The Commission on Presidential Debates, Is It Really 'Non Partisan'?

by VINCENT GIOIA September 7, 2016

This article is not meant to, or intended to be interpreted as a political endorsement, or lack thereof, of any political candidate. Family Security Matters takes no political point of view whatsoever.

The debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are being organized organized by The Commission on Presidential Debates. The 2016 debates are already scheduled and the ‘moderators' have been chosen. The commission is labeled as ‘non partisan' but is it really? The mere fact that that three of the debates are ‘moderated' by people from the three major news networks itself should be a clue as to the false ‘non partisan' nature of the debates since all three networks are hardly unbiased, especially where Donald Trump is concerned. Even the debate moderated by a Fox News commentator is suspect considering how anti-Trump that cable news network has been since Trump became a serious contender.

However, claims of non partisanship of the Commission also ignore the make-up of the Commission leadership. It's true that there is a division of Republicans and Democrats, or their supporters, on the Commission but the reality is that there really is not a conservative among them and virtually all represent the ‘establishment' of the respective political parties. Although this is not a problem for Hillary Clinton, a Democrat establishment figure herself, but a full cadre of Republican establishment commission members on the commission is not only a slap in the face of the anti-establishment Donald Trump, but a precursor of what can be expected in this and future presidential debates.

Here is the current leadership of the Commission:


Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.

Michael D. McCurry

Committee Honorary Co-Chairmen

Gerald R. Ford* 

Jimmy Carter

Ronald Reagan*

Co-Chairman Emeritus

Paul G. Kirk, Jr.

Board of Directors

Howard G. Buffett

John C. Danforth

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.

Charles Gibson

John Griffen

Jane Harman

Antonia Hernandez

Reverend John I. Jenkins

Jim Lehrer (deceased)

Newton N. Minow

Richard D. Parsons

Dorothy S. Ridings

Olympia Snowe

Shirley M. Tilghman

Executive Director

Janet H. Brown

Commission Co-Chairman Emeritus Paul G. Kirk, Jr. is a Democrat senator and was Chairman of the Democratic Party. Executive Director of the Commission, Janet Brown, is a former Jeb Bush appointee. Jeb Bush is no friend of Trump and has been vocal in condemnation of Trump. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, a former Republican National Committee Chairman and John C. Danforth was what can be charitably described as a ‘moderate' Republican senator. Antonia Hernandez was president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. What do you suppose Ms. Hernandez thinks about Donald Trump? Olympia Snowe is a senator elected as a Republican but who often votes and shares political positions of Democrats.

Other non-Democrat politicians on the Commission are Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. and Richard D. Parsons. Daniels has been a middle-of the-road Republican and Parsons was a supporter of Mayor Giuliani who has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, he may be the only Commission member who can be politically distinguished from the other members.

The remaining members of the Commission are political Democrats, from Academia or a present or former network employee. Michael D. McCurry is former press secretary for Bill Clinton's administration, Paul G. Kirk, Jr. was a special assistant to Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy, Jane Harman was a Democrat congresswoman and Newton N. Minow has been active in Democratic party politics for a long time. Charles Gibson is from ABC news, a network famous for biased reporting, Reverend John I. Jenkins is president of the University of Notre Dame  and Shirley M. Tilghman is president of  Princeton University. Howard G. Buffett is the son of Warren Buffett who is a long-time Democrat supporter and currently a Hillary Clinton supporter.

The presidential debates are important and they have to be organized but it would be refreshing to have real non-partisanship instead of the same sort of establishment blurring of party lines that has characterized our institutions for so long. In any case, the intelligence of the American people should not be insulted by labeling the debates Commission as ‘non-partisan'.

Vincent Gioia is a retired patent attorney living in Palm Desert, California. His blogs at and he may be contacted at

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