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Patricia A. O'Malley
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Presidential Czars: Myths and Facts
What does the Constitution say?
April 3, 2019
According to the Associated Press, Donald Trump might hire an Immigration Czar to coordinate all immigration policy and activities among several government agencies. Or maybe he won’t.
The hypocrisy never ends.
While Barack Obama was president, Republicans whined incessantly about his “czars”. The monarchs of imperial Russia were called czars, so the GOP assumes that you’ll believe that anyone with that title is a communist and, therefore, evil. Yes, that’s what they think of you. Actually, the communists overthrew and murdered the last czar and his family, but the GOP never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.
Many presidents have employed czars. The term dates to President Woodrow Wilson’s administration during World War I. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has appointed advisers to specialize in various topics, but it has never been the official title for a presidential adviser. The actual job title – Special Assistant to the President for (Whatever) – is too long for newspaper headlines. So the newspapers called them “czars”. That’s all there is to it.
The whiners claim that the appointments are unconstitutional because the Senate doesn’t confirm them. That is not true. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the US Constitution says:
“(The president) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, . . . shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
That means that the president has the legal authority to appoint people to certain positions without Senate confirmation. And Congress has given every president the authority to appoint special advisers on specific topics. The czars have very limited authority, little or no staff, and no budget of their own. They work within the Executive Office of the President, and are supervised by the president’s chief of staff.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republicans whined about Obama’s inexperience. More hypocrisy. So when he hired experts to advise him on particular issues, they resurrected the phony title and then whined about the title.
Trump has appointed a handful of czars, including Carl Icahn for deregulation, Peter Navarro for trade policy, Ivanka Trump for being Daddy’s girl, and Jared Kushner for a bunch of other stuff. They just don’t use the term.
I guess the Republicans decided that czars are okay after all.
Given Trump’s ties to Russia, I guess the title fits now.