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Liberal Sen. Takes Up 'Czar' Questions with the White House

By Michael A. Fletcher
Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.) released a letter Wednesday asking the White House for an accounting of the "roles and responsibilities" of the growing number of special advisers or policy "czars" working for President Obama.

In the letter, Feingold also asked the president's legal advisers to explain how their appointments square with the Constitution's mandate that the Senate oversee executive appointments.

"I hope that this information will help address some of the concerns that have been raised about new positions in the White House and elsewhere in the Executive Branch," wrote Feingold, chairman of the Senate Constitution Subcommittee. He added that the issue was raised by his constituents in Wisconsin at several town hall meetings.

Since taking office, Obama has continued a presidential tradition by appointing several dozen special advisers and envoys, while assigning special duties to Cabinet deputies to coordinate across normal administrative boundaries. While some of the appointments are Senate approved, others are not -- and the issue has become a flashpoint for critics of the presidents who have labeled the appointees "czars."

Those critics, who include conservative commentators, have now been joined by Feingold, one of the Senate's most liberal members. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he had not yet seen the letter when he was asked about it at Wednesday's press briefing. But, pointing out that the policy "czars" never emerged as an issue when former president George W. Bush appointed at least three dozen of them, he dismissed the swirling controversy as political gamesmanship.

"I think what the American people would like every branch of government to do is get about dealing with the problems that real people have each and every day rather than playing political games back and forth, day after day, and not solving or addressing their problems," Gibbs said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  September 16, 2009; 6:48 PM ET
Categories:  Capitol Briefing  
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Comments

If the "czars" have nothing to hide why would they not insist for a Congressional Hearing and FBI vetting? I would think that the Administration would insist upon it with all the questions that have arisen as to the character of the individuals.

It is irrelevant that no one asked in the past. It could be that there wasn't any reason as there obviously is now even to one as far to the Left as Feingold.

Posted by: PrudentMan | September 20, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Afterthought:

How long is BHO's leadership and administrative strengths or weaknesses going to be measured on a relative basis rather than an absolute by "journalists" who try to change the subject but fail absolutely?

If I recall last December when the financial crisis was hitting hard the President Elect stated, as a cop-out used by FDR in 1932: "We only have one president at a time". The last I looked he is the one now, he ran hard for it, knew what he was getting as he was a Senator at the time, won it with all of its ramifications and cannot evade responsibility for his policies.

The point is: Are the way "czars" created and used legal and for the benefit of the citizens or politicians? Forget the re-writing of history.

Shouldn't all government employees be vetted by the FBI? I was in the military for top secret clearance, as a consultant to the FDIC and , as a teenager, a mail clerk for the IRS. It is inconceivable to me that people are wandering in an out of the White House, as they did during the Clinton Administration, not be required to have their background examined.

Posted by: PrudentMan | September 20, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Are the "alleged racists" inside or outside of the White House?

Posted by: PrudentMan | September 20, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Bush did not have any czars!!! The libereal media is lieing! Listen to Glen Beck on the TV and wake up before we loose our country to coommunist, nazi and negroid forces.

Posted by: SavedGirl | September 20, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse


Bush had 46 "czars" who filled 36 positions during his administraton. 21 were approved the the senate. Presidents have been appointing "czars" since the Nixon adminstration.

Posted by: The_Phoenix | September 18, 2009 2:08 AM | Report abuse

interesting thought you posted:
"why all of the sudden is there all this interest in curbing presidential power"

especially when we think back just a few short years ago when Cheney and Bush were pushing the concept of the unitary executive and expanding presidential powers to the point of concealing vital foreign policy information from the Senate Intelligence Committee during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: leichtman | September 17, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

rogerjan,

I hear what your saying about the racist card. I'm a moderate and I think a vast majority of people who are objecting are doing it for policy reasons.

That said, I'm also certain that some very small percentage of people objecting ARE getting upset for racist reasons. Racism isn't dead so what's so surprising that some small narrow-minded minority of people WILL get extra passionate because their racist. However, to me it's really a non-issue. The black caucus made it's point ... it's time for them and us to move on.

Your other comment however is bothersome.

The Czar thing is sort of silly. Things have not changed since the Bush presidency ... why all of the sudden is there all this interest in curbing presidential power ... perchance is this all about politics - scoring political points and not substance?

I'm ok with challenging the status quo on something like this but if you going to get all passionate because Pres. Obama did this ... your not acting in an honest manner ... as the article points out Pres. Bush did the same kind of things.

I'm OK with restricting presidential power and making a change on these Czars but if we're going to do so it should kick into play at some later time to build credibility that this is not some kind of political gamesmanship.

