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The president's czar fetish is his crisis crutch -- a desperate, public relations habit that he can't break.
Here is the Obama Disaster Management Theory: 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, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral 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. Allen was appointed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano 10 days after the disaster, which Napolitano claimed the administration had been on top of since, um, "Day One."
Fifty-six days later, President Obama has deemed the leadership skills of Allen, Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, environmental czar Carol Browner, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the rest of his self-declared "all hands on deck" crew insufficient. The new disaster czar also comes on top of the "National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling," created by executive order on May 22 and "tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent and mitigate the impact of any future spills that result from offshore drilling."
As I’ve noted before regarding Obama’s czar-mania, 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).
It’s government by proxy and government by press release all rolled into one.
According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, the latest commissar will have the power to oversee government efforts "to increase the health and the vitality of the species there, the wildlife and the natural beauty that we all know is the Gulf of Mexico." This will make the power-grabbing environmental lobby happy. And the new czar appointment will feed the photo-op-hungry news cycle. But instead of rushing to move "past the cleanup and response phase of this disaster," shouldn’t this czar-crazy regime concentrate on the immediate mitigation tasks at hand?
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. And Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal has exposed White House obstructionism and delays in approving the construction of barrier walls to stop the oil spread.
After waiting weeks for approval, Jindal received a green light from the White House to put up just five barrier islands — a minuscule amount of his plan. Tired of waiting for approval of the rest of his plan, Jindal this week ordered the National Guard to circumvent the Beltway foot-dragging and start building the walls immediately.
Executive leadership doesn’t need to be outsourced when the executive in office knows how to lead. While Obama squawks, Jindal acts. While Washington appoints more gasbags, the National Guard is dropping sandbags.
The president’s czar fetish is his crisis crutch — a desperate, public relations habit that he can’t break. What 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue needs is a visit from retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Hurricane Katrina military relief coordinator who offered timeless and timely advice for the disaster-stricken: Don’t get stuck on stupid.