Facts matter, even in op-eds

FACTS MATTER, EVEN IN OP-EDS…. It’s been fascinating to watch right-wing apoplexy about “czars” work its way into the Republican mainstream. What was once a fringe argument, detached from history and political norms, is now a major topic of conversation among GOP policymakers and their allies.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), for example, is running for governor in Texas, and needs to impress an extremely conservative GOP base in order to win her primary race. So, she wrote an op-ed yesterday for the Washington Post characterizing White House “czars” as an outrageous and unconstitutional abuse.

“A few of them,” Hutchison argued, “have formal titles, but most are simply known as ‘czars.’ They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy.”

Amanda Terkel noted how very wrong this is.

In fact, ALL of these officials have formal titles. For example, Hutchison cites Van Jones, the “green jobs czar.” But Jones had the title of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality. The only person Obama has referred to as a czar is “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske, whose official title is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Additionally, “drug czar” was a term that existed long before the Obama administration.) […]

Hutchison does not list the 32 individuals whom she considers to be “czars.” But if she’s relying on the same list as Cantor — who also cited 32 people — then several of them are far from unaccountable; they’ve actually already been confirmed by the Senate.

The Hutchison op-ed also refers to the White House’s “czars” as “unprecedented,” a claim we also know to be wrong.

Atrios, among others, notes today the problem here is not just with Hutchison’s bogus arguments, but also with the Washington Post‘s willingness to publish an op-ed that misleads readers. That’s absolutely true — Hutchison’s piece includes easy-to-check objective claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny. It was published anyway.

I’d just add, though, that the same newspaper ran an op-ed from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) just six weeks ago on the exact same topic. It, too, included a series of demonstrably false claims about the administration’s “czars,” and it, too, was published anyway.

In other words, the Post made a mistake running Hutchison’s deliberately misleading op-ed, but it’s a mistake the paper has made more than once recently.