ask a question about what "hiring czars" allows a president to do, because presidents don't hire czars. "Czar" is a label bestowed by the media - and sometimes the administration - as a shorthand for the often-cumbersome titles of various presidential advisers, assistants, office directors, special envoys and deputy secretaries. (After all, what makes for a better headline - "weapons czar" or "undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics"?)


The habit of using "czar" to refer to an administration official dates back at least to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the real heyday of the czar came during President George W. Bush's administration. The appellation was so popular that several news organizations reported on the rise of the czar during the Bush years, including NPR, which ran a piece called "What's With This Czar Talk?" and Politico, which published an article on the evolution of the term. The latter, written during the 2008 presidential campaign, points out that czars are "really nothing new. They've long been employed in one form or another to tackle some of the nation's highest-profile problems." Politico quotes author and political appointments expert James Bovard saying that the subtext of "czar" has changed from insult to praise: "It's a real landmark sign in political culture to see this change from an odious term to one of salvation."

Now it's turned odious again, with Republican senators calling czars unconstitutional and cable hosts like Beck and Sean Hannity characterizing them as shadowy under-the-table appointees used by Obama to dodge the usual approval processes. In fact, of the 32 czars Beck lists:

  • Nine were confirmed by the Senate, including the director of national intelligence ("intelligence czar"), the chief performance officer ("government performance czar") and the deputy interior secretary ("California water czar").
  • Eight more were not appointed by the president - the special advisor to the EPA overseeing its Great Lakes restoration plan ("Great Lakes czar") is EPA-appointed, for instance, and the assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs ("border czar") is appointed by the secretary of homeland security.
  • Fifteen of the "czarships" Beck lists, including seven that are in neither of the above categories, were created by previous administrations. (In some cases, as with the "economic czar," the actual title - in this case, chairman of the president's economic recovery advisory board - is new, but there has been an official overseeing the area in past administrations. In others, as with the special envoy to Sudan, the position is old but the "czar" appellation is new.)
  • In all, of the 32 positions in Beck's list, only eight are Obama-appointed, unconfirmed, brand new czars.


As for Obama having an unprecedented number of czars, the Bush administration had even more appointed or nominated positions whose holders were called "czars" by the media. The DNC has released a Web video claiming that there were 47, but it's counting multiple holders of the same position. We checked the DNC's list against Nexis and other news records, and found a total of 35 Bush administration positions that were referred to as "czars" in the news media. (Our list of confirmed "czars," with news media sources cited, is here.) Again, many of these advisory positions were not new - what was new was the "czar" shorthand. Like the Obama czars, the Bush czars held entirely prosaic administrative positions: special envoys, advisers, office heads, directors, secretaries. The preponderance of czars earned both ridicule and concern in editorials and in media, but no objections from Congress. [, 9/25/09]

Rep. Poe Is A Cosponsor Of A Republican "Czar" Resolution Admitting They Are "Constitutional" And Commonplace.  Rep. Ted Poe is a cosponsor of a House Resolution that states:

Whereas Congress recognizes that the Constitution vests in the executive branch the power to appoint Presidential advisers whose communications to the President are protected under executive privilege;

Whereas Congress recognizes the importance of coordinating executive agencies, and recognizes that Presidents often appoint special assistants, commonly referred to as ''czars'', to manage this coordination with regard to important areas of national policy, and to advise the President. [HCR 185 via, accessed 9/30/09; emphasis added]