In a tangential matter (well, tangential to The Non Sequitur), Steve Benen at Political Animal asks a question I've long wondered about. He writes:
TNR reports on Obama's energy and environmental team:
"In addition to Carol Browner as the energy czar (but not czar, because apparently the transition folks don't like that word), Obama reportedly has selected the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's director Steve Chu to be energy secretary; New Jersey's Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA; and Los Angeles deputy mayor Nancy Sutley as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. All are low-profile picks, and diverse ones."
I don't yet know enough about these people to say much, though from what I can tell, they sound like very strong picks. (More on the whole team here, here, and here; on Chu here and here; on Browner here; and on Jackson here.) But I was absolutely thrilled by one fact in this post: the claim that Obama and his team do not plan to use the word 'czar'.
Thank heavens. We've had drug czars, energy czars; we may yet get a car czar. I'm tired of czars. And why czars, anyways? They didn't do all that well in Russia, as far as I can tell. If we have to go against our democratic traditions, why not an Imperator, or a Pharoah, or a Basileus, or a Mikado? For that matter, why not an Energy Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or an ObaTlatoani? of Energy, or an Energy
Personally, I think we should just embrace the silliness of all these titles and designate Carol Browner our new Grand Energy Poobah.
Now I know I'm not alone in wondering whether Czar was meant to impart special powers to the Czar in question–special powers of despotism and failure.