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

American Forum: Michael Eric Dyson on the Black Presidency and the Legacy of Barack Obama

Douglas Blackmon and Michael Eric Dyson on American Forum

Not long ago, many of us had begun to believe that the election of a black president meant somehow that the deep racial divides in our country--and our politics, might finally be disappearing. Instead, after what feels like a wave of police shootings, angry responses from citizens, a horrifying white supremacist massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, and at times a seeming impotence on the part of our president, the nation remains embroiled in racial unrest and disappointment. In this episode of American Forum, we’re joined by Michael Eric Dyson, one of our nation’s most impassioned intellectuals with an especially resonant voice on issues of importance to African-Americans. He has written a new book published just this week: The Black Presidency, Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America.

American Forum: Kathleen Newland and David Leblang on the European Migrant Crisis

Douglas Blackmon, Kathleen Newland, and David Leblang on American Forum

Over a million migrants entered Europe in 2015, initiating a humanitarian crisis as the EU and other neighboring countries struggled to deal with the influx and challenges of resettlement. Germany signaled a willingness to permit large numbers of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Thousands of migrants clogged border crossings in the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and Bulgaria. Tens of thousands crowded boats headed for Greece. But then something else happened. The arrival of those refugees unleashed anti-immigrant political parties in Europe. In the United States, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said refugees might be terrorists and should be kept out. Huge numbers of Americans seemed to agree. Now, more than 4 million Syrian refugees remain displaced, and millions of others are trapped in hopeless camps and detention centers.

Happy Australia Day!

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Richard Nixon meets with Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. July 30, 1973. (Credit: Nixon Library)

The partnership between the U.S. and the U.K. is often called "the special relationship," but the term could just as easily be applied to the relationship between America and Australia. The only country to fight with the U.S. in every 20th  century war, Australia has played an important role in American foreign policy.

Despite the tyranny of distance that has often consigned Australia to a distant outpost in the American imagination, the leaders of the two nations have often worked closely with one another. The advent of air travel tightened those bonds: Lyndon Johnson made the first visit by a sitting president in 1966; Barack Obama made the latest trip in 2011. 

Though Richard Nixon never visited Australia while in office, he had a great affection for the country. (Ironically, Nixon's approval of the 1972 Christmas bombings in Vietnam marked the nadir of U.S.-Australian relations, threatening the ANZUS alliance that has officially allied the countries, along with New Zealand, since 1951.) In the recording below, an edited version of a 1972 phone call, Nixon extols the virtues of Australia to his secretary of the treasury, Texas Democrat John Connally.   

Nicole Hemmer is a Visiting Research Associate at the Miller Center, working with the Presidential Recordings Program.​

American Forum: Brandon Garrett on is America’s Justice System Broken?

Douglas Blackmon and Brandon Garrett on American Forum

Americans are living through a time of profound doubt about our systems of justice. Police officers are under indictment for allegedly murdering civilians on our roughest streets. More than 300 people who had been sentenced to death or lengthy prison terms for terrible acts of violence have been proven innocent as a result of new DNA technology. And at the highest levels of society, Americans remain broadly frustrated that there has been little punishment of the executives at banks and other corporate players whose illegal manipulation of financial markets triggered the economic collapse that cost Americans billions of dollars, millions of jobs and for thousands, their homes and savings.

American Forum: Charles Murray on Civil Disobedience on the Right?

Douglas Blackmon and Charles Murray on American Forum

At a time when Americans appear more politically divided than at any point in decades, we hear an almost constant refrain. The American political system is broken. Conservatives say this is the fault of an overgrown, over-reaching federal government. Liberals say our economic system has become skewed to consolidate power and wealth among the rich. Both sides seem to agree that the sun may be setting on the era of American greatness. Our guest in this episode of American Forum is Charles Murray, a political scientist and author whose books over the past 30 years have been deeply influential among conservatives and libertarians, and at times, highly controversial. In his most recent work, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, he proposes a radical solution: civil disobedience. The American people should simply refuse to obey the rules and requirements of a government that he says has become both tyrannical and absurd.

American Forum: Marc Solomon on How Did America Come to Embrace Same Sex Marriage?

Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits-And Won

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that marriage between any two loving adults is a constitutional right—regardless of their gender—it seemed America had inexplicably undergone one of the most sudden and dramatic changes ever in the values of our citizens, and legal interpretation by our highest courts.

Day 31: “We Went out at the State House Steps at Midnight, Watched the Fireworks”

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George H.W. Bush is greeted by Ted Williams and other supporters in Bedford, N.H. (Credit: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

How did George H. W. Bush spend New Year's Eve in 1987? Earning some goodwill with New Hampshire voters. Click through to learn how.

Day 30: “The First Ads Go on the Air Immediately After New Year’s Day”

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President Bill Clinton and pollster Stan Greenberg meet in the White House.

We aren't the only ones counting down to the end of the year. For presidential campaigns, the primary season properly kicks off as soon as the ball drops in Times Square. Click through to read more.

Day 29: “I Was Led into the Basement of the White House”

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Ronald Reagan and Frank Carlucci meet in the Oval Office. (Credit: Otto Bettmann/Corbis)

In 1986, Frank Carlucci was given a surprise Christmas present. His big dilemma? Whether to accept it. Click through to find out more.

Day 28: “We Meet in the Depths of Winter”

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President Bill Clinton delivers his first inaugural address at the Capitol. Jan. 20, 1993.

With long nights and bitterly low temperatures, the end of the year can be a depressing time. But as the incoming Clinton administration found, in that darkness were signs of hope. Click through to find out more.

American Forum: What Makes a President Great? Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin

Douglas Blackmon and Doris Kearns Goodwin on American Forum

As we begin to turn our attention to next year’s presidential election, it’s useful to reflect on what history can teach us about the great presidents of America’s past, their advisors, important policy achievements and moments of crisis. In the next American Forum we hear from the acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and perhaps the most widely read scholar of the American presidency

Day 27: “The New Year’s Eve Party That He Always Gives for the Beautiful People”

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Ronald and Nancy Reagan visit with Leonore and Walter Annenberg on New Year’s Eve.

A New Year's party isn't just a chance to ring in another year. When the president-elect is in the room, it's also a chance to wrangle an ambassadorship. Click through for the backdoor dealings that snagged one person a gig in St. James.

Day 26: “I Surrender. I’ve Got to Run for President.”

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President Clinton meets with Republican congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the federal budget impasse. Dec. 29, 1995.

No one likes to go to work in the week between Christmas and New Year's. But in 1995, the work done that week saved the Clinton presidency. Click through to find out how.

Day 25: “I Wanted to Wish You a Merry Christmas and Tell You That You’re Loved”

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President Harry S. Truman and President Lyndon Johnson speak at a Medicare bill signing. July 30, 1968. (Credit: Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)

A special bond connects the politicians who have served as president. Click through to hear a Christmas day chat between two men who shared that experience. 

Day 24: “We Ought to Display Them All”

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President Bill Clinton and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat at the Gaza International Airport. Dec. 1998. (Credit: Reuters)

Ever engaged in some passive-aggressive holiday decorating? Bill Clinton considered it. Click through to find out why.