Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

More than ‘Warm Spit’: Why VEEP Selection Matters

John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President of the United States

John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President of the United States

When it comes to vice presidential nominations, the scholars, journalists, and politicians who know and care the most about the subject know that people vote for president and not vice president. This knowledge is inconvenient. If it doesn’t really matter who the nominees for vice president are, then how can we justify all the time we’re about to spend obsessing over who Mitt Romney will choose as his running mate?

Friday Feature: President Wilson Not Riding a Tiger

President Wilson, in formal attire, rides in the back of a carriage with his wife by his side.

March 5th, 1917 (Library of Congress)

Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith Wilson, ride to President Wilson's second inauguration.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Let the Veepstakes Begin

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With Rick Santorum’s announcement that he will halt his campaign, leaving Mitt Romney the presumed Republican presidential nominee, it’s time to start playing one of everyone’s favorite election season parlor games – the VEEPstakes.

Santorum Suspends Campaign

Rick Santorum in March 2012

Rick Santorum at the US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama, in March 2012. Photo by Holley St. Germain.

Clearing the way for Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee to face President Barack Obama in the general election, Rick Santorum suspended his campaign today, saying that "while the presidential race for us is over... we are not done fighting."

His decision comes after the weekend hospitalization of his daughter Isabella, who was born with Trisomy 18, and amidst a dwindling single digit lead in polling in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Friday Feature: President Teddy Roosevelt Not Riding a Tiger

Teddy Roosevelt rides a camel

President Teddy Roosevelt on a camel, 1910.

In addition to being the 26th President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt was a famed explorer, naturalist, and outdoorsman. He is seen here riding a camel during a visit to Egypt. 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Breaking the (Nuclear) Cycle: The Diplomatic Dance with a ‘Soprano State’

The Yongbyon Nuclear Center in the DPRK.

Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford physicist, examines machinery removed from the disabled Yongbyon Nuclear Center in 2008.

During his trip to Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit last month, President Obama visited the Demilitarized Zone that marks the border between North and South Korea. That visit, coupled with the satellite/missile launch that Pyongyang has planned for mid-April, highlights the fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the most intractable challenges facing American foreign policy. It will remain so regardless of whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the election in November.

Romney Sweeps the April 3 contests

Romney during last month's Super Tuesday contests

Romney on the campaign trail in March. Photo by Dana Hansen/ Boston University News Service.

With wins yesterday in Wisconsin, DC, and Maryland, Mitt Romney has moved one step closer to becoming the Republican presidential nominee. Rick Santorum mounted a significant effort in Wisconsin, where he lost by 5 percentage points. The final tally in Wisconsin gave Romney 43% of the vote compared to Santorum's 38%. In Maryland, amidst low voter turnout, Romney won 49% of the vote and Santorum won 29%. Romney won big in DC with 70% of the vote; second place went to Ron Paul with 12%. Santorum was not on the ballot in DC.

In his victory speech, Romney set his sights squarely on President Obama, whose re-election campaign recently launched ads targeting the former Massachusetts governor -- signaling a shift in rhetoric that anticipates the two-man race that is soon to come.

Barbara Perry on Presidents and the Supreme Court

Today in the Washington Post, our own Barbara Perry compares FDR's approach to addressing the Supreme Court to President Obama’s. You can read her thoughtful insights on last week's Obamacare hearings on our blog here.

Devaluing the Dollar: the Legacy of the End of Bretton Woods

A dollar under the gold standard

A gold standard 1928 US dollar bill. Note it is identified as a “United States Note” rather than a Federal Reserve Note.

On this day in 1972, President Richard Nixon officially closed the gold window, eliminating the ability of dollar holders to convert the US currency into gold. What effect does this have on the US economy today? 

Romancing the Right: Romney and Reagan’s Similar Struggles Winning Over the GOP Base

Reagan speaking at the Baptist Convention in DC in 1984

President Reagan delivers the keynote at the “Baptist Fundamentalism ‘84” convention led by Jerry Falwell.

Today we welcome a post from John W. York, a graduate student at the University of Virginia studying American Politics. His recent work has focused on the Tea Party and its effects on the conservative movement.

With Mitt Romney’s nomination for the Republican presidential ticket all but assured, the question remains: will conservatives ever truly warm up to him?

Behind the Scenes When Reagan Was Shot: A Pre-Forum Chat with Wilber

Interview with Del Quentin Wilber

As we mentioned this morning, on this day in 1981, President Reagan was shot.

John Hinckley Jr. shot at President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, wounding the president, press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent, and a police officer. Since the incident, few have realized how near to death Ronald Reagan actually came, and no one has ever written in detail about the tragic day…until now. In his New York Times best-selling book Rawhide Down, Del Quentin Wilber reveals an

electrifying story of a moment when the nation faced a terrifying crisis that it had experienced less than twenty years before, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I had the chance to talk with Wilber about what he uncovered while writing Rawhide Down.

To learn more, be sure to tune in for Wilber’s Forum on Monday, April 2 at 11AM. If you can’t make the trip to Charlottesville, you can watch the webcast live at and ask questions on the Miller Center’s Facebook page and via Twitter using hashtag #MCForum.

“Rawhide Down!”

President Reagan

President Reagan Moments Before Assassination Attempt

Today, on March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot coming out of a hotel. Thanks to the quick thinking of a Secret Service agent, President Reagan was rushed to George Washington Hospital and underwent surgery to remove a bullet that was just lodged just an inch away from his heart. As part of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History program, members of the Reagan administration recounted what it was like to be part of that moment in history and how it changed (or did not change) Reagan and his presidency.

Friday Feature: President Bush Not Riding a Tiger

President George W. Bush wears sunglasses and sits on a large motorcycle in a factory setting.

Photo and description courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Public domain photo taken by Kimberlee Hewitt.

President George W. Bush sits on a motorcycle at the roll test section of the assembly line at the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations facility in York, PA, 2006.  President Bush also participated in a roundtable discussion on the economy during his visit.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

A Decent Interval

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Today, on March 29, 1973, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. As the country debates the war in Afghanistan and a new poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans are against U.S. involvement in the war, it is interesting to listen to this secret White House recording from 1972 between President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, as they discuss a time frame for pulling American troops out of Vietnam.

Obamacare at the High Court: A Self-Inflicted Wound for the Supremes?

President-elect Obama and Chief Justice Roberts in 2009

President-elect Obama visits the Supreme Court as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. looks on in January 2009.

When the Supreme Court hears the health care case beginning today, it steps into the political thicket, and it does so at its own peril.