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Fox News Debunks Its Own Attack On President Obama’s ‘Czars’

By Brad Johnson on July 16, 2009 at 10:00 am

"Fox News Debunks Its Own Attack On President Obama’s ‘Czars’"

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Yesterday, Fox News breathlessly introduced “All the President’s Czars,” citing a list from Taxpayers for Common Sense of “more than 30 czars” that “do not need to be confirmed by the Senate like Cabinet secretaries do.”

czars

Fox’s Jane Skinner asked “where the oversight is” and “if it is really actually constitutional.” But Fox correspondent Wendell Goler demolished the “czar” attack in the segment, explaining that the existence of Presidential advisers like these “go back as far as FDR, and maybe further,” that “there is no constitutional issue,” and that many of these “czars” are “confirmed by the Senate.” He reminds Skinner that the Bush administration officials were famously unaccountable:

The one complaint from critics is that they can’t compel some of the czars to come to Capitol Hill and testify. That’s a relatively small number. In fact, it would include people like the national security adviser. When she was national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice declined a Senate invitation, a Senate subpoena to come and testify about the evidence of Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. But frankly, few czars would decline an invitation. And others are actually, like the drug czar, are confirmed by the Senate, and would have to testify if they were invited, Jane.

Watch it:

In fact, the “czars” displayed by Fox News include at least eight Senate-confirmed positions, from “intelligence czar” Dennis Blair to “border czar” Alan Bersin. “Regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein is yet to begin working, victim of a Republican hold on his confirmation. John Holdren, depicted falsely by the right wing as a “science czar” who favors “forced abortions,” is the Senate-confirmed presidential science advisor. One “czar” — Elizabeth Warren — is actually chair of a Congressional oversight panel. The debate over the role of unconfirmed Presidential advisers reaches back to 1832, with critics accusing President Andrew Jackson of running a “Kitchen Cabinet” in place of the official one.

Transcript:

SKINNER: Already, President Obama has named more than 30 czars, as they’re called, people to help out with everything from securing the border, fixing the auto industry — There’s a picture of them. Look at all of them! Much of this work was assigned to Cabinet secretaries in previous administrations. These czars, it’s important to know, do not need to be confirmed by the Senate like Cabinet secretaries do. And now even some prominent Democrats are asking where the oversight is and if it is really actually constitutional. Wendell Goler has been looking into this for us. Wendell, are they constitutional?

GOLER: Jane, some critics claim that the czars violate article two, section two of the Constitution, giving the Senate power to advise on nominations and execute nominations. But if that’s the case, presidents have been ignoring that part of the Constitution back as far as FDR, and maybe further. The one complaint from critics is that they can’t compel some of the czars to come to Capitol Hill and testify. That’s a relatively small number. In fact, it would include people like the national security adviser. When she was national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice declined a Senate invitation, a Senate subpoena to come and testify about the evidence of Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. But frankly, few czars would decline an invitation. And others are actually, like the drug czar, are confirmed by the Senate, and would have to testify if they were invited, Jane.

SKINNER: Huh. What do constitutional scholars say about it?

GOLER: Well, scholars like Steven Hess of the Brookings Institution say there is no constitutional issue here. They say there really is just a political issue. While you have got criticism from Democrats, including Sen. Robert Byrd, the longstanding champion of the legislative branch, who says that President Ozama’s, uh, Obama’s czars may eat into the legislative branch’s powers. Most of the criticism has come from Republicans who are out of the White House now, and complain that the czars eat into their already minority status in Congress. Georgia Republican Congressman Jack Kingston today introducing legislation that his aides say will address the issue, but it’s not likely to get far in the Democratic Congress, Jane.

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