The Rachel Maddow Show: Czar Struck

Rachel takes on the screechers at Fox News' hypocritical freak out over Obama's "czars". MADDOW: Do you remember Gilda Radner‘s brilliant “Saturd
up

Rachel takes on the screechers at Fox News' hypocritical freak out over Obama's "czars".

MADDOW: Do you remember Gilda Radner‘s brilliant “Saturday Night Live” character, Emily Litella? Our culture‘s best-ever human demonstration of the art of misunderstanding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILDA RADNER, COMEDIENNE: What‘s all this stuff I keep hearing about violins and television? Now, why don‘t parents want their children to see violins on television? Why, I thought the Leonard Bernstein concert was just lovely.

Now, if they only sold violins after 10:00 at night, the little babies would all be asleep and they wouldn‘t learn any music appreciation. They‘ll end up wanting to play guitar and bongo drums and go to Africa and join these rock ‘n roll outfits. And they won‘t drink milk. I say there should be more violins on television and less game shows. It‘s terrible the things - what, what?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Ms. Litella - Ms. Litella, that was violence on television, not violins. Violence.

RADNER: Oh, well, that‘s different.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes.

RADNER: Never mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Emily Litella railed against violins on television, against the endangered feces acts, against the eagle rights amendment. She thought we shouldn‘t worry so much about youth in Asia. Then all her skits ended with “never mind.”

Of all the millions of reasons to miss the great Gilda Radner, the most recent is that that character, Emily Litella, may be really the best way we have to understand the current right-wing connection about czars in government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “THE GLENN BECK SHOW”: President Obama has 15 advisors who fill his cabinet. But as we‘re learning, they may be the most ineffective group ever assembled by our president in our nation‘s history.

The reason? Because he has 37 czars to oversee and advise him directly. What‘s the danger of czars and other special advisers? Never before have there ever been so many executive posts that were not confirmed by Congress and who answered only to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the so-called mainstream media ignoring the questionable backgrounds of some of the other 30-some-odd czars.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, “HANNITY”: A select group of unconfirmed, un-vetted individuals are now at the helm of a shadow government right here in the U.S. So without further ado, well, let‘s take a trip to the land of the czars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The land of the czars? That sounds so Russia 1916. Who are these czar people and where did they come from? Well, at least, partly, they came from Richard Nixon.

Nixon appointed John Love and then William Simon to be his energy czars. Ben Zimmer reported at “Slate.com” last year that Nixon actually used the phrase “energy czar” when he offered Mr. Simon that job as in, “Wouldn‘t you like to be my energy czar?”

But despite the fact that Nixon actually used the term, the word “czar” wasn‘t actually in the job title. This revelation may bring out a little Emily Litella in all the conservatives going crazy about President Obama‘s czars right now.

But people who have jobs in the administration that are called “the something-czar” aren‘t actually czars of anything. Czar - sorry to say, it‘s a nickname. The drug czar is actually the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Poppy Bush created that job in 1989.

The intelligence czar is the Director of National Intelligence,

created during the George W. Bush administration in 2005. The AIDS czar -

that‘s the nickname for the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy

that job created in 2001.

The border czar, that‘s another one created by George W. Bush. It‘s the nickname for the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security.

The job the right is now calling the science czar, that‘s the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The regulatory czar is the nickname for the Head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which Dave Weigel notes at the “Washington Independent” today is an office that was created back in 1980.

So take your pick, America. Either these are the czars who are turning America into imperialist Russia, as Emily Litella might say. Or these are people with specific policy jobs and long awkward job titles.

So the press calls them czars even though they‘re not actually 19th century Russian autocrats. Bush and Cheney created administration jobs that were nicknamed the food safety czar, the cybersecurity czar, aforementioned regulatory czar and the AIDS czar. They created a bird flu czar and a manufacturing czar and more.

And the right did not freak about those like Bolsheviks in St. Petersburg. But President Obama? Clearly his hiring practices are evidence of him forming a communist-fascist-czarist-Kenyan-Martian shadow government here to take away your guns.

Or he‘s doing what American presidents have done without controversy for generations. In which case - never mind.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.