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Czars in the White House: The Rise of Policy Czars as Presidential Management Tools
Faculty Authored Books
  • Justin S. Vaughn, Boise State University
  • José D. Villalobos, University of Texas at El Paso
When Barack Obama entered the White House, he faced urgent issues including the economy, health care, and climate change. Despite citizens' demand for strong presidential leadership, the development and implementation of policy requires cooperation across a range of congressional committees, federal departments, and government agencies. Following a long-standing precedent, Obama appointed administrators—so-called policy czars—charged with directing the response to the nation's most pressing crises. Combining public administration and political science approaches to the study of the American presidency and institutional politics, Justin S. Vaughn and José D. Villalobos argue that the creation of policy czars is a strategy for combating partisan polarization and navigating the federal government’s complexity. They present a series of in-depth analyses on the appointment, role, and power of various czars: the energy czar of the mid-1970s, the drug czar in the late 1980s, the AIDS czar in the 1990s, George W. Bush’s trio of national security czars in the years after 9/11, and Barack Obama’s controversial czars for key domestic issues. Laying aside inflammatory political rhetoric, Vaughn and Villalobos offer a sober, empirical analysis of what precisely constitutes a czar, why Obama and his predecessors used czars, and what role they have played in the modern presidency.
University of Michigan Press
Publication Date
Citation Information
Justin S. Vaughn and José D. Villalobos. Czars in the White House: The Rise of Policy Czars as Presidential Management Tools. Ann Arbor(2015)
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