Obama’s Commission

As we go through another round of hearings on the BP disaster today (at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this morning, Bernie Sanders asked Ken Salazar whether the risk of a disaster like this was worth the $.03/gallon decrease on the price of gas in 2030; Salazar didn’t really answer), Obama has leaked his intent to appoint a Presidential Committee to investigate the spill.

President Obama plans to create a presidential commission to investigate the BP oil spill, administration officials said Monday.

The commission will be established by an executive order, they said. One official likened the new panel to one ordered by President Jimmy Carter to examine the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979.

Thus far, though, the Administration has only leaked its intent, with no details on the mandate of the Commission.

It will be interesting to see whether this Commission falls into that great tradition of whitewash commissions, or whether it will be a real commission. Ken Salazar said that the work of existing investigations (an IG one, and a Coast Guard one, and a science one, I think) would feed into the Presidential Commission. But there are several other efforts to push an investigation. Barbara Boxer has asked DOJ to investigate whether BP lied on its drilling permit application (in its claim that it had a plan to respond to a disaster). And Lois Capps and Ed Markey have sponsored a bill that would mandate a commissions, with subpoena powers and restrictions on conflicts of interest.

As Atrios says:

Because Bob Kerrey, Tom Keane, and Tom Daschle Need Something To Do?

Yes I’m a bit negative about ‘presidential commissions.’ I’ll be more positive if experts, rather than ex-politicians, get to do the job.

14 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    …Thus far, though, the Administration has only leaked its intent, with no details on the mandate of the Commission…

    Subpoena power or merely sternly worded “pleasure of your company” invitations?

    Though blue is my favorite color, I ain’t willing to hold my breath.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Such commissions do seem more fond of whitewash than scouring powder and bleach.

    It could be useful were it to have an adequate staff, budget, and investigatory authority, including subpoena power and the authority to take testimony under oath. It would require careful coordination with the DoJ so as not to hinder any criminal or civil prosecution that might follow. (That last bit was not intended to be snark; given Obama’s passion to look only forward, I don’t see how it can be anything but.)

  3. john in sacramento says:

    This will never happen

    And Lois Capps and Ed Markey have sponsored a bill that would mandate a commissions, with subpoena powers and restrictions on conflicts of interest.

    My Magic Eight Ball says

    This will be another commission that goes around harrumphing all day for a week or two, pretending to ask oil co. execs tough questions, then get feted to an all expenses paid golf retreat a month or two afterwards where they’ll get promised to join the board of directors and/or head the lobby team

  4. sojourner says:

    What is wrong with enforcing the laws and regulations that already exist? If I am not mistaken, there are (or at least used to be before Bush) some pretty stringent rules regarding offshore drilling, inspections, etc. For that matter, I suspect OSHA has enough evidence to shut down other BP operations if they are not properly testing blowout preventers and cement jobs as major hazards in the workplace. I am sure that the EPA has some authority, as well.

    As for the MMS, it has made some major mistakes… I believe I read this morning that the top guy is resigning. Perhaps the entire agency should be shaken up.

  5. JTMinIA says:

    Doth not Obama know what commissions can lead to??? By definition, commissions look backwards. Don’t wanna do that. Thar be dragons in the past.

  6. BoxTurtle says:


    Politician’s must be seen Doing Something, this being an election year. Still, a commission could be useful if they restrict themselves to what the government should have been doing and do we need new regulations or just to enforce the old ones.

    Let the prosecutors handle the legal issues. Or the tort lawyers, as needed.

    Most important: Let the Engineers handle figuring out the physical cause of the problem. Was it a blowout or something else? Was it a failed blowout preventor? Bad cement?

    Don’t let the politicians do law. Don’t let the engineers set policy. Don’t let the lawyers determine the problem.

    Boxturtle (And everybody can subpoena everybody else!)

  7. Emocrat says:

    Well, given the way this maladminstration has staffed up their commissions thus far, I’d venture to guess it will be full of oil industry shills who will issue the standard “mistakes were made, but everything’s A-OK now” statement… in about 18 months, once all coverage has disappeared from the Lamestream Media. The chattering class in DC will heave a huge sigh of relief and they’ll go back to something else, like getting more tax cuts for rich people!

    What they don’t seem to realize is this spill will still be doing lots of damage even then. But in the mean time, everyone that matters can simply defer all those nasty questions to the commission, thus denying any responsibility for anything at all.

    “Let’s not play the Blame Game. Let’s wait and see what the Magical Mystery Commish says.” And the presstitutes will buy it.

  8. bmaz says:

    Hey, Steve Griles and Italia Federici are available for a bipartisany commission aren’t they?

    Is criminal probation a disqualifier??

  9. knowbuddhau says:

    This is an emergency alert from the Establishment Broadcast Network: Damage Control team to the White House, please. Damage Control team, please report to the White House. You know what to do.

    Paging Warren Rudman, Lee Hamilton, Tom Kean, your services are required at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Please, no phone logs, meeting minutes, or recording devices, as per usual.

Comments are closed.