Whenever someone in the administration makes a boo-boo and the public finds out about it, an announcement is made that two commissions are being set up. One is formed to find out what went wrong and another to find out who leaked the boo-boo to the news media.
There are now more commissions and investigating committees in Washington than there is office space to accommodate them.
The reason is that after the administration commits a blooper, it has to buy time -- first by forming a committee and then by waiting for it to make a report. When that finally happens, the reason for appointing the commission will have been forgotten. (See any environmental commission.)
Even when appointing a commission, the White House can blow it. Pressure was on President Bush to find out why the Sept. 11 attacks were allowed to happen. At first he refused but finally agreed to create a commission. To make sure it would be a friendly one, he announced Henry Kissinger would be the chairman, but Kissinger said he would take the job only if he didn't have to reveal the names of his multibillionaire clients.
The Democrats and the news media didn't think it was such a good idea because hearings conducted by Kissinger would not embarrass the government.
It wasn't a big loss for Henry. Thanks to all the publicity, he signed up more clients after he withdrew his name.
This points out how difficult it is to find a few good men who are politically acceptable to serve and who won't overturn the apple cart by calling President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to testify. (See any commission hearings.)
Sometimes the commission will ask to see the documents pertaining to the matter at hand. The White House will agree, if it can find them, or refuse by pleading executive privilege. (See Cheney's energy task force meeting notes.)
What the administration takes far more seriously is uncovering who has leaked the blooper to the news media. Teams of FBI agents are put on the case, and not only the leaker but also all the reporters involved are questioned. The Bush people are still trying to find out who leaked the name of a CIA operative to Robert Novak. Some people say the leaker has an office in the White House and did it to embarrass the person who was embarrassing the president. (See Richard Clarke.)
Leaking is a dirty business, but someone has to do it.
There are now so many FBI agents looking for so many leakers that they can't do their other jobs -- like investigating people who are illegally recording movies and music. (See Jack Valenti.)
Members of the Senate and House also set up committees to find out what went wrong, particularly if they can get on television. Republicans and Democrats differ on what questions to ask the witnesses. (See Abu Ghraib prison scandal hearings).
So, as each committee and commission is formed, the unemployment rate for people in Washington goes down. Nobody knows how many people will be needed to sit on future panels but the number will probably double because it's an election year.
The big question you're probably asking is: What happens to all the presidential commission reports after they are handed in? (See the 9/11 Commission report.)
Most of them will be marked "Top Secret" and shredded -- or placed in an unmarked grave at Camp David.
(c) 2004 Tribune Media Services