Czar Struck

CZAR STRUCK…. There are now 35 House Republicans pushing a “Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009.” The effort is being led by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and luminaries such as Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and most of the congressional “birthers.”

With this in mind, this clip from “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night was especially informative. Rachel noted the legion of White House czars created by Bush/Cheney, reminding viewers that “the right did not freak out” at the time “like Bolsheviks at St. Petersburg.”

“But President Obama? Clearly his hiring practices are evidence of him forming a communist-fascist-czarist-Kenyan-Martian shadow government here to … take away your guns. Or, he’s doing what American presidents have done without controversy for generations.”

On a related note, I received an email yesterday, noting that I wrote a piece criticizing the Bush White House’s czars in May 2007. The reader accused me of hypocrisy — why can I question Bush’s czars, but conservatives can’t question Obama’s?

This isn’t complicated. My piece in 2007 didn’t argue that Bush was using czars as part of some autocratic fascist agenda; it argued that Bush used czars as a policy catch-all crutch. I never said Bush’s czars were illegal; I said they were lazy. Two years ago, for example, there were highly publicized E. coli outbreaks, instances of poisoned pet food, and other bacterial contaminations that undermined the public’s confidence in the monitoring of the nation’s food supply. Instead of endorsing stronger federal regulations or improving a beleaguered FDA, Bush appointed a “food safety czar.” The then-president did this repeatedly — if his administration screwed up, Bush would pretend to care by coming up with a new “czar’s” office.

It was Bush’s default way of sweeping a problem under the proverbial rug. As I explained at the time, “First: A public policy controversy erupts, usually as the result of administration incompetence, hackery, or both. Second: The public demands swift action to address the concern. Third: [Bush] creates a new ‘czar.'”

My concerns from the time bear no resemblance to right-wing hysteria now. There is no hypocrisy.