September 16th, 2009
07:08 PM ET
13 years ago

White House fights back against 'czar' claims

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Van Jones resigned from his 'green jobs czar' post amid criticism."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House began pushing back Wednesday against conservatives who have slammed the adminstration of late for appointing high-ranking "czars" with broad, interagency oversight and nebulous job descriptions.

On Tuesday, several GOP senators sent a letter to the president questioning the constitutionality of such appointments. "When established within the White House, these 'czars' can hinder the ability of Congress to oversee the complex substantive issues that you have unilaterally entrusted to their leadership," they wrote, identifying 18 czars that may be undermining congressional responsibilities.

Critics have already claimed one victim: so-called "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones, who was forced to resign this month after conservatives unearthed video of of him making unseemly comments about Republicans and signing onto a petition sponsored by a 9/11 conspiracy group.

Now the White House and its allies are accusing administration critics of taking marching orders from talk show host Glenn Beck, and pointing out that George W. Bush's administration appointed dozens of "czars" during his eight years in office.

"I think it's been somewhat remarkable that in previous administrations, so-called criticism of this has been a bit deafening, the silence has been deafening, only to have it come around as a political issue now," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

Later in the afternoon, White House communications director Anita Dunn posted a "reality check" about czars on the administration's Web site, noting that the term is not an official White House title and that several of those Obama appointed "czars" were actually approved by the Senate.

The Democratic National Committee was more blunt: "In leveling these ludicrous attacks, Republicans have crowned themselves the czars of hypocrisy," DNC press secretary Hari Sevugan said. Party officials blasted out six different e-mails to reporters on Wednesday flagging the Bush administration's reliance on "czars," citing news reports that going back to 2001.

Among the 47 Bush czars named by the DNC: "Manufacturing Czar" Albert Frink, "Birth Control Czar" Eric Keroack, "Bioethics Czar" Leon Kass, "Food Safety Czar" David Atchison, and "AIDS Czar" Mark Dybul. Several of the czars they listed - including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman - have been informally described in media reports as "czars," but they were just as often described by their formal titles.

"Most telling of the credibility of these attacks is that they come from the same Republican party that didn't utter a peep about the 47 documented czars in the Bush administration even when the so called 'abstinence czar' was caught soliciting," Sevugan said, referring to Randall Tobias, a top State Department official who resigned in 2007 after he was caught soliciting prostitutes.

Gibbs reiterated that czars are hardly new, telling reporters at the White House briefings that "these are positions that date back at least to many, many administrations where there is policy coordination between many different departments in order to make governmental responses more efficient."

Filed under: Obama administration
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Another Republican that can't stand ignorant democraps

    What's there to fight back about. It's the truth Obama!

    September 16, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  2. jennifer

    I am very concerned with the current administration. I felt a whole lot safer with the last.

    September 16, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  3. james

    The only issue I have is calling them Czars. Can't we come up with a better title? Chief? Head? Lead?

    September 16, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Sue

    Anyone notice the Democrats rebuttal is always to point fingers at someone else? Well if Bush had 18, I can have 32. Obama has a Czar for everything and if anymore of them are like the one that had to resign, we are in trouble. Problem is these Czars aren't vetted and look where that got Obama. Obama who has said to judge him by the people he surrounds himself with, is sure to be sorry he ever uttered those words.

    September 16, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    We have over 30 UNELECTED officials with NO accountabiltiy to anyone except Obama and with far-reaching powers. Why should anyone be alarmed about that?

    September 16, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  6. Pat

    So the Obama administration is likening itself to the Bush adminstration? Nice to see so many similarities...wait, NO IT"S NOT!

    September 16, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  7. ib

    Since these so called czars answer to no one they should be outlawed period. No demo or gop should be allowed to appoint them in any way any form; but of course this is something else to blame on Bush.

    September 16, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. GuyinVA

    As I recall, the first Senator to raise objection to the number of czars was Robert Byrd (D-WV). That was when there were 12 of them. Not arguing here... just legitimate questions. How many of those 47 czars served at the same time over 8 years? Were they all different positions, or are some duplicates due to resignation and replacement? How many are serving in the Obama administration now? I've heard several different numbers. The highest I've heard is 36.

    September 16, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Gene

    Considering that the "czar" position was started with Reagan, and grew under both the Bushs' administrations.. I find this article very ironic.

