Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton are not out of the commission business yet.
After having tried to sort out the Iraq war, the former secretary of state and the former Indiana congressman are turning to another seemingly intractable conflict -- the more-than-two-century-old battle between the White House and Congress over who should take responsibility for starting and stopping wars.
The two elder statesmen, who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group last year, were named yesterday to a new panel being sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The National War Powers Commission intends to come up with recommendations for how Congress and presidents can best exercise their respective war powers granted by the Constitution.
The list of other panelists offered up by the Miller Center was further evidence of the revolving-door nature of commission life in Washington. In addition to Hamilton and Baker, the new panel includes another veteran of the Iraq Study Group, former attorney general Edwin Meese III.
It also includes another member of the Sept. 11 commission, former senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). Baker will co-chair the new commission with former secretary of state Warren Christopher, who is a commission veteran himself, having chaired the blue-ribbon group that looked into the Los Angeles Police Department after the Rodney King riots.
In a brief interview yesterday, Hamilton said he thinks lawmakers are looking more and more to former officials serving on such commissions because of their inability to find common ground on thorny public issues. "The extreme partisanship of the environment leads former officials to try to build consensus," he said. "We are hopeful we can still make a contribution."
"And of course," Hamilton added. "we work cheap."