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

So long, Newt. Hello, General Election.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, photo by Gage Skidmore

Today, we bid adieu to Newt Gingrich, who officially announced he will end his campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination. His campaign produced many memorable moments (check out this ABC video of Gingrich’s greatest hits), not least of which was his grandiose promise that by the end of his second term, “we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.” Alas, after 354 days on the campaign trail and more than $4 million in debt, Gingrich only won two states (South Carolina and Georgia) out of the 38 states that have held Republican primaries/caucuses thus far. 

Economic Recovery: Built to Last?

ABC's panel of economic experts at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Watch full video of the debate on ABC’s website.

“It’s the economy, stupid!” as James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, famously said in 1992. Ten years later, that phrase rings just as true. The economy will no doubt play a significant role in the 2012 campaign as the public considers which candidates are best equipped to lead the country in the face of uncertain economic times.

Recognizing the importance of the economy this election season, the Miller Center partnered with ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos in the second of six special episodes as part of our 2012 Election National Discussion and Debate Series. The all-star panel featured Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, New York Times op-ed columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, former Comptroller General David Walker, and Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator George Will. Watch videos of the panel and a web extra of Paul Krugman discussing inflation here

JFK Assassination Tapes

Johnson Takes Oath of Office

Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office aboard Air Force One. He is flanked by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, left, and Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, right.

Today Robert A. Caro, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, releases his fourth book in The Years of Lyndon Johnson series. The book, The Passage of Power, chronicles Johnson’s career from 1958 until 1964, and his journey from Senate majority leader to vice president to president of the United States.

In the Smithsonian.com, Ron Rosenbaum describes a major theme in Caro’s book:

This mortal struggle [between Johnson and Robert Kennedy] explodes into view over RFK’s attempt to deny Johnson the vice presidential nomination. Caro captures the pathos of LBJ’s sudden loss of power as VP, “neutered” and baited by the Kennedy echelon, powerless after so long wielding power. And the sudden reversal of fortune that makes him once again master on November 22, 1963—and suddenly makes Bobby Kennedy the embittered outsider.

The book covers the assassination of JFK and Johnson’s ascent to the presidency. In a fascinating piece in the New Yorker, Caro documented Johnson’s reactions in the moments after the assassination to his taking the oath of office on Air Force One.

The Miller Center has put together an exhibit of some of the highlights of the Presidential Recordings that took place on November 22, 1963, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The JFK Assassination Tapes include a selection of calls from Air Force One enroute from Dallas to Washington. The plane was carrying a newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson along with the slain president's body.

Robert A. Caro’s The Passage of Power

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961, photo from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Tomorrow, May 1st, Robert A. Caro's fourth volume on Lyndon B. Johnson will be released. The Passage of Power chronicles Johnson from 1958 until 1964, when he went from being Senate Majority Leader to Vice President to President of the United States. Michael Nelson examines Caro's take on the 1964 vice presidential spot.

In every year divisible by four, the political community spends a good bit of the Winter and Spring speculating on the likelihood of a “brokered convention.” And in every such year in which a president is running for reelection, it (we, to be honest) spends almost as much time speculating about whether he will change his vice presidential running mate—Spiro Agnew in 1972, Dan Quayle in 1992, Richard Cheney in 2004, and even Joseph Biden earlier this year.

Correspondents Dinner

Click "listen," then "play" above to hear the clip. Launch full screen player.

The 98th annual Correspondents' Dinner will be hosted at the White House this Saturday, featuring Jimmy Kimmel as headline entertainment.  

Not all Presidents have enjoyed Correspondents' Dinners—listen to this clip of Richard Nixon, talking to chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, wherein Nixon relays his feelings about the 1971 dinner which had taken place two days earlier. 

Friday Roundup

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, photo by Gage Skidmore

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.

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, S.B. 1070. Media reports suggested the Court, based on their questions, appeared to be rediscovering federalism and might be inclined to uphold a controversial part of the law. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy, and conversations from the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program examined the historical relationship between immigration and the economy. 

Economic Effects on Immigration

The Bracero Program

In 1942, the first Mexican workers arrive in Los Angeles, California, as part of the Bracero Program.

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law, which allows local police to inquire about the immigration status of people—stopped for any reason—whom they suspect are in the country illegally. One of the core issues at the heart of the Supreme Court decision is which level of government should address immigration policy. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy.

