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

Brown v. Board of Education and Education Reform

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, Kansas

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, Kansas, USA - Monroe Elementary school, where racial segregation was challenged in 1954

Fifty-eight years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education that "separate educational facilities" for black and white students were "inherently unequal" and therefore unconstitutional. The ruling overturned the May 18, 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that continued to uphold the legality of Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination. But has real progress been made? How might politicians consider racial inequality in debates over education reform this election season?

The Press and the Race for the President: a ‘Despicable Impartiality’?

 President Obama holds a press conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, December 2010.

President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This Friday at 11am, the Miller Center Forum will feature the Washington Post’s Marcus Brauchli and Chris Cillizza on “The Long Battle Ahead: The 2012 Presidential Election and How The Washington Post Will Cover It.” You can watch live online at

How should journalists cover the campaign, and how have they done so in past elections? For one perspective, we turn to Nicole Hemmer, postdoctoral fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and former Miller Center National Fellow

Griping about the press is one of America’s oldest political traditions, a rite of passage for presidential candidates. This time around, however, journalists have matched candidates in their complaints about media coverage.

Where Are the VEEPs Now? Walter F. Mondale

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale meet in Cabinet Room

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale meet in Cabinet Room, December 20, 1978. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

In a series of posts, we will dig into our archives at the Miller Center to examine the contributions of previous vice presidents and explore what they’re doing now. Walter Mondale recently commented that the relationship between a president and vice president “carries a Shakespearean dependency element about it,” and compared the partnership to “a four-year nondivorcable marriage,” though “at least you get to live in different houses.”  In this post we highlight Mondale’s contribution to the vice presidency and his accomplishments since. Our inaugural post in the series on J. Danforth Quayle is here.

Romney Wins Handily in Nebraska and Oregon; Ron Paul effectively ends campaign

Mitt Romney easily won the primary contests in Nebraska and Oregon on Tuesday. In Nebraska, Romney won with 71 percent support. This vote was a beauty contest, as the state's delegates will be chosen at the state convention on July 14. In Oregon, Romney earned 73 percent.

Romney's victories occured in the wake of an announcement on Monday that Ron Paul would cease campaigining and spending money in the states with remaining primaries, effectively ending his bid for the Republican nomination.

The Politics of Presidential Commencement Addresses: Not Just for Grads

Barack Obama at Notre Dame commencement May 2009

President Barack Obama bows his head during the invocation at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony, May 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each delivered commencement addresses this week to core constituents of their respective party’s base. It is fair to say that both speeches were campaign speeches. Of course this wasn’t the first time in history that presidential candidates have delivered commencement addresses for campaign purposes or to justify policies. We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center to highlight a number of memorable commencement speeches from presidential history.

Friday Roundup

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room.

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

News this week was dominated by President Obama’s affirmation that same-sex marriage should be legal. This week's roundup also highlights foreign policy in the elections, primaries, VEEPwatch, the  Wisconsin recall election and 2012 negative primary ads.

Friday Feature: President Ford Not Riding a Tiger

A young child balances on top of an adult-size bike, held up by 3 other children.

Young Leslie Lynch King, Jr. sits on a bicycle, flanked by a cousin and two unidentified girls. c. 1915, Photo courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., was born "Leslie Lynch King, Jr." (named after his father, Leslie Lynch King). His mother, Dorothy Ayer Gardner, divorced his father—a wife-beating alcoholic—shortly after his birth, and remarried in 1916. Dorothy called her future-President son "Junie," which soon became "Jerry" out of affection for the boy's new father-figure, Gerald R. Ford, Sr.

Leslie King, Jr., did not learn of his biological father until he was a teenager, and after graduating from college he officially changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

Read more in the American President essay about President Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

Senator Lugar’s Loss in an Age of Partisan Rancor

Former Democratic U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (left) and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar at a Bicentennial Spaso Discussion Forum.

