The concept of “czars” in government is something many of us have heard about but generally dismiss or do not bother to follow-up on. The President appoints someone and that person enters into the field specified on the behalf of said President and in the name of betterment for the people.
We need to look at this position for what it is and answer some basic questions before turning our attention to some of them individually. What is a czar really? Where did they start? How are they chosen and appointed? Who are some of these people?
What is a Czar?
The word czar is derived by Tsar. A Tsar was the designation of a monarch ruler in pre-world war I Russia, Serbia and Bulgaria. A czar is someone appointed by the President to a high level official post in order to run or organize a department of government.
This has been done with Senatorial approval in the past mainly by way of a confirmation hearing. Many have been appointed by the President that were not confirmed or approved of in any form, however.
They are chosen for their alleged strength in the given area assigned. The title czar is never the official designation of said individual but they may retain one such as adviser, director, administrator, or diplomatic envoy.
Most operate within the Executive Branch, but they are not exclusive to it. The czars have the advantage of being able to go outside the ‘normal channels’ to get jobs done. They are not elected officials. They are not beholden to the same ethical and legal standards that those placed in office by the vote of the people are.
A nice summary of their accountability in this FOX News article:
“The czars are really presidential assistants; and never mind that the Constitution grants no power to the federal government on matters such as green jobs, automobiles, or manufacturing. The Constitution is rarely an impediment for modern White Houses which seek to regulate areas of personal and group behavior that the Founding Fathers could never have imagined. The czars may be hired without FBI background checks or Senate confirmations and they serve at the pleasure of the president. Because they work in the West Wing and directly for the president, they enjoy almost total immunity from any accountability to Congress. Supreme Court decisions even immunize presidential assistants from replying to subpoenas from Congress for documents or testimony, under the claim of executive privilege.”
When did the use of Czars start?
The concept came into use during the Black Sox scandal when Judge Landis was named commissioner and given wide-ranging powers to clean up baseball. President Wilson had appointed a then financial wizard, Bernard Bauruch, to run the war industries board and was referred to as the ‘Industry Czar’. But it was Roosevelt’s use of outside advisors that garnered the title of czar that we still use today.
Roosevelt employed a dozen or so during the 1930’s and 1940’s to keep control of the economy and the various impacts the war was having on it. Some would argue the first to really use the title of czar were under Reagan with his ‘drug czar’.
The number remained relatively low until the Bush administration when the number exploded and has remained high through the Obama administration. The highest number of those unapproved by the Senate lies with the current administration, which has drawn a lot of criticism for it. Here is a list of czars by administration. Here is the list of Executive Branch czars.
How are they chosen and appointed?
Most are chosen by possessing a desirable skill set that is necessary to accomplish a particular goal or matched to a given industry, problem or the like. Many have been necessary and good fits for the given task, however several have not.
Controversy has come from the broad scope given to these positions as well as the level of compensation at times. The President is given the power to create czars in Section 2 of Article 2 of the Constitution. (Appointments Clause, Article II, Section 2, clause 2: The full text is here.)
Such appointees are, according to the above clause, supposed to be confirmed by the Senate, but as we have seen in recent years, that has been circumvented more than it has been implemented and in doing so created concern and controversy.
Some have objected that Bush used czars and there was no public outcry and that Obama’s use of them is a double standard. The response has been that those placed in such positions were not objectionable in and of themselves and were vetted and subsequently underwent the Senate confirmation process.
Obama’s list of czars have significantly questionable backgrounds and their pay largely undisclosed.
Who are some of these people?
Let’s take a closer look at some of these recent appointees. More appointees have drawn fire from the public and the media, as well as the GOP in this administration than in any of past ones.
This is in part due to the dubious backgrounds of some of them. Ones I will look at and highlight here are not the only ones who raise concern, but are front-runners in that arena. In coming editions I will profile a different czar.
These profiles are comprised from a variety of sources, some of which will be linked within each background. Do your own homework on each of these people, I urge you. Today, we start with Van Jones.
He was appointed as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs or “Green Czar” by Obama in March of 2009.
He was not confirmed by the Senate. Van Jones resigned his post amid the growing 9/11 truther scandal and Jones’ support for convicted cop killer and former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal. Jones resigned on September 5th, 2010.
He is a self-professed communist as of 1992 and member of the American Communist Party and active member of the San Francisco Communist Party
He is what is known as a 9/11 Truther. One of his suspected reasons for resignation was his name appearing on a petition on the 911Truth.org site that advocated that the Bush Administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks and deliberately allowed them to happen. Bob Beckel, a former Carter admin member, called for Jones to resign shortly after this information was published.
He is a Yale educated civil rights attorney by trade. While at Yale he acted as a student monitor during the Rodney King trial and subsequent protests. He was arrested but the charges were later dropped; the protestors led by Jones later filed suit and won a small settlement.
Jones stated after that “the incident deepened my disaffection with the system and accelerated my political radicalization.”
His activism was fueled by what he noted as racial inequality while in school and made the statement that “I was seeing kids at Yale do drugs and talk about it openly, and have nothing happen to them or, if anything, get sent to rehab…And then I was seeing kids three blocks away, in the housing projects, doing the same drugs, in smaller amounts, go to prison.”
After leaving Yale, he joined the group STORM, a far left-wing socialist group whose main meme was revolution in order to affect change. Jones was very active in his role there in the vein of protesting police brutality as he had been during the King trial. He stood with STORM in denouncing the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks. Story Link Here.
In 1995 he formed Bay Area Police Watch. An organization with one purpose: to watch for police abuse. This group compiled a database of officers ‘to watch’ and precincts they suspected of encouraging police brutality.
His involvement in the support of overturning the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a member of the Black Panther Party who killed Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, has been widely publicized by the media and is in part one reason attributed to his resignation as Green Czar after being highlighted on the Glenn Beck Program.
Out of the Bay Area project came the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996.
He co-founded the group Color Of Change in 2005, an alleged African American Advocacy group that is more political activist oriented than advocacy oriented, which rose up out of a post Hurricane Katrina movement. Co-founder James Rucker, of moveon.org was the other founder. Jones abandoned the group two years later citing to some that there were differences in the direction the group should take.
Jones moved on from Color of Change to environmentalism. Specifically environmental justice and eco-capitalism. He expand the Ella Baker group to encompass this move and would produce the “Social Equity Track” and give birth to his green-collar jobs push.
Jones authored The Green Collar Economy. The book is widely seen as the re-birth of affirmative action via the ‘Green movement’ and is largely dedicated to making efforts to remove those in poverty through massive investments in green technology, jobs and renewal energy sources.
In Early in February 2010, Jones became a Senior member at the Center for American Progress, an unabashedly progressive, George Soros funded activist and advocacy group. That same month he won the NAACP’s President’s Award, at the NAACP 41st annual Image Awards, where he was honored as “An American Treasure”. They apparently didn’t see or consider these statements.
And now for some clips: