Do I go for the easy insult here about the paranoid fears to which Klansmen are prone?
No, no. Such common jests are beneath us.
In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”…
“As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.”
The West Virginia Democrat on Wednesday asked Obama to “consider the following: that assertions of executive privilege will be made only by the president, or with the president’s specific approval; that senior White House personnel will be limited from exercising authority over any person, any program, and any funding within the statutory responsibility of a Senate-confirmed department or agency head; that the president will be responsible for resolving any disagreement between a Senate-confirmed agency or department head and White House staff; and that the lines of authority and responsibility in the administration will be transparent and open to the American public.”
Byrd’s not just, er, whistling Dixie. Politico published a piece last month that’s worth your time about Obama’s “West Wing on steroids,” in which White House advisors act as de facto cabinet super-secretaries. Clinton and Bush did the same thing, but not quite as ambitiously as The One. Quote: “Aides say he believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.” In fact, remember this post about top Obama intel advisor John Brennan? So despised was he by the nutroots for his defense of some of Bush’s counterterror policies that he had to withdraw from contention to head the CIA. No problem, though: The One simply named him deputy NSA, which doesn’t require any messy Senate confirmation hearings, and made him de facto czar of domestic security. That’s also why Lawrence Summers, who’d have been grilled on his Harvard-era comments about women in the sciences, was made White House economic advisor instead of Treasury secretary. Obvious exit question: Why doesn’t Obama just appoint Daschle as “health-care advisor” or something?