S.B. 1070 and other state laws also raise important questions regarding the link between the economy and immigration. Historically, debates over national immigration policy have included two arguments. The first is the claim that immigrants do work that Americans do not want to do. On the other hand is the concern that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

“These People are Taking Our Jobs”

Click "listen," then "play" above to hear the clip. Launch full screen player.

As the Supreme Court gears up to hear the Arizona immigration case, take a trip back to 1964 as President Lyndon Johnson discusses the Bracero Agreement, a controversial work program for Mexican farm laborers.

In this clip, President Johnson calls James Farmer, a vocal opponent of the program, to relay his conversation with President Adolfo Lopez Mateos of Mexico about ending the Bracero Agreement. Farmer had long been concerned that the program was taking jobs from American workers, and in this recording LBJ notes that Lopez Mateos did not object to ending the program. As hinted by LBJ in this recording, the labor arrangement did not last much longer into 1964.

Immigration Policy: Whose Line Is it Anyway?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 .

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer with President Obama, discussing immigration and border security issues in the wake of SB1070.

Today's guest post is from Anna O. Law, associate professor of political science at DePaul University and the author of The Immigration Battle in American Courts (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

The Supreme Court will this week hear oral argument in a case about Arizona's controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. While the national debate over immigration has become reduced to campaign trail sound bites and a general holding pattern within the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court has the potential with this ruling in the Arizona case to make an important contribution in improving immigration policy.

Friday Feature: President Obama Not Riding a Tiger

President Obama rides a mountain bike on a paved path with greenery behind.

President Obama rides a bicycle alongside his daughter Malia (not pictured) in 2011. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

 President Obama is known to periodically ride his bicycle in Washington parks alongside his family. But before POTUS can roll through, the route is scanned by trucks of secret service agents and staff on bikes. Read more here.

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

Nicole Hemmer on NYT Opinion Pages

Former Miller Center Fellow and Riding the Tiger contributor Nicole Hemmer has published an op-ed on the New York Times' Campaign Stops website, "The Boys Who Cried Fox." Check out her piece on Mitt's similarities to his father George Romney on our blog here.

Romney and Conservatism

Romney on a campaign stop in Philadelphia in April.

Romney on a campaign stop in Philadelphia organized by the Tea Party on April 17.

Today we welcome a post from Verlan Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. His recent work has focused on American political parties, thought, and development.

With the Republican presidential nomination contest all sewn up, it is time to give historical perspective—as the Miller Center often does—to the process that has delivered Mitt Romney the nomination of the Republican Party. I will attempt to do so in two parts: one with a relatively long, and another with a relatively short, view of history. First, I will show how 72 years of GOP presidential nominations (19 contests) make it very unsurprising that Romney has won the nomination. Second, I will show how four years of GOP presidential nominations (two contests) actually raises doubts about the conventional wisdom that Romney’s stances on the issues are uniquely inconsistent or “un-conservative” among the Republican candidates.

Who is ‘The Real Romney’?

Miller Center Forum: The Real Romney

One of the most established findings in political science is that an incumbent’s record is central to the public’s judgment in a campaign for reelection. But what about challengers? A challenger’s campaign is more about the promises the candidate makes and their personality. Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, journalists, scholars, pundits and citizens alike are seeking to delve even deeper into his seemingly impenetrable background and qualifications in order to evaluate his ability to be president. Last month, the Miller Center hosted a Forum with Boston Globe investigative reporter Michael Kranish, who recently co-authored a new biography on Mitt called The Real Romney. For those of you who weren’t able to attend the Forum, we’ve put together some highlights.

Education and the 2012 Election

Department of Education, 2006

Department of Education in 2006. Photo by M. V. Jantzen.

Today's guest post is from Christopher P. Loss, assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University, and former Miller Center National Fellow. This piece originally appeared on the Princeton University Press Election 101 blog.

It’s Tax Day!

President Obama and Warren Buffett

President Obama and Warren Buffett

Today is the IRS tax filing deadline for 2011. Be sure to get your taxes submitted today. 

Throughout history, presidents have been involved in setting tax policy and then trying to sell their plan to the public. Recently President Obama has been touting the benefits of the Buffett Rule, which would raise taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year. As CNN acknowledged, the Buffett Rule has little chance of moving forward in the U.S. Senate, but Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green argues that it might be more powerful as a political message than as actual legislation. 

Presidents and Tax Policy: The Politics of Persuasion is a Miller Center exhibit that looks at various snapshots of presidential tax policy drawing on a wide array of its resources, including presidential speeches, forums, presidential recordings, and oral histories.