Malkin ignores Senate confirmations in attack on Obama “czars”

Columnist Michelle Malkin falsely suggested that the Obama administration “bypassed the Senate advise-and-consent role” in the appointment of 40 “czars,” who she called “shadow secretaries with broad powers beyond congressional reach.” In fact, many of these officials have been confirmed by the Senate or were appointed to positions created through legislation passed by Congress; additionally, a number of the officials had counterparts in the Bush administration.

Malkin revives “czar” falsehood to attack Obama's “new oil-spill czar”

Malkin falsely suggests 40 Obama appointees aren't subject to Senate confirmation. In her column, Malkin wrote that Obama is appointing a “new oil-spill czar” “to oversee recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico,” and that the appointment is a result of Obama's purported “czar fetish” and “czarmania.” She claimed Obama has “bypassed the Senate advise-and-consent role and unilaterally created a two-tiered government” with the appointments, citing Judicial Watch's list of 40 “appointed czars.” From Malkin's June 15 Creators Syndicate column:

Here is the Obama theory of disaster management: In times of crisis, you can never have enough unelected, un-vetted political appointees hanging around. Nearly two months after the BP oil spill, the White House will now name an oil spill restoration point person to oversee recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Too many czars have already spoiled this administration's credibility. Might as well pile on another.

The new oil-spill czar is not to be mistaken for the old oil spill czar, US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was officially designated the “National Incident Commander of the Unified Command for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico” on April 30.


As I've noted before regarding Obama's czarmania, this White House has bypassed the Senate advise-and-consent role and unilaterally created a two-tiered government. It's fronted by Cabinet secretaries able to withstand public scrutiny (some of them just barely) and then managed behind the scenes by shadow secretaries with broad powers beyond congressional reach. Bureaucratic chaos serves as a useful smokescreen to obscure the true source of policy decision-making. While past administrations dating back to the Nixon era have designated such “superaides,” none has exploited and extended the concept as widely as Obama has (we're up to the 40th appointed czar, by Washington-based watchdog group Judicial Watch's count).

Several “czar” positions were either Senate-confirmed, created by statute, or had Bush-admin counterparts

Malkin's “czar” list includes several who have been confirmed by the Senate. In her column, Malkin cites Judicial Watch's list of “czars,” but nine on the list were confirmed by the Senate. They include:

  • R. Gil Kerlikowske, confirmed as the Director of National Drug Control Policy on May 7,2009; listed by Judicial Watch as the “drug” czar;
  • Dennis Blair, confirmed as the Director of National Intelligence on January 28, 2009; listed as the “intelligence” czar.
  • Cass Sunstein, confirmed as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget on September 10, 2009; listed as the “regulatory” czar.
  • John Holdren, confirmed as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on March 19, 2009; listed as the “science” czar.
  • Herbert Allison, confirmed as the Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability on June 19, 2009; listed as the “TARP” czar.
  • Ashton Carter, confirmed as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics on April 23, 2009; listed as the “weapons” czar.
  • Aneesh Chopra, confirmed as an associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on May 21, 2009 and also named Chief Technology Officer of the United States by President Obama; listed as the “technology” czar.
  • David J. Hayes, confirmed as Deputy Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 2009 and appointed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as “lead official for Interior and the Obama Administration in coordinating the federal response to California water supply” on June 28, 2009; listed as “California water” czar.
  • Victoria A. Espinel, confirmed as U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator on December 3, 2009; currently holds the “copyright” czar position Judicial Watch listed as “unfilled.”

Three “czars” are appointed to positions specifically created by statute:

Six of the “czars” confirmed by the Senate filled positions that existed during the Bush administration. According to the Library of Congress' Thomas database, Kerlikowske, Blair, Sunstein, Holdren, Carter, and Chopra all filled positions that were previously held by Bush administration appointees; Blair's position was created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004. Additionally, Kundra's position was created in 2002.

In at least six other cases, Bush administration officials held similar or identical positions to those of the officials listed by Fox:

Malkin cites Jones Act to falsely suggest foreign vessels are not helping with clean up

Malkin suggests foreign ships cannot aid in clean up because Obama has not waived Jones Act. From the column:

Folks in the Gulf don't need any more Romanov-style apparatchiks or blue-ribbon crony panels to show them the way toward relief. Florida public officials and foreign shippers say the protectionist Jones Act is preventing vessels from abroad from providing cleanup aid.

In fact, “15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved” in response to spill; vessels did not require Jones Act waivers

Gibbs tells Fox & Friends that foreign aid is being used in Gulf. In an interview on the June 15 edition of Fox & Friends, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated that "[w]e have talked to several countries" and that “foreign entities are operating within the Gulf that help us respond” to the oil spill. Despite this, both Carlson and Ingraham continued to falsely suggest that foreign aide was being denied.

JIC: Fifteen foreign-flagged vessels currently involved in response to Gulf oil spill; vessels did not require Jones Act waivers. In a June 15 press release, the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center (JIC) stated that "[c]urrently, 15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved in the largest response to an oil spill in U.S. history." The JIC further explained, “No Jones Act waivers have been granted because none of these vessels have required such a waiver to conduct their operations in the Gulf of Mexico.” The press release further stated:

To date, the administration has leveraged assets and skills from numerous foreign countries and international organizations as part of this historic, all-hands-on-deck response, including Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the United Nations' International Maritime Organization and the European Union's Monitoring and Information Centre. In some cases, offers of international assistance have been turned down because the offer didn't fit the needs of the response.

Fox News' Brian Wilson previously reported that “some foreign technology is being used in the current cleanup effort.” On June 10, Fox News reporter Brian Wilson wrote on his blog that "[t]he Coast Guard and the Administration are quick to point out that some foreign technology is being used in the current cleanup effort." According to Wilson, this technology includes:

- Canada's offer of 3,000 meters of containment boom

- Three sets of COSEQ sweeping arms from the Dutch

- Mexico's offer of two skimmers and 4200 meters of boom

- Norway's offer of 8 skimming systems

Gibbs: “We are using equipment ... from countries like Norway, Canada, the Netherlands”; no need “thus far” for “any type of waiver.” In a June 10 press briefing, Gibbs fielded a question on the administration's position in issuing waivers to the Jones Act. Gibbs stated that “there has not been any problem” with “using equipment” from foreign countries. From the briefing:

Q Senator Bill Nelson is going to write a letter to the President today asking for some clarification on the Jones Act and whether or not it is in any way inhibiting the U.S. government's use of offers from other foreign nations and foreign-flagged vessels to help in any way -- mediation, skimming, any of the other operations you're doing on the Gulf. What is the administration's position on it? The Jones Act was waived during Katrina by the Bush administration to bring oil in. What's your position on this?

MR. GIBBS: I would say this --

Q Is it an impediment or are you open to waiving it if you need to?

MR. GIBBS: No, no, as Admiral Allen said today, we are using equipment and vessels from countries like Norway, Canada, the Netherlands. There has not been any problem with this. If there is the need for any type of waiver, that would obviously be granted. But this -- we've not had that problem thus far in the Gulf.

Q But you're open to waiving it if you need to?

MR. GIBBS: If there's anything that needs to happen, that will -- we will make sure that it happens.