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

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

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

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. 

Kranish Speaks on The Real Romney

Interview with Michael Kranish

Today at the Miller Center at 11:00AM, author Michael Kranish will speak about his book The Real Romney. A Boston Globe investigative reporter, Kranish was able to get the the "real" backstory on the former Massachusetts governor.  From the amazon description:

The book explores Romney’s personal life, his bond with his wife and how they handled her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, and his difficult years as a Mormon missionary in France, where a fatal car crash had a profound effect on his path. It also illuminates Romney’s privileged upbringing in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; his rejection of the 1960s protest culture; and his close but complicated relationship with his father.

I had the chance to sit down with Kranish to chat about what he learned of Romney through the process of writing the book. Check out the clip to hear what he had to say.

To hear much more, be sure to tune in to Kranish's forum at 11AM. You can watch live at and submit your own questions for Kranish via Facebook and on Twitter using hashtag #MCForum.


Santorum Wins Louisiana Primary

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum at the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Rick Santorum's definitive win in the Louisiana primary on Saturday shows that the race to become the republican candidate for president is not yet over. Santorum won 49% of the vote; Mitt Romney came in second with 27%; Newt Gingrich was third with 16%; and Ron Paul received 6%.

Though his win in the conservative Southern state was Santorum's best showing date, it does little to change the overall delegate count, in which he trails Romney by a signficant margin. It does give Santorum some momentum going into the next contests in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which he must win to keep Romney from taking the nomination.

Missile Defense Systems

Excerpt of 1984 Presidential Debate

On this day in 1983, President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program to protect the U.S. from enemy nuclear missiles.

Yesterday NPR featured a story from the Associated Press about Russia’s concern over a missile defense plan that NATO has proposed, designed to deflect potential nuclear attacks from Iran. Russia’s president argued that plan broke existing nuclear parity between the United States and Russia.

NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but has rejected Moscow's proposal to run it jointly. Without a NATO-Russia cooperation deal, the Kremlin has sought guarantees from the U.S. that any future missile defense is not aimed at Russia and threatened to retaliate if no such deal is negotiated.

"I will say honestly that no matter how warm relations between me and my colleagues are, no matter how advanced relations between Russia and NATO member states are, we will have to take that into account and, under certain circumstances, respond," [President Dmitry] Medvedev said.

The idea of a missile defense system, and Russia's role in U.S. National Security, was a hotly debated topic in the 1984 presidential election between President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Party nominee, Walter Mondale. In this excerpt from a presidential debate in 1984, President Reagan advocates sharing the technology of the so-called Star Wars plan with the Soviet Union, while Mondale strongly disagrees.

Click to watch the whole debate. 

Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap

Endorsement of McCain-Feingold

John McCain and Russ Feingold join Tim Roemer, Jim Greenwood, and Ellen Tauscher to endorse the McCain-Feingold legislation.

Today's guest post is from Ray La Raja, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Univesity of Massachusetts Amherst.

Emily Charnock provides a very insightful post that reveals strong similarities between Super PACs and the various independently organized committees throughout the twentieth century.  In other words, we have been here before.

Political reformers concerned about the role of money in politics should rightfully be concerned about how wealth translates into political power.  Reformers, however, typically assume there is "too much money" when, in fact, it could easily be argued that there is too little, particularly if we consider the costs of informing and mobilizing voters.

Friday Feature: President Reagan Not Riding a Tiger

President Reagan and Vice President Bush ride horses on a dirt road near Camp David.

Photo courtesy About Camp David.

Ready for some weekend relaxation? President Reagan and Vice President Bush are shown here riding horses at Camp David around 1981.

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

Romney Wins Decisive Victory in Illinois

Mitt Romney at his headquarters in Boston in early March

Mitt Romney at the Romney headquarters in Boston, MA, in early March. (Sarah Mongeau-Birkett/BU News Service)

Mitt Romney won his third major contest in a row yesterday, boosting the argument that he is the rightful heir to the republican candidacy for president. Romney captured 47 percent of the vote, while Rick Santorum trailed with 35 percent, Ron Paul with 9 percent, and Newt Gingrich with 8 percent.
The win in Illinois is the latest in a string of victories for Romney in big industrial Midwestern and Northern states with large urban centers, and marks him as the likely favorite to accumulate enough convention delegates to secure the nomination. 

Romney Wins Puerto Rico, Delegates Elected in Missouri

In the weekend contests, Mitt Romney won handily in Puerto Rico's presidential primary, while no official winner was declared in the Missouri Caucus. 

Romney took an overwhelming 83 percent of the vote in Puerto Rico, while Rick Santorum claimed 8 percent. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul actively campaigned in the U.S. territory.

In Missouri, local caucuses elected delegates to advance to congressional district and state conventions, where the delegates will be bound to presidential candidates. No straw poll was conducted. However, Rick Santorum won Missouri's non-binding "beauty contest" primary on February 7, and it is a safe to assume that he will fare well at the state convention in April.



Friday Feature: President Lyndon B. Johnson Not Riding a Tiger

Lyndon Johnson rides a horse in front of smiling spectators, including a red-and-white clad marching band.

Photo courtesy of UCLA, Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

President Lyndon B. Johnson rides a horse during a 1964 campaign event. 

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

“Shadow” Parties and the Origins of Super PACs

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, by CMBJ (Washington Post), February 2010

“Super PACs” are the enfants terrible of the campaign finance world today. These groups, sporting only slogans for names and raising unlimited contributions to support federal candidates, have been decried as a new and dangerous precedent in election campaigns.

In fact, fifteen years ago this week, the Senate authorized an investigation into fundraising activities in the 1996 elections, which brought similar problems to the fore.

SuperPACs are less creations of the 2010 Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions than they are new incarnations of old problems.