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article imageOp-Ed: A look at President Obama's czars and their role in America

By Patrick McMahon     Sep 4, 2009 in Politics
With the news of Van Jones' controversial past, President Obama's czars are getting a closer look from the media, Republicans, and average Americans.
A "czar" is an unofficial term used to describe an individual who is a special adviser to the President on a given issue. Several presidents have had at least one czar, such as the drug czar and the homeland security czar. What is causing controversy within the Obama White House is that the president has an estimated 31 czars, with the possibility of more to come.
Now to be completely clear, a czar is not subject to a Senate confirmation hearing and answers to no one except President Obama. They are typically given oversight over a specific issue, directs policy of their topic, provides advice to the president, and often has a budget to go along with their responsibilities.
Just yesterday, news broke that President Obama's "Green Jobs Czar," Van Jones, has quite a controversial past. My opinion piece yesterday details many of his troubling statements and actions, such as signing a 9/11 petition that accused the Bush Administration of being behind it, for calling Republicans "assholes," for being a declared "communist," and for accusing "white people" of sending poison to black communities. There have been calls today for him to resign, but as of now that has not occurred. Most political pundits are predicting that Jones will be forced out of his position by the end of the holiday weekend.
The Van Jones case begs a few questions that people should ask to themselves: Who are these czars? Are they being properly screened before getting their job? How much power do they have? Can the public do anything about it? Going along with those question should be concerns over why are certain czars needed, when a Cabinet position exists to oversee that given area already.
Here is a list of the current Obama Administration czars, as reported by
1) Afghanistan Czar: Richard Holbrooke
2) AIDS Czar: Jeffrey Crowley
3) Auto recovery Czar: Ed Montgomery
4) Border Czar: Alan Bersin
5) California Water Czar: David J. Hayes
6) Car Czar: Ron Bloom
7) Central Region Czar: Dennis Ross
8) Domestic Violence Czar: Lynn Rosenthal
9) Drug Czar: Gil Kerlikowske
10) Economic Czar: Paul Volcker
11) Energy and Environment Czar: Carol Browner
12) Faith-Based Czar: Joshua DuBois
13) Great Lakes Czar: Cameron Davis
14) Green Jobs Czar: Van Jones
15) Guantanamo Closure Czar: Daniel Fried
16) Health Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle
17) Information Czar: Vivek Kundra
18) International Climate Czar: Todd Stern
19) Intelligence Czar: Dennis Blair
20) Mideast Peace Czar: George Mitchell
21) Pay Czar: Kenneth Feinberg
22) Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein
23) Science Czar: John Holdren
24) Stimulus Accountability Czar: Earl Devaney
25) Sudan Czar: J. Scott Gration
26) TARP Czar: Herb Allison
27) Terrorism Czar: John Brennan
28) Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra
29) Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion Jr.
30) Weapons Czar: Ashton Carter
31) WMD Policy Czar: Gary Samore
The White House screening process, one would think, is quite vigorous. Whether that applies or not to the czars is unknown for a few reasons. In Van Jones' case, either the White House knew of his past controversial statements and actions and hired him or they did not know. Since it is quite easy to locate a person's public remarks and actions, I find it hard to believe that the White House did not know about Mr. Jones. This should have people wonder what the past of the remaining 30 czars holds.
A few other controversies that other czars may be involved in:
Energy and Environmental Czar Carol Browner: was a member of Socialist International's Commission for a Sustainable World Society. The organization calls for "global governance" and demands wealthy nations shrink their economy to address climate change effects.
Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein: believes that hunting should be banned, animals should have "legal rights," and that animals can file lawsuits in American courts.
Science Czar John Holdren: co-authored a 1977 textbook that advocated "compulsory sterilizations," mandated abortions, and stated that "To provide a high quality of life for all, there must be fewer people."
I would like to note, that many of the czars have served in public service for an extended period of time and some are well known. The controversies listed above, concerning Czars Browner, Sunstein, and Holdren may not bother some people. A person's thoughts and ideas can evolve over time, but it does raise some eyebrows and causes concern with many people.
Many leaders in Washington have expressed concern about the role of czars in the Obama Administration. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said that "Obama has more czars than the Romanovs." Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), in light of the Van Jones revelations said “In the wake of these recent revelations, the president should suspend any further appointments of so-called czars until Congress has an opportunity to examine the background and responsibilities of these individuals and to determine the constitutionality of such appointments." Even a member of the President's own party, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and the longest serving U.S. Senator in history, said “The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances,” wrote Byrd. “At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate confirmed officials.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 2: "He (the President) shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consults, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein provided for, and which shall be established by law; but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments."
This begs the question about whether individuals, who have great power over aspects of American policy, should go without being confirmed by the U.S. Senate. President Obama campaigned on transparency in government, but this large number of czars seems to be clouding the water. Many of them have questions to answer and it seems, at least in my opinion, that they should be answered in a confirmation hearing in front of the American people. Our government works for us and we have a right to know about their beliefs and past statements. They often reflect the opinions of the person, the character of the person, and where they intend to lead the United States.
President Obama, please look into the background of those who are giving you advise and who have an impact on our country's direction. If controversy or troubling facts emerge, like in Van Jones' case, you have a duty to dismiss them. If you and your administration hired people, knowing full well of their alarming past, then this is not change we can believe in. Individuals like Van Jones and many of the other czars have a right to believe whatever they want, but their radical beliefs have no place in the United States government.
List of Obama's czars and their backgrounds. The list is on and all information can be verified independently.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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