Friday, March 06, 2009

Why so many czars?

It is a sign of just how unthinkingly authoritarian this country has become that we pay virtually no attention to the phenomenon of presidents naming almost completely unaccountable officials to breathtakingly powerful positions and calling them "czars." You would think that in a remotely democratic country, or one with a semblance of residual respect for freedom, that the very utterance of the word "czar" would cause the gorge to rise in millions of patriotic throats to the point that no president would even think of calling an appointee by such a reprehensible name. Yet every president since Nixon has appointed some kind of "czar," and however skeptical many of us might be deep down, hardly anyone rises to complain.

As this Register editorial notes, Obama has gone previous presidents several better (or worse), naming health, energy, urban affairs and economic czare, "super-aides who don't require congressional confirmation and answer to nobody but the ultimate czar, the president himself, the capo di tutti capi. How interesting that it should be that shameless old pork barreler, Bobby Byrd of West Virgina, who is the only one to raise a feeble voice of protest, showing some residual respect for the constitution. Thus does the cult of the Imperial Presidency grow, and Americans, battered by a government-induced recession that will probably be longer than any of us hope, sit back in submissive hope that maybe power can save us. But as Ring trilogy fans should know, the ring of power cannot be used for good.

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