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

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.  

Scholarly Response: “It’s Hard to Put a Happy Face on This Recovery”

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 Brian Domitrovic offering his assessment of the arguments presented in the debate.

Paul Krugman said some misleading things in this debate. “This is not especially worse than the recovery from the 2001 recession,” for example. And, “If you actually just look at the job gains, or lack thereof, they’re more or less on track.”

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, 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.