Cass Sunstein | Obama’s New Green Czar?
The right pot is calling the left kettle black
So much of what the right-wing media has to say about President Obama’s collection of personal advisers – “czars” – tends to take on an attack mentality. Countless talking heads from Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity to the FOX News speaker of the moment compares each and every one of them to the tyrannical autocrats of Russia’s past, making sure to hammer home just how much Obama is supposedly acting like Stalin, Chairman Mao, etc. (expanding the questionable metaphor). A smear campaign that Glenn Beck takes responsibility for pushed former green jobs czar Van Jones to resign. That may not necessarily be a bad thing for Jones and the Obama administration, however. The Huffington Post suggests that Beck may have done Obama and the country a favor, in that he can better serve out in the field rather than being behind a desk.
But what’s the czar fascination? Did Obama invent this thing?
Hardly. The use of “czars” dates back to President Nixon, who appointed John Love and William Simon to serve as his energy czars. They have been used by each president since then, whether that president has been Republican or Democrat. There’s even a czar that has had a hand in overseeing mortgage loan restructuring. Interestingly, the president who created the largest number of “czar” posts was not in fact President Obama, but President George W. Bush. They aren’t appointed by Congress and they aren’t unconstitutional, no matter how much Glenn Beck cries. “Czar” is more of a nickname used for matters of convenience. Let’s say you had to give the actual title of the border czar. That would be the “Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary For International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs.” Quite a mouthful, huh? I’ll take czar and ignore the clowns who blaze Russian marches and other military music whenever the term is invoked. Here’s some more info about America’s czars, thanks to Rachel Maddow:
Now Cass Sunstein is under fire
According to the Washington Independent, Cass Sunstein was picked by President Obama to run the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. A Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein specializes in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law and law and behavioral economics. Thus, it would appear that he is very qualified for the position. The nomination was back in January, but he still hasn’t passed through Senate approval because Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) object to Sunstein’s stance against hunting.
This points to the major objections that have been voiced against Cass Sunstein, but many of them have been taken out of context. For an accurate depiction of Sunstein’s stance on hunting, gun rights and animal rights, see the video at the end of this article and listen to him say it himself. However, a Web site called StopSunstein.com is working hard to keep the misinformation train going. Banning guns, outlawing hunting and allowing animals to bring suit against abusers (with humans to represent them) were taken out of a larger context. Much of this material was torn from his book “Nudge,” which investigates the possibilities for libertarian paternalism as opposed to government control of systems in America. Basically, good behavior is what is encouraged.
The right decries big government… but they don’t like Cass Sunstein?
Yes, Cass Sunstein was praised by law professor Glenn Reynolds for being a man who could “show that the Obama Administration is perhaps willing to look at new and less intrusive approaches to regulation.” But apparently that isn’t good enough for Republican senators on Sunstein’s approval committee. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey wrote that he didn’t think Sunstein “presents a good target for Republicans to attack.”
George Mason law professor Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy has acknowledged Cass Sunstein’s qualifications and states that while he doesn’t agree with the ideas Sunstein presents in the book “Nudge,” he’d be more comfortable with Sunstein in the post that the likely more liberal candidates who would request the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Animals suing humans in court
That’s where Cass Sunstein is going to hear the most grief. Yet he wrote in a letter to Sen. Cornyn this past July 31 that “If confirmed, I certainly would not use my position at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to promote animal standing in civil litigation.” So Michael Vick can rest easy, but David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom cannot. Martosko drew up a hypothetical example where Sunstein could decide that the government could no longer buy eggs obtained from caged hens. While cage-free is certainly more humane, such regulation would rock that industry and possibly hamper government’s ability to meet demand.
Should hunting be banned? Should animals have more rights?
Cass Sunstein’s comments to his hearing committee indicate he actually doesn’t plan to ban hunting. But if he did ban sport hunting, what would be hurt but that industry itself and those who will have to find something else to do with their leisure time? And as far as animal rights and equating animal cruelty and death to perpetrating the same act upon humans, I say bring it on. Then maybe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have had the stones to keep Michael Vick out of the NFL. Then he could work at being a good citizen in real life, where people don’t kill dogs for sport and need help from mortgage loan restructuring once in a while.