Not Obama's Czars but his Commissars
By Bruce Walker
The three dozen or so people that Barack Obama has surrounded himself with to handle this problem or that issue, and yet are not confirmed by the Senate or operating an agency created by Congress, are not really his "czars." These people are, instead, his "commissars." Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany both called those vague, undefined figures appointed by the Leader to carry out his intentions "commissars" (Hollywood never speaks of Nazi commissars for the same reason that it never notes that Nazi Party members called each other "comrade" - the pretense that Nazis and Bolsheviks were polar opposites rather than identical twins is too vital a myth to dispel.)
In our constitutional republic, government does not have a role in every part of life. That is why Congress has to create departments, agencies and administrations. Everything that the federal government does must, in some way, relate to its powers under the Constitution. The first cabinet offices dealt with clear cut federal duties - diplomacy, war, justice, money, and postal services. Before Congress creates a federal office, a threshold question is whether the Constitution allows the work of that office to be done by the federal government. That is the heart of limited government.
There is, for example, no Department to Promote Politically Correct Thinking. No Congress would ever pass a law creating such an entity. A terrified Reichstag or the Central Committee of the Communist Party, on the other hand, might well do that. In those totalitarian regimes, "government" does not really exist: the party exists or, rather, the party and the state in a hopeless confusion of purpose and function. The very independence of Congress, even a venal and silly Congress, is a natural check upon a party-state with a leader at its apex.
Congress also has the right and the obligation of oversight of the federal government. This means it can create and it can destroy executive branch departments. Congress also can create and destroy federal courts as well as change the jurisdiction of federal courts and increase or decrease the size of the Supreme Court. Congress sets the budgets and appropriates the funds for other parts of the federal government.
Congress has the right and the duty to review, confirm, or reject the chief officer of the federal executive and legislative branches (except, of course, for the president and vice president.) And Congress has the right and the duty to remove any important federal officer who is corrupt or exceeds the powers of his office. The duty of Congress to remove corrupt principal officers of the executive and judicial branches is often simply forgotten. If the Secretary of the Treasury, for example, engages in some stinky behavior, he usually simply resigns. But whether he does -- indeed, even if he does -- the House can impeach him and the Senate can convict him.
That is a deliberate check the Founding Fathers intended to give Congress over the Executive Branch. But could the House impeach or how could the Senate convict an Obama commissar, who had never been confirmed by the Senate and who held a position not created by Congress? Cabinet secretaries and heads of agencies are accountable both to the president and to Congress. These commissars, on the other hand, could not be impeached and removed from office because they do not, formally, hold an office.
This is very dangerous. The leader, in this case Obama, becomes more than the office itself. The structure of government morphs into the structure of the party. Stalin, in large measure, did not wield his awful power as the head of the Soviet Union or chief of the Soviet government: he did, in fact, often brag that he was simply a member of the Communist Party, an ordinary Soviet citizen. Hitler did combine the offices of Chancellor and President, but his real power was as leader of the Nazi Party, not an official of the German government.
When separate parts of government blend together, when rules of procedure are simply bypassed, when the distinction between political parties operating within government are transformed into political parties (through a system of commissars) operating as the government, then any nation with established, stable, and republican institutions has entered a very deadly phase.
The patterns are already ominously clear. Legislators, quite literally, vote for legislation not yet written (which rather sounds like Hitler's Enabling Act.) Judicial nominees make only the vaguest pretense of adhering to ideals of impartial administration of justice (Hispanic Justice and Aryan Justice may sound different to some people, but they are not.) Now commissars are replacing cabinet secretaries -- and we should stop letting Obama define the changes. He is not appointing dozens of "czars." He is creating a party-state system of political commissars.