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Obama`s `Czar` System Fueling Controversy

Posted March. 07, 2009 07:44,   


More than one and a half months since his inauguration, U.S. President Barack Obama has taken the lead in tackling the economic crisis; revamping health insurance; developing next-generation energy sources; and setting a new diplomatic tone.

Due to such aggressive efforts, his approval rating continues to rise regardless of the results.

Controversy over the bloated role of the White House is brewing, however. The first criticism is over the increasing number of “czar” posts in the presidential office.

Obama has appointed two officials to lead health insurance reform: Kathleen Sebelius, the nominee to head the Health and Human Resources Department, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, who will become the administration’s “health czar.”

Besides DeParle, a slew of czars for energy, urban, and economic matters have taken up their positions in the White House.

Obama has established the new post of chief information officer, or information technology czar, and named Vivek Kundra to the post. Prior to this, Obama had sought to name a car czar but did not.

With the number of “super advisers” increasing, fears over conflicts between czars and Cabinet members are also rising.

On who is responsible for healthcare reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs initially mentioned DeParle, but immediately retracted his comment by saying, “I’ll let you know later.”

In diplomacy and security, the National Security Council is set to wield more influence than the state and defense departments.

Under previous administrations, the council presided over principal committee meetings attended by Cabinet members such as the secretaries of state and defense and meetings of assistant secretaries, according to the journal Foreign Policy.

Under the Obama administration, however, the council even convenes working-level meetings that had been presided over by the State Department.

The more powerful White House is the product of Obama’s governing style that values drive and efficiency.

The downside of this is lack of transparency, however, because such advisers require no confirmation hearings and use state funds at their disposal.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd has expressed worry over the White House advisers in a letter to Obama. “As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to Cabinet officials, or to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd said.