The Luxury of Commissions

by Jonah Goldberg

When my late father — then Private First Class Goldberg –  was stationed in Japan in the early 1950s, his commanding officer gave him one small piece of sage advice about how to get ahead in the army. “Goldberg,” he said, “It’s always better to be on the committee that says ‘This must never happen again.’”

I kept thinking about that yesterday as I listened to those guys preen about how they were here to make America right. I’m with Andy on the absurdity of this consensus and bipartisanship thing (I have a column in the LAT about it today, which will appear here tomorrow). By the standards and practices set up by Baker, the entire report represents the least objectionable ideas acceptable to the most unreasonable panelist. If Leon Panetta thought something was a bad idea, it got massaged until he liked it. If Ed Meese objected, it got massaged, or deleted, until he was happy. By what standard does a proposition become wiser or a greater model for the nation — <gag, wretch> — simply because ten people like it instead of nine? If the panel unanimously recommended that all cats in Iraq wear sweaters and that chickens be forced to dance the Mamba, would no one dare challenge the moral authority of their unanimity? 

If they had put Noam Chomsky on the ISG, would it have been better to have a 10-1 split or a unanimous report? By the gooey nonsense we heard yesterday, the report would have been better if Chomsky had agreed to everything in there, because that would represent “unity.”  

James Baker’s mandate, wasn’t to forge a consensus among the League of Extraordinary Pols, it was to come up with the best recommendations he could. Alas, mission creep set in early.  

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