Calling Cabinet Members Czar...?

For a while, here in the US, we have a tradition of calling some members of the executive branch Czars. For example, we have the Drug “Czar” and one of the new positions talked about in the 9/11 report is sometimes referred to as Intelligence “Czar”.

When did this first start, and why?

I seem to recall first hearing the term in the seventies during the Nixon administration.

There was an Energy ‘Czar’; I forget his name.

That’s where I first heard it. William Simon was the Energy Czar.

Yes, it looks like William Simon was the first to be called “czar,” so dubbed by Garry Trudeau in “Doonesbury.” See the bottom of this Forbes article, and copies of a couple of the strips (sadly, not actually using the word).

Wow, a trend started by Garry Trudeau, I’ll be darned. I never expected that to be the answer to my question, but, it’s the answer none the less, and I guess I’ll have to live with it :).

Thanks for answering that Topologist.

The “Drug Czar” wasn’t a cabinet official, but a policy advisor, IIRC.

Unless I’m crazy, BOTH those links actually use the word. But no matter…I could have sworn it was during Nixon’s term, rather than Ford. But so much was forgettable while he was around. Remember 'Whip Inflation Now!"?

No need for past tense. The drug czar is the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. :slight_smile:

There doesn’t seem to be much of a standard with this bizarre class of nicknames, but it seems to me that it’s usually applied to heads of various White House offices, not cabinet secretaries. I recall Tom Ridge being referred to a couple times as The Terrorism Czar, but that seemed to subside when the Homeland Security Act was passed and he was promoted to a department secretary.

Pish. What this country needs is a Totalitarianism Czar.

I don’t think that there is any official definition to czar, but it seems to me that czars are typically used to head up interagency programs. Note that Bill Simon was the energy czar when there was no Energy Department, and that the drug czar is supposed to coordinate efforts between the Justice Dept, the Homeland Security Dept (Customs, Coast Guard, etc), the DOD (National Guard Counter Drug), and so on.

It may not have anything to do with it, but I thought I’d mention that over in the legislative branch, Tom Reed, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1880s and 1890s, was called “Czar Reed” because of his autocratic style of presiding over the House.

A search of the top 100 hits after Googling “czar federal office” reveals references to a privacy czar, an intelligence czar, a drug czar, a trade czar, an AIDS czar, the now-defunct but never-to-be-forgotten Y2K czar, a security czar, an ethics czar, a disaster czar (the master of disaster?), and, most memorably of all, a faith-based office czar :confused: :eek: . We are wallowing in czar-torial excess!

Of course, this is mostly a device of lazy headline writers. Ravenman is correct; the term is used for heads whose offices have not yet been elevated to cabinet level status. In such cases, the phrase “drug czar” rolls off the tongue more easily than “Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy”. If this office were to become a full-fledged federal department, the head would become the Secretary of Drug Policy, and would be universally referred to as such. He or she would be a czar no longer—despite the promotion! In other words, if they have to call you a czar, you really aren’t one.

That’s pretty interesting. I guess you learn something new every day. And I never heard of the Y2K Czar. I thought that the White House would know better than that.

Since they come from the same root I would prefer calling them a ___-Kaiser.

Bonus trivia: both Czar and Kaiser come from Ceaser, a la Julius Ceaser.

Both the Russian czars and the German kaisers were wannabe emperors.

OTOH, who would want to find themselves being considered for a kaiser role?

:rolleyes: :smiley: