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

Presumptive No Longer: Romney Clinches Nomination

Mitt and Ann Romney on Super Tuesday.

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney takes the stage with his wife Ann to give his victory speech at his headquarters at the Westin at Copley Plaza on Super Tuesday. (Ryan Hutton/Boston University News Service)

Even though the Republican primary race has effectively been over since Rick Santorum ended his candidacy in April, we can finally drop the “presumptive” adjective. Mitt Romney officially clinched the Republican nomination yesterday with a victory in the Texas primary that gave him enough delegates to reach the magical 1,144 he needed. Now nominee Romney must prepare for even more scrutiny and the media frenzy that will surely ensue with any new revelation about the candidate. (Top results on the news search today included: Romney’s new “Believe in Amercia” app, the misspelling of which lit up the social media world yesterday; why the Republican foreign policy establishment has been slow to embrace him; how he got ‘trumped’ by birther talk; the revelation that his father was born in Mexico; and how people of the Mormon faith are responding to his White House run.)

Riding the Tiger takes this opportunity to highlight some of the (dare we say “excellent”) scholarly contributions on Mitt Romney to our blog.

Behind the Scenes: Medal of Freedom Nomination and Clearing Process

The general badge of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with its various components.

The general badge of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with its various components. This specific medal was presented to Bob Hope. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Today, President Barack Obama honors 13 individuals with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The Medal of Freedom recognizes those individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Among this year’s recipients are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt and rock legend Bob Dylan.

We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center and found insider knowledge of the Medal of Freedom clearance and nominating process. In January 2002, the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program interviewed Aram Bakshian, Jr. for the Ronald Reagan Oral History Project. Bakshian served for three years in the Reagan White House, first in the Office of Public Liaison, then as Director of Speechwriting from 1981 to 1982. During the interview, Bakshian discussed the clearance and nominating process for the Medal of Freedom for which he was responsible during his tenure in the Reagan White House. Click through to read excerpts from the interview.

Whither the War Powers Resolution?

President Barack Obama delivered an address at the National Defense University on the American intervention in Libya.

President Barack Obama speaks on the military intervention in Libya at the National Defense University, March 28, 2011. Photo courtesy of the National Defense University.

In observance of Memorial Day, we express our profound gratitude to all of the men and women who have bravely served our country. In this post, Riding the Tiger contributor Stephen Knott puzzles over the institutional contestation of the power to send our soldiers to war. 

Students taking introductory courses in American government are taught that there is an abiding tension built into the Constitution, “an invitation to struggle” between Congress and the President over the right to direct the nation’s foreign policy. We learn that the founders were determined to “chain the dog of war” by giving Congress the power to declare war, believing that this power was simply too dangerous to entrust to the President alone.

Friday Roundup

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Electoral Horse race. New polling from NBC and Marist College give President Barack Obama a slight edge over Mitt Romney in Florida (48-44), Ohio (48-42), and Virginia (48-44). Public Policy Polling gives Romney a 50-43 advantage in Arizona and a Civitas Institute Poll shows Romney leading 47-45 in North Carolina. According to a new Gallup poll, Vice President Joe Bidens favorability ratings have dropped to 42%, suggesting he may not be as a big of an asset when deployed by the Obama campaign.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll shows that Obama leads Romney by 34 points among the Hispanic community. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at the Washington Post's The Fix suggest that the Republicans’  “Hispanic problem” didn’t happen overnight, but they “need to find ways to begin growing their support among Hispanics or they run the risk of struggling to build majority national coalitions in 2016, 2020 and beyond.” Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is quietly beginning an outreach effort to black voters.

Joseph Gerth at the Courier Journal provided a visual representation of the vote breakdown and explained that Kentucky snubbed President Obama in the primary mostly as a result of widespread and emphatic opposition to many of his policies.

Ron Paul’s campaign is making good on his promise to continue to build support in the states. Or at least that’s the case in Nevada where top Republican party officials resigned in a dispute with Paul supporters just weeks after supporters swept the state convention.

Friday Feature: Franklin Roosevelt Not Riding a Tiger

Franklin Roosevelt is seen riding in a convertible on two occasions: once in the open air, once surrounded by bulletproof glass.

Photo courtesy The Forgotten History Blog

After the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7, 1941, the Secret Service set about with special urgency to provide President Franklin Roosevelt with a bulletproof vehicle that would keep the President safe. But there was a problem: Roosevelt needed to make a public address the very next day to respond to the attacks.

(Listen to the speech, "Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War," from the Miller Center's speech archive.)

How did they solve the problem? President Roosevelt reportedly borrowed a heavily armored Cadillac formerly owned by notorious ganger Al Capone. The car had been sitting in a Treasury Department parking lot since it was seized years earlier, and it was heavily armored and had specially installed siren and flashing lights hidden behind the grill (a style still seen today on the Presidential motorcade).

President Roosevelt only used Capone's Cadillac for a short time—the Secret Service worked with Ford Motors to armor a 1939 Lincoln V12 (the "Sunshine Special," picture here) shortly thereafter.

Roosevelt is seen here riding in the Lincoln convertible before (top) and after (bottom) its armor was installed.

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

VEEP 46: The Consequentialist

President George W. Bush talks to reporters Friday, Aug. 18, 2006 in Camp David, Md., Dick Cheney seen in background

President George W. Bush talks to reporters Friday, Aug. 18, 2006 in Camp David, Md., following a meeting with his economic advisors and Vice President Dick Cheney, seen in background. White House photo by David Bohrer.

In April, Richard Cheney gave Mitt Romney this advice: ignore the talking heads and select someone who can govern well. In a series of posts, we look beyond the headlines focusing on the current VEEPstakes and dig into our archives at the Miller Center to examine the contributions of previous vice presidents. In this edition, we examine Richard Cheney, one of the most powerful, if not controversial, vice presidents in American history. Previous posts include J. Danforth Quayle and Walter F. Mondale.

Romney wins Arkansas, Kentucky—and Bragging Rights Over Obama?

Mitt Romney easily won the primary contests in Kentucky and Arkansas yesterday, with 67% and 69% of the vote, respectively.

Romney received a higher percentage of votes in the Republican primaries than President Obama did in the Democratic primaries. While Obama ultimately prevailed, 42% of voters in each state voted against the president. This follows in the wake of the Democratic primary in West Virginia earlier this month in which an incarcerated federal inmate, Keith Judd, received a significant portion of the vote.

Missile Defense: Achilles’ heel of U.S.-Russia Relations

Remarks Announcing an Agreement on Limiting Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (May 20, 1971)

At its summit in Chicago, NATO announced that the first phase of a United States-led missile defense system in Europe is “provisionally operational.” Against this backdrop, it is worth remembering that forty years ago on this day, the United States and former Soviet Union were making great strides in relations that had been strained for decades. On May 22, 1972, Richard M. Nixon was the first president to visit Moscow and reached several important agreements, including one on nuclear arms control, during a week-long summit.

U.S.-Pakistan Relationship: “One of the Most Severe Roller Coaster Rides in History”

President Barack Obama with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Vice President Joe Biden

President Barack Obama with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Vice President Joe Biden during a statement in the Grand Foyer of the White House following a trilateral meeting. May 6, 2009

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has received substantial attention at the NATO summit this week in Chicago. Just before the summit commenced, a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan collapsed. President Barack Obama refused to meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari without a deal on the supply routes, a measure of just how much the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated.

In April, Bruce Riedel, senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents of the United States in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, spoke about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan at the Miller Center. He said the relationship between the two countries “can only be described as one of the most severe roller coaster rides in history.” Read highlights of Riedel's in-depth analysis of the relationship.

Friday Roundup

Obama vs Romney

Obama Vs Romney. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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.

Electoral Horse Race. Chris Cillizza, writer of the Washington Post’s “The Fix,” spoke at the Miller Center’s forum today on how the Post will cover the election, and said that President Obama starts with an edge in the race for electoral votes. Larry Sabato also gave Obama an edge at the starting block with 247 electoral votes, while Romney starts with 206. During his appearance on “The View” on Monday, President Obama said he is “going to win” the election. But, according to Gallup, Romney is gaining favorability, with a rating this week of 50%, nearly matching Obama’s 52%. Meanwhile, a USA Today/Gallup poll examined the American public’s beliefs about who will win. According to the poll’s findings: 

Fifty-six percent of Americans think Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election, compared with 36 percent who think Mitt Romney will win. Democrats are more likely to believe that Obama will win than Republicans are to believe Romney will. Independents are nearly twice as likely to think that Obama, rather than Romney, will prevail.

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.