The right is ramping up its offensive on the Obama administration’s use of special appointees commonly referred to as “czars,” attacking them as being used to vastly expand the powers of the president and undermine democracy. A group of Republican senators, led by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), have sent a letter to President Obama expressing “growing concern with the proliferation of ‘czars.’” But Bennett hasn’t always been opposed to the use of “czars.” In Dec. 1999, appearing on CNN, Bennett said that he recommended to President Clinton that he “appoint a Y2K czar.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also launched into attack mode on the Senate floor Monday, claiming that Obama’s use of czars constitutes an “affront to the Constitution”:
ALEXANDER: According to news accounts, there are 32 or 34 so-called czars in the Obama White House. Respected voices in the Senate—Senator Byrd and Senator Hutchison, a senior Democrat and a senior Republican—have pointed out that these czars are an affront to the Constitution. They’re anti-democratic. They are a poor example of a new era of transparency which was promised to this country. They are a poor way to manage the government and they seem to me to be the principal symptom of this administrations eight-month record of too many Washington takeovers.
While Alexander may be using Obama’s appointment of special advisers as a political wedge today, he was singing a different tune during the previous administration:
Alexander Supported Bush’s Appointment of a Manufacturing Czar. Nearly six years ago Alexander spoke on the floor of the Senate in support of President Bush’s appointment of a manufacturing jobs czar: “[President Bush] talked about appointing a sort of manufacturing job czar in the Commerce Department, which I would welcome.” [9/2/03]
Alexander Supported Bush’s Appointment of an AIDS Czar. Alexander spoke in support of the appointment of Bush-nominated AIDS czar Randall Tobias: “Within a few weeks the Congress will be considering the nomination of Randall Tobias to be the new AIDS czar…who is not yet confirmed by the Senate. I hope he will be.” [9/3/03]
Alexander isn’t alone in his conservative hypocrisy on czars. Last July, Karl Rove angrily tweeted that Obama’s use of czars represent a “giant expansion of presidential power,” despite the fact that he himself was Bush’s “domestic policy czar.” And while the right may be using Obama’s czars as a way to wage politicized attacks against him, they were completely silent when the Bush administration used a number of these special advisers, including a “cybersecurity czar,” “regulatory czar,” “bird-flu czar,” “war czar,” and “Katrina czar.”