Reagan And Bush Advisors Defend Term “Czars”
The right wing loves referring to “czars” in the Obama administration, because it makes it seem as though the White House is overrun with commies. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for example, wrote a piece in the Washington Post last week called “Czarist Washington”. But David B. Rifkin, Jr. (left) and Lee A. Casey (right), who served under Reagan and Bush 41 take exception to this (h/t Think Progress). They make the case that, in fact, it would be unconstitutional to subject every hiree to a nomination process.
Far from undermining the separation of powers, however, the president’s right to organize his White House policymaking apparatus is protected by that very constitutional principle.
The White House czars are presidential assistants charged with responsibility for given policy areas. As such, they are among the president’s closest advisers. In many respects, they are equivalent to the personal staff of a member of Congress. To subject the qualifications of such assistants to congressional scrutiny — the regular confirmation process — would trench upon the president’s inherent right, as the head of an independent and equal branch of the federal government, to seek advice and counsel where he sees fit.
There is a critical difference between a “czar” and a congressionally-approved cabinet member.
In the absence of legislation (such as that creating the Office of Drug Control Policy, whose director is the “drug czar”), the only power exercised by White House czars comes from their proximity to the president and the access this provides. Yes, as many will note, that truly is power. But it is not significant authority under U.S. law — which only the Constitution or Congress can confer.
The Constitution is clear about the distribution of power.
Hutchison’s frustration at being unable to tell whether the czars are imposing the administration’s agenda on agency officials who have been confirmed by the Senate is misplaced. Legally, they can do no such thing. The Constitution vests all executive power in the president, creating a unitary executive, and it is his authority to execute the laws that federal officials exercise, subject to his direction.Click here for reuse options!
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