Don't blame President Obama for appointing too many "czars"; blame the news media (go ahead, the news media gets blamed for almost as many things as Obama does these days).

While Obama has been getting heat for various "czars," the fact of the matter is none of these positions formally carries the title "czar" of anything.

That's one reason why, when people attempt to compile a list of how many "czars" each president has had, the figures vary widely.

But czar is a nice four-letter word that catches the attention of readers and listeners, fits easily into headlines and often better explains the person's job better than the formal title.

Quick, tell us what the assistanct secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs does. And try to say the title and explanation without pausing to catch your breath.

OK, now what comes to mind when someone says, "border czar"? Bingo! It's the guy in charge of ending the flood of illegal immigrants across our porous borders.

It's a lot easier to remember, and it doesn't take as long to type.

We won't go into the history of the word "czar" when it comes to presidential advisers. Look it up through Google or Wikipedia or some scholarly publication.

It wasn't until President Reagan's director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy became christened the "drug czar" that the practice really took hold.

President George W. Bush had advisers called "czars," too, such as John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence - aka "the intelligence czar" or even "spy czar." ("Spy" is easier to fit into headlines than "intelligence.")

The GOP czar - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele - wants Obama's "czars" to go through the Senate confirmation process.

That might not be a bad idea for high-level policy makers in charge of a department. In fact some already do get confirmed.

But trying to apply such scrutiny to every adviser who might be called a czar would be cumbersome and a waste of time.

The bottom line is that czar is a catchy word and both Republicans and Democrats have had people in such positions.

It didn't become much of an issue until "czars" were being appointed by a president who far-right critics accuse of leading the United States down the path to socialism.

We would like to promise not to use czar on The Pantagraph Opinion page, but the temptation is too great - and no one would know what we were talking about.


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