More Czars on Conservative Hit List

After Van Jones, conservative firing squad sets sights on other White House czars

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    John Holdren is under fire on the right for a 1977 environmental science textbook he co-authored that surveyed policy options to curb overpopulation.

    With the resignation of green jobs advisor Van Jones, the conservative firing squad is setting its sights on other White House czars. 

    The resignation of Jones — who stepped down from his post as the White House green jobs advisor early Sunday morning, citing a "vicious smear campaign" waged against him by "opponents of reform" — was a win for conservative politicians and pundits who waged a months-long campaign hammering him for comments he made in his previous post as an environmental activist for poor and minority communities. 

    Jones’ admission that he signed a petition implying a government role in the September 11 terrorist attacks – a document circulated by right-wing bloggers — was the final, inflammatory straw for the White House. 

    Now, right-wing politicians and pundits are looking for other White House czars with controversial pasts. "Van Jones is the tip of the Iceburg. As VJ has said: "personnel is policy"" conservative pundit Glenn Beck twittered on Friday. Attacking Obama’s advisors, conservatives believe, will raise questions about the judgment of their popular boss. 

    Here’s some of other the czars on the conservative hit-list: 

    John Holdren, science czar 

    Conservatives took shots at Holdren, formerly a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, earlier this year for a 1977 environmental science textbook he co-authored that surveyed policy options to curb overpopulation. 

    In a chapter on "population policies," the authors mentioned involuntary fertility control methods like mandatory abortions, mandating family size, and adding sterilants to drinking water or staple foods. 

    The authors said that they were merely describing the measures, not endorsing them. But conservatives jumped on the text book, saying that Holdren supported "forced abortions" and "mass sterilization." 

    In his February confirmation hearing, Holdren said that he no longer thinks it’s "productive" to "focus on the optimum population for the United States." 

    The Senate seemed to buy his testimony, confirming him as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in March.  

    Cass Sunstein, regulatory czar

    Prolific Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein spent years examining the obscure corners of regulatory law and behaviorial economics. Now, conservatives are combing through his writings to build a case against his nomination to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

    One of their main lines of attack is that Sunstein supported taking people’s organs "against their will."

    U.S. law assumes citizens opt-out of organ donation unless they specifically select it on their driver’s license, living will, or other legal documentation. In his 2008 book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," Sunstein argues that changing to policy of "presumed consent" – assuming everyone is a donor unless they "easily register" not to be – would "save many lives while also preserving freedom."

    His support for animal rights has also inflamed some conservatives. Sunstein has spoken in favor of allowing people to sue on behalf of animals in animal cruelty cases. And in a 2007 speech at Harvard, he advocated restricting animal testing, banning hunting, and encouraging the public to eat less meat.

    Those ideas have inflamed the hunting, fishing, and agricultural lobbies and caused at least two Republicans to hold up his nomination, which has yet to be confirmed.

    In a late July letter to Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Sunstein repeated a point he made during his May confirmation hearing -- that his writings were not a reflection of his personal views but merely intended to stir debate.

    "If confirmed, I certainly would not use my position at OIRA to promote animal standing in civil litigation; such standing would indeed be an intolerable burden on farmers, ranchers and hunters," Sunstein wrote.

    Mark Lloyd

    Conservatives have accused Lloyd, appointed by the Federal Communications Commission as the agency’s Chief Diversity officers in late July, of secretly wanting to reinstate the controversial Fairness Doctrine – a regulation the FCC abolished in 1987 that required broadcasters to present contrasting views on important and controversial issues. Conservatives radio hosts have said Obama wants to reinstate it, and that it would push them off the air.

    In right-wing media, where Lloyd has been christened Obama’s "diversity czar," pundits rail against the former vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Massachusetts Institute of Technology law professor. Conservative radio host Michael Savage called Lloyd "communist vermin" and a "neo-Nazi" intent on "closing down conservatives in the media."

    Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has picked up the call. "Mr. Lloyd supports a backdoor method of furthering the goals of the Fairness Doctrine by other means," he wrote in an August letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

    But in a 2007 report for the liberal Center of American Progress, where he was a senior fellow, Lloyd noted that conservative shows dominate the airways -- but did not endorse the Fairness Doctrine.

    "We call for ownership rules that we think will create greater local diversity of programming, news, and commentary," he wrote in a July article about the paper. "But we do not call for a return to the Fairness Doctrine."