Posted by: fjt123 | September 17, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

looks like we will have a weekly attack machine on this Administration for the next 3 years b/c their opposition is devoid of ideas. The question should be simply Is the US better off than it was 8 months ago? Lets see when W left office the economic pundits were unanimously inquiring whether we were on the precipise of 1929. Today every economic indicator including the economic czar, the auto czar, the home foreclosure czar are ALL pointing up. Even unemployent indicators finally stabilizing. To all those on the right who have whined weekly about everything this Administration has done, from the stimulus bill, cash for clunker bill, the $8000 first time home buyers bill, all I can say is thank goodness they have chosen to ignore you whiners. There was a reason that the country rejected your lack of ideas in November and our only consideration should be whether B.O.'s economic policies are working, and the answer is heck yes. Apparently cheering against this country and hoping for failure is now deemed patriotic by the No Nothing right wingers.

Posted by: leichtman | September 17, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmmm, I wonder what position Obama will take concerning ACORN?


For all the bitc$ing liberals did when bush was President, you sure are quiet with Obama's power grab.....and paybacks to his favorite corporations...

Posted by: tdl62 | September 17, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I have a great deal of respect for Sen. Feingold. He is the kind of leader we need in America, able to look at every issue on its own terms, not just the terms that a specific political standpoint demands. And he listens to his constituents, no matter what political camp they happen to be a part of. Paul Wellstone shared those admirable qualities.

Posted by: curtb | September 17, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

You guys are unreal. You, the very people who loudly protested everything Bush did calling him everything but white, now loudly defend Obama against those who disagree with anything he says calling them racists, fearmongers,liers, everything but white, and more. You can't have it both ways like you think you can. The huge difference between the past presidents' "czars" including GWB is that they only used them to ADVISE them of situations NOT make them the decision makers. They worked with the cabinet members. These current czars have powers that supercede the cabinet heads. Most of these czars have political motivation, have conflicts of interests (check out each person's past connections to the businesses they are controlling)AND THEY ONLY ANSWER TO OBAMA!!! That alone should raise the hackles of every voting american. But you defend him. As Colmes said after Obama won - "Leave MY president alone"! Well, that won't happen, no one left Bush alone. You all crucified him relentlessly, even those from congress LOUDLY and without sanctions. Oh, but wait - that is different!!! Democrat vs Republican. I think it is time for a 3rd political party. Where is Jesse Ventura???? I can't wait for Nov. 2010. Kudos to Feingold, one of the loudest critics of Bush but who has the balls to stand up and ask the hard questions.

Posted by: rogerjan | September 17, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Feingold for actually listening to, and acting upon, his constituents' concerns! What a novel idea - hey, all you other politicians - take notes!!
Gibbs is a master of the mumbled doublespeak gibberish, constantly dismissing any questions or dissents as innocuous at best, baseless idiocy at worst.
The valid fears concerning the czars is that they have formed a radical ideological circle of access and alignment around and with Obama, circumventing the normal status quo of congressional and senate duties and thereby gaining the ability to write bills (Apollo/Stimulus Bill) and directly affect the future, and future direction, of this country. Their motto is "to hell with the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, we're re-writing our own", which will then become ours... To write those czars off as innocuous is about as stupid as stupid gets.

Posted by: OnPoint2 | September 17, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how reliably liberal Senator Russ Feingold enjoys being called a political gamester by the Family Guy.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 17, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Its ACORN who are led by the Czars and the Bismarks. These nefarious underworld demons are now taking over our great white country and pushing for the fluoridation of our water supply. Obama and the Czars and Bismarks along with ACORN and the Kenyans want to contaminate our precious bodily fluids with filth from the 3rd world and possibly from the planet Xenophobiana. We must stop the contamination of our bodily fluids and protect our precious white virgin girls from being violated and elect the pure Arayan leader, the Great Beck.

Posted by: hayden1 | September 17, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Press Secretary Gibbs pretty well covered this bit of what he politely called "political gamesmanship" when he pointed out that " policy 'czars' never emerged as an issue when former president George W. Bush appointed at least three dozen of them." Presidents have advisors in many forms, including wives, old high school buddies, recognized experts in their fields, etc. Let's just ignore this conservative attempt to utilize "czar" as a dirty word in their latest assault on the presidency. It's nothing much more than the latest fascination of the fanatic, small-minded bullies on Fox News.

Posted by: TomCamfield | September 17, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Yes Clean out the Czars and after that Clean out SEIU Then lets get the congress people who owe us Taxes, they above all should be brought before the House and made shame of, but that takes courage and only few in congress have that quality that truly makes a GOOD statesman or women.