Former Democratic U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (left) and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Moscow, 2007. Senator Lugar has been known for bipartisan problem solving, such as the successful Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

On Tuesday, Senator Richard Lugar, a six-term Senator from Indiana, lost the Republican primary to State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Earlier this week, Chris Cilliza at The Fix, who will be speaking at a Miller Center forum on Friday, May 18, asserted that Senator Lugar could have taken steps to avert loss, but he was unable or unwilling to change his campaign tactics and rhetoric. Other analysts have also argued that Senator Lugar simply lost touch with his electoral base.  Senator Lugar used his concession speech, which Ezra Klein at the Washington Post called “searing,” to contribute to the discourse on partisan cleavages and what it means for governance.

Many scholars have noted that partisan rancor is not just a current phenomenon… 

Where Are the VEEPs Now? J. Danforth Quayle

President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle

President George H. W. Bush walks along the colonnade with Vice President Dan Quayle enroute to the Oval Office in 1992.

Vice President Joe Biden, and his relationship with President Barack Obama, is attracting quite a bit of attention this week. In addition, we’re witnessing a rather remarkably public and early campaign for the selection of the Republican vice presidential candidate this election. Michael Nelson recently wrote on Riding the Tiger that the vice presidency has been an office of real prominence and influence for well over a generation. At the same time, the vice president must also take care to stay within the bounds of the office and play second fiddle to the president and the broader goals of his administration. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said this week, “Being a vice president is kind of like being a first lady. You are there to support and serve the president. There is no job description.”

In a series of posts, we will dig into our archives at the Miller Center to explore the contributions of previous vice presidents and see what they’re doing now. We begin with J. Danforth Quayle, who served as the 44th Vice President of the United States in the administration of George H. W. Bush. 

No Matter How the Court Rules, the Health Reform Battle Will Continue

The Supreme Court

Photo of the Supreme Court by Mark Fischer.

Today’s post is from Eric M. Patashnik, professor of public policy and politics in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and Jeffery Jenkins, associate professor of politics and GAGE faculty associate at the Miller Center. They are the coeditors of Living Legislation: Durability, Change and the Politics of American Lawmaking. This post originally appeared on The Monkey Cage.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in June. If Intrade is right, there is about a 60 percent chance that the individual mandate will be found unconstitutional. But suppose the smart money is wrong and the mandate is upheld. Will the Affordable Care Act then be completely secure?

Romney wins in May 8 contests

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won all three primary contests on May 8 -- in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia -- in a race that has narrowed to two remaining contestants: Romney and Ron Paul. While there is no question that Romney will be the eventual Republican Party nominee, there are still eleven states that will hold primaries before June 26.



Barack Obama’s Protected Flank

Obama and Karzai in Afghanistan, May 1, 2012.

President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

On Wednesday, the Miller Center welcomes Peter Bergen for a forum on his new book, Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad. Today's post on Obama and national security comes from Stephen Knott, Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, and author of Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics.

For the first time in decades the Democratic Party will nominate a presidential candidate whose reputation as a tough, formidable Commander-in-Chief seems secure. Throughout much of the Cold War, the Republican Party held an edge on the “toughness” issue, be it Goldwater vs. Johnson, or Nixon vs. McGovern, or Reagan vs. Carter and Mondale, or Bush vs. Dukakis. Not since 1960, when John F. Kennedy condemned the Eisenhower/Nixon administration for passively standing by while the Soviet Union surpassed the United States has the Democratic Party been so well positioned to outflank the GOP on an issue Republicans once owned.

Friday Roundup

President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai exchange documents after signing the strategic partnership agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012.

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

The one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden and President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement dominated headlines this week and drew attention to the role of foreign and national security policy in the election. Romney and Obama have started the attacks early and, folks, it ain’t pretty. 

Friday Feature: President Theodore Roosevelt Not Riding a Tiger

President Roosevelt on horseback.

Teddy Roosevelt, known to be quite the sportsman, is seen here on horseback. 

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

Scholarly Response: “This Economic Recovery Is Still Being Built”

Debaters on ABC's This Week

On Sunday, April 29, the Miller Center partnered with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on the second of six special episodes examining some of the key issues heading into the 2012 Election.  On Sunday, six distinguished panelists discussed and debated whether or not America’s economic recovery is “built to last.” Today’s guest post is from historian and former Miller Center Fellow Julia Ott offering her assessment of the arguments presented in the debate.  

On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked a panel of six distinguished commentators whether or not America’s economic recovery is built to last.  No one answered “no” outright, but pessimism pervaded.