Lebisch: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?
Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!
Lebisch: Is there a proper blessing... for the Tsar?
Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!
Why is it that so many Americans are enamored of the title “czar” these days, and why are we the people apparently so willing to sit idly by while various areas of national turf become autocratic fiefdoms?
For several decades now, it has been fashionable to call someone who – usually during a crisis – demonstrates bold leadership minus the annoying details of complete accountability, a czar. We admire the go-for-it person who seizes the reins of a troubled entity and eventually makes the trains run on time. In the private sector, this is seen as effective leadership.
But in the political realm, there is something awkward, even unseemly, about referring to someone who is tasked with oversight of an area of public policy as the equivalent of the kind of ogre this country was founded to get away from in the first place. A czar was a king, an imperial autocrat. The title is a form of “Caesar,” and in Russia - where the role was perfected - it was “Tsar.” But the big bear wasn’t alone; one of the cousins used the appellation in Germany. He was called “Kaiser.” And of course, yet another cousin was called “King,” and he was the hereditary descendant of that wacky potentate Jefferson wrote those famous declarative words in 1776.
It took several centuries for Russia to accumulate 19 tsars. The land of the free and home of brave did it in far less time. Are we cool or what? When in Washington these days, order the Caesar salad. It’s the politically correct appetizer du jour.
Here’s a question, though: Is Czarism Worth The Price?
The very essence of putting czars in charge is to give one individual wide latitude and authority to presumably fix or manage a problem that has resisted correction through normal means. It’s all in the spirit of Kenan Thompson’s Saturday Night Live bit calling for someone to “Fix it!”
In its American form, czarism manifests itself with a proliferation of micro-czars, accountable to one macro-czar. Yep, you guessed it.
In promoting good government via czarism, President Obama is actually guilty of the very thing he recently accused George Bush and the rest of us for doing nearly eight years ago. During his Egypt speech about Islam, he talked about how we, in his opinion, generally overreacted to the attacks on Sept. 11th, leaving our “values” behind.