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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Shadow Government of the Obama Administration II

Yesterday, I pointed out that the explosion of "Czars", advisers, and envoys has the potential of creating a shadow government in the Obama administration. That's because "Czars", advisers, and envoys have no standard or defined roles. They are the creation of the President himself. As such, they operate outside of the apparatus of the government. Whereas someone in the State Department is answerable to the Secretary of State who is then answerable to the President? Who exactly is the terrorism Czar answerable to? Sure, they are answerable to the President but a terrorism Czar has no defined role. It's been created by the imagination of the President.

Today, like clockwork, Politico has a story that encapsulates what I was talking about yesterday.

For all the talk of his “Team of Rivals” pick in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama last week handed the two hottest hotspots in American foreign policy to presidential envoys – one to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and the other to a man who knows his way around Foggy Bottom better than Clinton does, Richard Holbrooke."Czar" Carol Browner will head up Obama's fight on global warming, where once his energy and environmental chiefs might have stepped in. Tom Daschle scored a ground floor office in the West Wing not by running Health and Human Services – but because of his role as Obama's health-reform czar.


But Obama appears willing to take that chance. Aides say he believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.

In other words, Obama doesn't believe the "outdated" structure of cabinets is fit to deal with today's problems. Such talk should scare everyone. After 9/11, President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security. A lot of folks criticized him for expanding our bureaucracy, but when he saw a problem, he created a government bureaucracy. Whatever problems that creates, it also means there is a government structure to deal with it. President Obama thinks that global warming is a problem, but he doesn't think that government structure is fit to deal with it. Instead, he will let Carole Browner go off as a free agent and do as she pleases in dealing with it.

Browner has no official staff. She doesn't even have any official duties. In fact, she has no official power. Worst of all, she wasn't even confirmed. She can pretty much do as she pleases and she only has the ear of one person to convince of any new ideas.

Just think about the potential for abuse. If the Department of Energy were in charge of climate change, that would mean an entire apparatus was in place. Any corruption would be seen by a whole bureaucracy. Any one person could become the whistle blower. Now, Browner herself will be solely in charge of executing climate change. The only oversight Browner will have is from President Obama. In fact, even the legislature won't have oversight over Browner. Likely, the Legislature won't even know what Browner is doing. She will be a free agent. She will run a shadow government right out of the White House out of the control of anyone but the President himself.

Of course, as the Politico story points out, this will happen in intelligence, health care, automakers, and in the hot spots of the Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan. All of these areas will be run by positions created out of whole cloth by the President himself. These folks will only be answerable to the President himself. You will have shadow departments run by free agents that only report to one person. There will be no apparatus in place to control them at all.

We have the beginning of an unelected, unconfirmed, shadow government answerable only to the President. Conveniently enough, they were all created by the President. Such combinations are all a recipe for disaster.