Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's Up with the Czar Wars?

Republicans are at it again, bashing Obama for something that they let slide under George W. Bush. This time it’s about Obama’s appointment of so-called czars to advise him on various policy issues.

The word czar originally meant an emperor, like Caesar, which is the term’s root. Russia was ruled by czars for centuries. But it is not at all affiliated with communism or socialism, which is what some Republicans want us to believe. Czarist Russia ended with the revolution of 1917 when socialism took over.

Regardless of its history, today’s use of czar in America was coined by the news media as a lazy way of saying policy advisor. In this day of fast a furious sound bites, it’s much easier to say “drug czar” than to say “the policy advisor on drugs.”

Every president has had czars, some more than the current president. George W. Bush had so many czars that he even had to appoint a czar to oversee his other czars. He had a czar czar.

Even Franklin D. Roosevelt had a czar, a rubber czar. No he didn’t have a crisis of condoms; it was about how to get enough rubber to make tires.

So why is there so much backlash over Obama’s use of policy czars? The short answer is that Republicans have no fresh ideas of their own on any matter of policy, so their strategy is to attack Obama on every single detail of his presidency, no matter how picayune.

If he did not appoint any policy advisors, they would condemn him for that. They would say he is an inexperienced leader who should be appointing as many advisors as he can.

In reality, Obama is doing as president as he did when he was running for office. He is surrounding himself with experts on specific aspects of his job so that they can advise him from a position of knowledge and intellect rather than from cronyism, which our former president was guilty of.

It has been more than 10 months since the election and eight months since Obama took office. But from all the Obama bashing that is going on these days, you would think the campaign was still going on. Former president Jimmy Carter got it right when he said that much of the brouhaha stems from racial prejudice. Nobody will admit it, of course. But it does play a role. Just look at the signs being held up at the so-called Tea Party events. They are blatantly racist.

Maybe the mainstream Republicans simply disagree on policy, but the fact that so few of them have publicly scorned the ultra-right-wing segment of their party simply gives the racist rhetoric tacit approval and provides its purveyors with legitimacy.

Everyone has a right to speak his mind in America, even if it is spoken in an inappropriate manner. But having that right doesn’t mean that those who are more moderate in their viewpoints shouldn’t take steps to rein in the more extreme elements in their party. Not doing so makes the right-wing extremists the party’s official voice. But if that’s the voice they want, then they may have to live with even more disappointment next November.


Madspirit said...

Really excellent, Jerry! Nice blog. Great post.

Jerry Wilson said...

Thank you, Madspirit.