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Not Another Czar
An Open Letter To President Obama From Wilhelm Ii, German Kaiser And King Of Prussia

Sunday, May 3, 2009

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA FROM

WILHELM II, GERMAN KAISER AND KING OF PRUSSIA

(Translated from the German by David A. Fahrenthold)

DOORN, THE NETHERLANDS

Mr. President,

Gott im Himmel! Enough with the czars!

You've named 18 so far, according to something I read in Foreign Policy. That includes a border czar, a climate czar, an information technology czar and -- I don't think Thomas Jefferson grew enough hemp in his lifetime to dream up this one -- the "faith-based czar." Your car czar, Steve Rattner, was in the news last week, trying to keep Chrysler out of bankruptcy.

It took Russia 281 years to accumulate that many czars. Even with hemophilia, repeated assassinations and a level of inbreeding that would gag a Dalmatian breeder. You did it in less than 100 days.

And every one of them hurts. I think I speak for all passed-over Victorian despots when I say that.

Somehow, that fancypants with the jeweled-egg fetish got to be a synonym for innovative, efficient leadership. At minimum -- at minimum -- I thought my legacy would be the continued popularity of pomaded mustaches and shiny, spike-topped helmets. But it's just the bikers now. And I think they mean it ironically.

I promised myself that I wouldn't say anything about this: I've been out of public life for years and actually dead since 1941. But genug is genug.

Americans have been calling powerful Washington figures "czars" since the early 1830s. What do you see in the Romanovs that makes them such models of good government? Ivan the Terrible, the first czar, had his enemies dropped alive through the ice on frozen rivers.

Or maybe you're thinking of Nicholas II, the last czar. He was deposed and executed by a guy who looked like a used-bookstore clerk. Or Ivan VI, who was locked in a fortress for two decades and then murdered? I'm searching for the lessons any of these might offer for managing your Southwestern border.

Most detestable of all, your "czars" don't even possess the one real benefit of czardom: absolute power. Rattner showed that last week, when he failed to stop the bankruptcy. Many of your "czars" don't even have their own departments: Their job is to "coordinate policy." And I'm told that most of them have no control whatsoever over Cossack partisans.

Mein Gott, I think Nicholas II would have dropped a Faberge egg himself if he'd heard something like that called a "czar." I nearly swallowed a monocle.

So maybe it's time for a new autocrat to get some air time. Time for something that will stand out even in a White House with a czar in every cubicle.

President Obama's archduke of information technology announced today . . . Pricks up the ears, doesn't it?

In Detroit, the president's car sultan . . . Instant respect. Mainly because those who defy the car sultan might be killed by eunuch assassins.

Or might I humbly suggest the title of an enlightened ruler who -- unlike the czars -- actually worked well with parliament and the nobility (in your terms, that would be "Congress" and "Oprah"). Somebody whose record is nearly unblemished, except for one invasion of Belgium that everybody's totally over now.

Today, President Obama congratulated his new climate kaiser . . .

Goosebumps.

Yours in friendship, Wilhelm II

David A. Fahrenthold is a Metro reporter for The Washington Post.

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