Posted by: akeegan2 | September 17, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

At this pivotal time of "change" in our nations history, Obozzo needs to appoint a Czar Czar who has nothing to do but keep track of the Czar's who have nothing to do but run aimlessly around DC looking for something to put their name on.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | September 17, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

URGENT TO SEN. FEINGOLD (Staff, please forward):

Instead of buying into the hard-right's agit-propaganda, how about tackling what's really destroying democracy and the rule of law in America -- THIS:

SILENT, HARMFUL MICROWAVE AND LASER DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPONS DEPLOYED AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS -- AMERICA's HORRIFIC SHAME

A federal-local multi-agency coordinated action program -- an ongoing legacy of the Bush-Cheney years -- is committing a quiet genocide on thousands of unjustly targeted Americans via such mind- and body-degrading weaponry; covert financial exploitation; and a grassroots vigilante army fronted by community policing, town watch and anti-terrorism units who use covertly placed warrantless GPS and cell phones to stalk their targets -- protected by federal and local law enforcement who know all about it...

...an American Gestapo hiding in plain sight, unreported by a complacent mainstream media, unaddressed by naive and apparently misinformed Obama officials.

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 17, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

""I think what the American people would like every branch of government to do is get about dealing with the problems that real people have each and every day rather than playing political games back and forth, day after day, and not solving or addressing their problems," Gibbs said."

Yes, but we'd like them to do so Constitutionally. And if an idea is not Constitutional but it is a good idea, then ask We the People to amend the Constitution accordingly.

Posted by: MDLaxer | September 17, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Adding more czars might be an answer to the U.S. unemployment crisis.

Posted by: newbeeboy | September 17, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Yes.

He's President, not king;therefore, he is violating the charter of the US government, like Bush.

-------

You sound like your beef is with Obama himself and that you're just looking for a reason to criticize what he's doing. That doesn't lend any credibility (from my perspective, at least) to the argument that I should care about this 'Czar' issue. If you don't like who he goes to for policy recommendations, that's one thing. To imply that he's doing something bad by choosing and publicizing who he goes to for policy recommendations is a little silly, though.

Posted by: ponkey | September 17, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Still not entirely clear on why I should care about this. Is there a reason Obama shouldn't be able to have whatever advisers he likes?
------------
Yes.

He's President, not king;therefore, he is violating the charter of the US government, like Bush.

Remember Michael Brown?

And it is a problem, not only legally, but also in the incompetence that is manifested, that is, candidatates unable to intellectually comprehend their job responsibilties -- Obama is doing what he knows, and that is Chicago and IL politics (that state, a Bushian mess, btw).

And dumb people can't cut it, right?

Do you routinely give control of the decisions that affect your life to steam'in idiots? Il pays a corruption tax, or really, maybe it's more of an incompetence tax; do we, as Americans, also pay one, too?

When Obama appoints inferior candidates, the national infrastructure suffers.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | September 17, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

The healthcare "czar" sat on the boards of healthcare corporations that were investigated by the government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Most of the czars appear to be more smoke and mirrors generated by the Obama Administration's perpetual presidential election campaigns. The Obama administration is more interested in getting elected or preparing to get elected, than it is in governing. There are no specifics to many of the proposals, including healthcare, announced by the Obama Administration.

Posted by: eyemakeupneeded1 | September 17, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The healthcare "czar" sat on the boards of healthcare corporations that were investigated by the government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Most of the czars appear to be more smoke and mirrors generated by the Obama Administration's perpetual presidential election campaigns. The Obama administration is more interested in getting elected or preparing to get elected, than it is in governing. There are no specifics to many of the proposals, including healthcare, announced by the Obama Administration.

Posted by: eyemakeupneeded1 | September 17, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

It would be great to see some sort of chart showing the growth in the number of
these positions over time.Posted by: menaman | September 17, 2009 12:13 AM

--

The only one I know of is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._executive_branch_czars

Posted by: twm1 | September 17, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

It would be great to see some sort of chart showing the growth in the number of these positions over time.

Posted by: menaman | September 17, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

All you Republican dimwits should remember the power Karl Rove had in the Bush Presidency .... did anyone ever approve him ?? .... NO .... once again the Republicans show their lack of intelligence.

