Blogs > HNN > One President. Two Commissions. He Wanted Neither.

Dec 7, 2006 4:33 pm

One President. Two Commissions. He Wanted Neither.

Presidential commissions are almost always appointed at the behest of a president. What's notable about the two main commissions of the Bush presidency is that the administration resisted the creation of both of them. He resisted the creation of the 9/11 commission and scorned the establishment of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

That's why we are having this strange debate about whether or not he'll accept the findings of this commission.

Commissions usually are useful to presidents to help solve a political problem. Reagan turned to a commission after his administration bungled the reform of social security. Alan Greenspan came riding to the rescue, helping defuse a potentially politically fatal controversy.

Americans like commissions because they usually seem apolitical or bipartisan. The more polarized we are, the uglier our politics, the more we crave the authority a politically pristine commission offers.

Do presidents always embrace the recommendations of commissions?


Richard Nixon made a stink about two of them. He rejected the findings of the pornography commission (the commission essentially came out in favor of the sale of pornography to adults). And he rejected the findings of the marijuana commission, which recommended decriminalizing pot.

The pornography commission had been appointed by LBJ. It did not issue its report until Nixon took office. The pot commission was created at the behest of a Democratic Congress at the urging of Rep. Ed Koch.

Nixon made political hay by opposing both commissions. He sent Agnew out to denounce the pot commission.

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HNN - 12/8/2006


I should add that it may be that it is unfair to lump all of these commissions into the same basket.

Kerner and the other past commissions named above truly were "presidential commissions." That is, the president appointed the members. The president did not appoint the members of the Baker-Hamilton commission. The United States Institute of Peace was assigned this role by the Congress. The USIP appointed Baker & Hamilton. They in turn appointed the remaining members.

The USIP is a US government funded think tank. It was last in the news when Daniel Pipes was named a member by President Bush. (Pipes was not reappointed.)

The 9/11 Commission was appointed by President Bush.

Melvin Small - 12/8/2006

And, of course, LBJ gave a cold shoulder to the Kerner Commission report.