Is an Energy & Enviro Czar a Potential Mistake?

There's probably no one better qualified than Carol Browner to coordinate the administration's efforts on energy and the environment. The looming question is whether or not Obama's new uber-czar positions can really accomplish anything. The Wall Street Journal has the details, quoting several experts who point to history as casting doubt on the effectiveness of czars:

"There've been so many czars over last 50 years, and they've all been failures," said Paul Light, an expert on government at New York University. "Nobody takes them seriously anymore." He pointed to officials placed in charge of homeland security and drug policy.

The problem is that "czars" are meant to be all-powerful people who can rise above the problems that plague the federal agencies, he said, but in the end, they can't.

"We only create them because departments don't work or don't talk to each other," Mr. Light said, adding that creation of a White House post doesn't usually change that. "It's a symbolic gesture of the priority assigned to an issue, and I emphasize the word symbolic. When in doubt, create a czar."...

....Jay Hakes, a historian of U.S. energy policy, said he thinks Ms. Browner is ideally suited for the energy position, but notes the potential for fallout, having studied the administrations of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, who all had energy "czars" of one kind or another. "A lot of cabinet secretaries end up getting frustrated because aides at the White House wind up telling them what to do," he said.



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