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. Keeth in California

    GOP = hypocrites. Pure and simple.

    September 16, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  2. Amanda

    Nothing in the White House will ever please the GOP. then who cares what they complain about. These Republican clowns are irrelevent.

    September 16, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. Tony in Maine

    These people have regular job titles but the media uses the term "czar" because it's short and sounds better than "boss."

    Republicans sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand of being The Party of No Ideas. I await a solemn negative pronouncement about the color of the President's socks.

    September 16, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  4. Scott, Tucson

    Lets simply run all of Obama's czars before a televised congressional hearings and everyone can judge for themselves the character of each czar and of the man that choose them.

    September 16, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  5. chris

    – Bible in one hand, Gun in the other
    – Medicare in one hand, oppose Govt OPTION in the other for everyone else

    September 16, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. Larry

    Signing the petition regarding the Bush Administrations participation if not complete responsibility for 9/11 was the best thing Van Jones ever did, and it brings a smile to my face EVERY time THE REAL TERRORISTS ( Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest of them ) are brought to light

    One day all Americans will know that it was the gang in the White House that killed our own innocent people on that tragic day, in their disgusting efforts to start a war that has now killed so many more

    And I for one can not wait for that one day to come ...

    September 16, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. T'SAH from Virginia


    The REPUBLI-CAN'Ts are constantly complaining about the Democrats running into the ground the YOU LIE news – just to distract the truth about the Health Care Reform Bill!!!

    HOWEVER, maybe it's the other way around and the REPUBLI-CAN'Ts – who want NO part of Health Care Reform but want it to seem like they are working towards a resolution , are constantly creating their own news that they know would cause DISTRACTION!!!

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

    R they writing policy and making policy? Or r they only advising?

    September 16, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  9. Nice

    The most czars than any other pres. Pls get to business and help us move forward; otherwise, hand me the remote so I can fast forward 4 years.

    People, stop sipping the Obama kool-aide and come back to reality. He can't walk on water!!!!

    The most powerful nation in the world and we waste time on Wilson and political nonsense...this is for both parties! Let's go!!!!!

    September 16, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  10. old timer

    fire them all. They are just obamas goons

    September 16, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |

    (yawn) mor Repugnant hypocrisy. When you have nothing to offer, the Party of NO resorts to the old play-book of lies, distortions and racist attacks.

    September 16, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  12. Ed in Indianapolis

    So why didn't the republicans/Beck complain about czars appointed by Bush? Simple question.

    September 16, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  13. Sean

    Critics of Obama administration czars are either ignorant or liars, plain and simple. Czars were first introduced by President Reagan, and the number of them grew substantially under President George W. Bush. Where were the outcries from these critics then? Oh right....Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and all the other conservative talk-show stooges weren't instructing their brain-dead followers to complain about it then.

    If you have legitimate complaints or disagreements on Obama's policy positions, then by all means voice them. But when you attack him over something that you stood silent about when Bush and Reagan did the exact same thing, you just sound like idiots. The entire world is listening to the people complaining about czars, "birthers", "death panelers", and everyone who seems to think that communism, fascism, and nazism are interchangeable, and they're laughing at how stupid you are. I would laugh too if I wasn't so ashamed of my fellow countrymen who are pushing these baseless accusations and conspiracy theories.

    September 16, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  14. Coherent1

    Oooh, I like this! Let's continue with the pushbacks against the Republican hypocrisy movement. I do know the politics of bait and switch, so this should be fun. Who wants to play?

    September 16, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  15. Sue

    Yeah but your administration is not Republican!
    Czar of Stupid Republican Madness – What do you think? It has a nice ring doesn't it?

    September 16, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  16. GG23

    The Czar situation is crazy...they don't fill ligitimate high level positions that require senate confirmation but appoint 34 Czars and bypass Senate oversite, bypass the constitution? This is crazy. Some of these Czars have controversial histories and political positions. We don't know how much of our tax dollars we are paying them, how much of our tax dollars they are spending and what they are doing. This Czar thing is frankly scary...A single drug Czar who is a former US general is one thing, but 34? Socialists? Communists? Racists? Terrorist affiliated? We need the congress to investigate these Czars, something doesn't smell right about this whole situation.

    September 16, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  17. Biased

    I don't think it is quite playing by the rules when you add up all the Bush "czars that Democrats complained about loudly and clearly as to how many filled the same position over a period of 8 years. Besides once again it shows dems play by one set of rules and demand different rules for the opposition. Same old same old – I can complain about you but you can't complain about me. Pure ridiculous and most juvenile. Does not agreeing with the democrats now make me a racist too?

    September 16, 2009 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  18. Ryan, Council Bluffs

    This ticker story is so slanted you can't even remove the authors lips from Obama's rear end.

    Van Jones positions are beyond left and nearly past radical. Czars are not a new criticism of any President but this administration has gone nuts with them. Its like using ACORN to recruit voters...

    September 16, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  19. centerleft

    The Republican have no solutions, just attacks. When was the last time you heard a Republican with a big domestic idea......President Obama is wrapping circle around the Republicans. The Republicans have been reduce to whiners.

    September 16, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  20. R U for Real?

    It's different when Bush did it – after all he's a real Umerican!!

    September 16, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  21. Pam

    President Obama, continue to fight these pit bulls...they want to see you taken down. They don't care about the American people...just strategizing their game plan...Guess what Mr. President, the repubs don't have a game plan. Do what you do best, continue to be the master chess player! You are the epitome of success and they will drown in their own hatred while you lift this country up!!! God bless and take care of you and your lovely family!!

    September 16, 2009 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  22. barb

    Obama lied, he promised too be transparent, yet everything he does is the opposite. The Czar's allow him too do whatever he wants, and pull the wool over the eye's of the american people.He doesn't know what he is doing and expect's everyone too do his job as president while he run's around keeping his popularity up............

    September 16, 2009 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  23. Tom Manteuffel

    The GOP has gone crazy. Hypocrisy has become the rule. I find it hard to believe that they can actually spew these allegations with a straight face. It was George Bush and Dick Cheney who decided that the executive branch was immune to intervention from the other branches. In fact, Dick Cheney claimed that he was a branch of government unto himself, not even part of the executive branch. Where was their righteous indignation then? I award the scarlet H to the GOP.

    September 16, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. Steve B (California)

    This is an absolute distortion of the truth. Let's just start with the Van Jones being a victim. The fact is he willingly signed a 9/11 truth petition
    and made the inflammatory comments on his own (no teleprompter).

    Peter Hambly is not reporting, he is writing a commentary.

    September 16, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  25. Barbara

    It's about time this administration got some gumption and started fighting back! All of these right-wing attacks are ridiculous and even more so when they go unanswered by the Dems. Go get 'em!

    September 16, 2009 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
1 2 3