Quite a bit of discussion has been generated over President Obama’s fondness for “czars,” officials working for the White House who are in charge of a special government project — automotive industry reform, energy policy, environmental and climate change policies, the War on Drugs, the Census, etc.
Unfortunately “czars” are essentially unaccountable. Unlike cabinet appointments, “czars” are not vetted by Congress, nor does Congress have any oversight with regard to projects that are developed and managed by the “czars.”
Despite his questionable past, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has remained a staunch defender of the Constitution and its stated separation of government powers. Yesterday, in a rare move that was deeply critical of a President from his own party, Sen. Byrd sent a letter of concern to President Obama:
“As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.”
The West Virginia Democrat on Wednesday asked Obama to “consider the following: that assertions of executive privilege will be made only by the president, or with the president’s specific approval; that senior White House personnel will be limited from exercising authority over any person, any program, and any funding within the statutory responsibility of a Senate-confirmed department or agency head; that the president will be responsible for resolving any disagreement between a Senate-confirmed agency or department head and White House staff; and that the lines of authority and responsibility in the administration will be transparent and open to the American public.”
They say even a broken clock is right twice a day. A decade ago I applauded Sen. Byrd when he implored President Clinton to quit schmoozing Senators during his impeachment trial: “Don’t tamper with this jury.” I am equally thankful that Sen. Byrd has taken exception to President Obama’s brazen attempt to increase the power of the Presidency — something over which the Democrats mercilessly pilloried the Bush Administration, yet seem completely comfortable with, now that they are in charge.