    September 16, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. Obama Victim II

    Baghdad Bob (Gibbs) whines about criticism over Obama's personal Czars.

    No problem.....

    Instead of Senate Confirmation... we will have PUBLIC CONFIRMATION. And Glenn Beck will be doing the back-ground checks.

    This administration sure is acting "stupidly".

    September 16, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  11. Alfred E. Neumann

    Glenn Beck's name was mentioned in the article.

    Houston, I believe that we have reached bottom in the discourse.

    September 16, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. Shirley In California

    When will democrats strike back and quit running? I must give Bill and Hillary full credit for that. They never let the republicans tell them what to do. Please Mr. President fight back. The American people are counting on you.

    September 16, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. ggb

    Do these critics not think those who oppose these Czars with questionable backgrounds can have an independent thought? The only reason Glenn Beck is attacked is because he puts the information out there unlike the rest of the liberal media. Some people remember the 60's ,the Weathermen and people with the same ideologies as these men and just don't want them. They would never get Congressional approval.

    September 16, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  14. Sam

    He does have a abundent of Czars and still has offices to fill the proper way through the house and senate votes. but he is Obama so it must be right

    September 16, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  15. HoldenLitgo

    These extremists will contend that it was okay when Bush did it – and Reagan before him, because they agree with the ideology behind the appointments. (If they even acknowledge the appointments at all) When it's Obama appointing Czars, the country is suddenly being taken over by Russian Communists and Red armies. These guys are just turning over rocks so the crazies in their "party" can crawl out and make noise to discredit the President. When Bush was in office he didn't need any help from the Left wing extremists. He was fully capable of discrediting himself and did.

    September 16, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. Tony

    ALL CZARS should go through confirmation. Bush was wrong and so is NOBAMA. Let NOBAMAs transparency start. If he will.

    He has yet to keep that promise either............

    September 16, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Its all because the President (and many of his czars) show a diversity Republicans are incapable of even dreaming about!

    September 16, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I'm not crazy about all the "czars" either, but they weren't this Administrations creation. First off, the "czar" term is a media creation and secondly, every administration has had them since Reagan and his "anti-drug czar". As for Van Jones, yes he was forced out, but he never should of been hired in the first place. He either knowingly signed a petition accusing the government of complicity in 9/11 or wasn't smart enough to know what he was signing. Either way, it should bar him from working for the government.

    September 16, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. Linda C.

    You missed one point here, President Bush did not appoint radicals and communists like Obama! Adios.

    September 16, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. Nunya

    Oh but that was different – because a conservative Republican did it...

    September 16, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. tonyt

    It is surprising that Rove finds the appointment of czars to be “a giant expansion of presidential power” because he actually served as the “domestic policy czar” in the Bush White House. In fact, President Bush himself appointed numerous czars in order to deal with various public crises and controversies, including a “cybersecurity czar,” “regulatory czar,” “AIDS czar,” “bird-flu czar” and “Katrina czar.” Moreover, Rove’s criticism of Obama is ironic, given his role in an administration that was marked by the expansion of executive power.

    September 16, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. Denna

    There is no such thing as a czar in America. These are qualified people who have been hired to do specific jobs, unlike the Republicans who's backers seemed to have voted for them as window dressing. Seriously, are the conservative talk show talking heads running the Repub party? Is the Republican party even a legitimate party anymore??

    September 16, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. Lou

    More nonsensical distractions from the "kiddies corner" of the Republican Party. Like young children the Conservative right wing commentators, the RNC Chairman, many of the Republican Members of The Congress, the Party's fringe extremists, engage themselves in schoolyard gamesmanship, misinformation campaigns, distortions of facts, along with ridiculous and unfounded allegations. Where are their parents when we need them?

    September 16, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  24. Wynter

    Isn't it time to tell these "so called" conservative representatives to quit complaining and get back to work on the business of this country? This is just another empty complaint from the Glenn Beck/Fox News types that has about as much merit as a fly on a windshield. Wipe it off and continue on.

    Enough is enough Beck fans...

    September 16, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  25. rachel

    CNN POST, I am begining to like Obama a little more, but some of his arguements are weak. So Bush had a lot of czars does that mean you have to have like twice as many? Bush started a war does that make it necessary for you to start one?

    September 16, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
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