The Policy Czar Debate

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Contribution to Books

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Presidential policy czars have been an important and powerful component of President Barack Obama’s approach to management and leadership in the first part of his time in office. By using czars, the President has been able to demonstrate the importance of policy issues, both to his own agenda and to the broader political system. In this chapter, we find that performance outcomes for these czars have been a mixed bag, with as many stories of success to report as tales of frustration and failure. As such, we posit that the cost of czars, in political and organizational terms, has outweighed the benefits they have brought to the Obama Administration. Thus, we conclude that the rhetorical and institutional resistance to czars has increased to a point where it seems no longer pragmatic to utilize them, at least in the high-profile manner that this president and several of his predecessors have in recent decades.

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