Calling a Spade a Czar: The Democrats Lie on Purpose

The Democratic National Committee has a clever little campaign going at the moment, and it can be seen here. Taking a real life clip of Glenn Beck complaining about the countless “czar” appointments of Barack Obama, but running footage next to Beck of all the “George Bush czar appointments” is a neat idea. Surely blaming Obama for something that Bush himself excessively did would be hypocritical of the right, and the DNC packages the whole thing together very nicely. There is just one problem: It is chalk full of deliberate lies. Not “distortions of the truth”, which in my ethical value system are called “lies”, but I mean “complete and total, overt falsehoods”. Let’s dig deeper.

As the video plays the narration of Glenn Beck listing “czar appointments” of Obama, they name names that George Bush himself appointed as “czars”. And it is true that in 1992, Bush Sr. did say at a debate that he wanted James Baker to be his “domestic affairs czar”, one of the most horrifying things I have ever heard in my life. But of course we know what happened to his re-election bid. What this commercial is saying is that we have no right to be upset about Obama’s czar appointments – men assigned massive government jurisdiction and authority – when Bush Jr. did the exact same thing (and they claim the number to be 47). I am of the opinion that both the left and the right have enough things to criticize George W. Bush for that they hardly need to make things up in order to do it. And yet …

The dishonesty of the video became apparent to me when I saw Al Frink’s name and picture. Al is a dear friend of mine, and fellow board member of the Lincoln Club of Orange County here in California (click here). Al chairs our membership committee, and I consider it a tremendous privilege to serve the cause of freedom by co-laboring with Al in our many organizational endeavors. And indeed, Al did serve as George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing in the Commerce Department (Al was the co-founder of carpet manufacturer, Fabrica International). But Al was not Bush’s “czar” of manufacturing; he was confirmed by the United States Senate! People can debate until the cows come home about what positions are legitimate in government, and what positions are not, but the hubbub about “czars” is a hubbub that exists because these people are being arbitrarily appointed by the government, and are not being vetted by our elected representatives. When I saw the video display Al as George Bush’s version of Obama’s car czar, I decided to look into the other names this commercial listed. And guess what?

They are lying about the others as much as they are lying about Al. Al served in the cabinet of George Bush, and had to be approved by the Senate. That is not a “czar”; it is a “government position”. It is accountable to the people. It is vetted by a Constitutional process. It is categorically different than President Obama saying, “this guy’s name is Kenneth Feinberg, and he is now in charge of what executives are going to be paid”. Neel Kashkari is listed as President Bush’s “bailout czar”, but in fact, he was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate. John Negroponte served as Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet-level position filled by every President, and was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 98-2, and was directly accountable to the House Intelligence Committee. Rod Beckstrom was appointed Director of the National Cyber Security Center, but resigned less than a year later, claiming that a decentralized approach was needed, devoid of federal oversight from the NSA. Wayne Downing served as a Deputy National Security Director, fully accountable to Congress, and frequently asked to testify before lawmaker hearings.

The purpose of this piece is not to defend George W. Bush, who did plenty in his own right to expand government in ways that I find appalling. But the DNC has a responsibility to stick to the facts, and claiming that George Bush appointed 47 people like Van Jones and Kenneth Feinberg and Steve Rattner as “czars” is patently false. The Green Jobs czar, and the compensation czar, and the auto czar have all been appointed by Obama, given huge leeway to set and enforce policy, and have no accountability or oversight within our system of government whatsoever. The names associated with George Bush were confirmed by the lawmakers to whom the Constitution of this country designates that authority and responsibility. The candidates were vetted, and they remained accountable to the people throughout their time in that position.

I believe Obama should be criticized for his repugnant czar appointments (click here). And I believe George Bush should be criticzed for his repugnant entitlement spending (the prescription drug benefit comes to mind). But if the DNC can not criticize the right for the correct reasons, and without lying, they ought to zip it. One day, maybe we will have a “truth in politics” czar.