DANCING WITH THE CZARS…. Remember last year, when Republicans seemed awfully excited about “czars”? It was all the rage for a while, and Congress even held a couple of hearings for reasons I still don’t understand.

Eventually, it occurred to the political world that the “debate,” such as it was, had no value; “czars” weren’t controversial; the Obama White House was utilizing officials just as other modern administrations had done; and the story faded away. Looking back, the whole hullabaloo seems to serve as a reminder of how silly our political discourse can be.

Alas, not everyone thinks so.

Republicans will have President Barack Obama’s czars and his use of regulatory powers to circumvent congressional inaction on issues such as cap and trade in GOP crosshairs if the party takes control in January. […]

“When the Republicans are in charge, you will see the oversight subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee active on a whole host of fronts,” said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, who would chair the subcommittee if the Republicans take control of Congress. “How are these [czars] funded? So whether it be the authorizing committees and appropriations committees in terms of deleting the funds for those, I think you could go after it in one of two different ways.

Good lord, do we really have to do go through this again?

Jed Lewison, who characterized all of this as “insane,” added:

What Beck (and now Republicans) call “czars” are really just presidential aides and advisers, many of whom have been confirmed by the Senate. There’s nothing new about them and they’ve existed since the founding of the Republic. In fact, far from being a threat to our democracy, these are people who are working to preserve our Constitution and strengthen our nation. They are serving us and they are accountable to us — not the other way around.

But Republicans know they need to scare the shit out of their base to win this election, so they’ve decided to sell Beck’s conspiracy theory to the electorate. The problem with that cynical political strategy is that they can’t just sell the conspiracy — they’ve also go to promise to do something about it. And so they are now running up and down the country vowing to eliminate a threat which doesn’t exist.

For the record, the Bush/Cheney administration had 36 czar positions filled by 46 people during its two terms. Congressional Republicans never cared, and in some cases, applauded the expansion of the czar team.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.