Posted by: wasaUFO | September 17, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Once again, Feingold, to his great credit, has tried to cut through the partisan rhetoric and focus on what really is a serious issue: presidential power in general and congressional oversight in relation to executive appointments in particular. I believe Robert Byrd has tried to raise this issue also. Unfortunately, the real issue has been distorted by deliberate partisan manipulation on the part of some (not all) conservatives and Republicans. According to an article in Wikipedia, the concept of Czar goes back at least to Franklin Roosevelt. There were some Czars is most every administration since, but the numbers have only grown into the thirties under G W Bush and Obama. Thus, it has come to be a much more important problem recently than it was before. The comments so far show how hard it is to get past the partisan rhetoric and focus on the real issue of congressional oversight. Feingold was one of the strongest critics of the Bush Administration's extreme claims about executive power, and I imagine that he sees his current effort as an extension of his previous criticisms. The issue of limits on presidential power is extremely important. I hope Feingold and other honest, principled Democrats and Republicans continue to pursue this issue.

Posted by: twm1 | September 16, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Funny how everything is okay because someone else did it. Obama is doing a lot of what Bush did. For those rebuking republicans for not complaining about the Bush czars, dems did so loudly. So what is so wrong now with dems defending their own czars while republicans complain? They are the same actions - one political party defending and the other complaining. Seems hypocritical of democrats to defend their actions as morally superior yet deride the same action conducted by others as wrong. Do I get to be called a racist now?

Posted by: justmyvoice | September 16, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

So the . . . defense has evolved from "It's all Bush's fault" to "Bush did it too."
____________

Not exactly. You see, when the Repubs criticize President Obama for things which they didn't care about during the Bush administration, that's called hypocrisy. (Though in truth it's just politics as usual.)

Where's your dubya now?
////////////////////////
To answer your last question, he is term limited, and keeping his mouth shut like a former president should do, not like Bubba.

Second answer: It is not a question of how many Czars there are, it is a question of WHO they are.

Posted by: ddy19spider57 | September 16, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

The sudden focus on presidential Czars by the Republicans is so patently cynical, partisan and self-serving it's bi-czar that anyone is paying any attention. They lost the election. Obama is doing nothing that Bush/Clinton/Bush/Reagan didn't do. Why the Hate?

Fear, Hatred, Distortion, Distraction and Division is all Republicans have to offer.

Posted by: thebobbob | September 16, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

"So the . . . defense has evolved from "It's all Bush's fault" to "Bush did it too."
____________

Not exactly. You see, when the Repubs criticize President Obama for things which they didn't care about during the Bush administration, that's called hypocrisy. (Though in truth it's just politics as usual.)

Where's your dubya now?

Posted by: writinron | September 16, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Still not entirely clear on why I should care about this. Is there a reason Obama shouldn't be able to have whatever advisers he likes? I get the strong sense that nobody complained about this during the Bush Administration because there just isn't much here to complain about.

Posted by: ponkey | September 16, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

So the Messiah's all-purpose defense has evolved from "It's all Bush's fault" to "Bush did it too."

Clever.

Posted by: thebump | September 16, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Russ Feingold, I will explain to you the deal with the latest made up controversy, the so called czars. BTW the first czar that I recall was Bill Bennett, a "drug czar" appointed by Reagan. Mr Bennett was such a great drug czar that he got his buddy Rush Limbaugh hooked on Oxycontin, but I digress.

The deal with the appointment of people who need no congressional vote is because, during the Clinton presidency, the Republocult would put everyone from the assistant secretary of labor on up to such microscopic scrutiny that, if you hired a guy 10 years ago to mow your lawn who was an illegal alien, you were deemed unfit. The only way to actually get anything done over the first couple of years is to appoint people while the the FBI checks out the bona fides of that babysitter your assistant secretary of state nominee hired 8 years ago. Now you know, so please, S T F U.

Posted by: rkerg | September 16, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

For an administration that has repeatedly said "we need to look forward, not backwards", they always look backwards when the issues are debts, deficits and tsars as they point fingers at previous administrations.

Posted by: fatboysez | September 16, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Did ACORN really close down?! That's great news.

Posted by: JakeD | September 16, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I notice that if anyone complains about what President Obama does, Bush and other presidents it first and more.

---------

Not sure why this isn't a legitimate point. Did people complain about this when Bush did it? If not, why not? And what are the concerns now, exactly?

Posted by: ponkey | September 16, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Several? There are estimates that Obama's Czar's now number somewhere between 32 and 54. Time for Congress to cut off the funding. I understand the budget for the White House this year is 2 billion. How much did it cost to fly Lobster out for Obama and his crew on their trip to Montana?

Posted by: Bubbette1 | September 16, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I notice that if anyone complains about what President Obama does, Bush and other presidents it first and more. Go on smoking what ever you were smoking and let the kids smoke these czars after they get through with ACORN. You can shoot the messenger,but there are more coming. Why don't you do your job and research and report, rather than point and defer.

Posted by: TallyGlenn | September 16, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Acorns have suspended all operations today.
Congress has to better oversee public dole.

CZARS are next to go.

Posted by: dottydo | September 16, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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