I have already voiced some irritation at the proliferation of “czars” filling up the new administration – it’s a topic of much commentary around the web (here and here). The complaint is partially aesthetic (a czar?), but The Post today carries a piece summarizing the very real strategic risks. In areas like environmental and health policy, the Obama team recognizes the demand for constant White House attention in order to push presidential priorities through the tangle of agencies and interest groups.

Though, much to his credit, the president-elect seems willing and capable of managing an enormous amount of information, the “envoy” strategy also acknowledges the limitations on Obama’s time and attention. By appointing so many heavyweights and giving them proximity to the Oval Office, Obama signals his willingness to share power and some the limelight. It certainly looks like an attempt to learn from history, and I’m sure it is. Longtime observer Calvin Mackenzie rightly calls the extent to which Obama has used the strategy of formally assigning White House positions “unprecedented” in recent presidencies. But history also points to the risks. The Post quotes Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “We’re going to have so many czars…It’s going to be a lot of fun, seeing the czars and the regulators and the czars and the Cabinet secretaries debate.”

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