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

Calling all libraries and museums!

Do you now—or have you ever—worked with a library or museum? We need your help!

The Miller Center’s Connecting Presidential Collections project is collecting information about the state of digital collections. Please click here to take our 5-minute survey. We’re especially interested if you’ve worked for a history-related organization, but any connection will do!

The survey is fast and anonymous, and you’ll be helping us empower libraries and museums to succeed. Please spread the word! The more responses we receive, the better our project can be.

Personality and Relationships

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Presidential scholar, Richard Neustadt, once wrote in his book Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents, “Continuing relationships may convert any ‘power,’ any aspect of his status, into vantage points in almost any case.”  (pp. 31)

Same can be said for his staff and cabinet officers.  Personality and relationships have always been vital in politics and decision-making.  For U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, she realized how important it was to build good relationships, which can turn into positive action.  This is what she said in our Clinton Presidential Project interview:

Cheney: Best Parts & Greatest Frustrations of Being Defense Secretary

In his interview for the George H.W. Bush Oral History Project, Dick Cheney discussed the best parts and greatest frustrations of being defense secretary.

"The best parts of it—there are so many different things. I would include certainly on my list the people in the military. When I was there we had a superb group. The country doesn’t realize—didn’t then and I don’t think they do today—what an enormously talented group of people we’ve got in the U.S. military forces, uniformly high quality. I suppose that part is the part I miss most about it."

William J. Clinton Presidential History Project

President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, January 1994

President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, January 1994

The first group of transcripts from the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project has been released.

Book Review: Thirteen Days in September

Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright’s book, Thirteen Days in September, provides a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Camp David Accords.  During the negotiations, the public was kept in the dark, and with this book, readers get some insight on the true difficulties Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin faced.

Nixon, Chief of Staff Discuss Trick-or-Treating at White House

Tricia Nixon at a White House Halloween carnival in 1969

During an Oct. 20, 1972, meeting with his chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, President Nixon discussed Tricia Nixon Cox's idea to allow children to trick-or-treat at the White House. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

President NixonTricia [Nixon Cox] had an idea last night that I thought would be rather cute. [Unclear], you know, we always do something for Halloween. We had a Halloween party one [unclear]. She said she was thinking that, we can [unclear] trick-or-treat at the White House. [Unclear.] [Unclear] about that. Now, the point that I made is that--the point that I made is we really wanted to do this somehow to get a very, very warm story about how much we enjoy this sort of thing. See? 

VIDEO + PHOTOS: Milstein Infrastructure and Middle-Class Jobs Commission Meeting

Milstein Infrastructure Commission members

Listen to Milstein Commission on Infrastructure and Middle-Class Jobs members -- who represent some of the top thinkers on the critical needs of the nation's infrastructure -- discuss the issues at hand, as well as proposed solutions.  Short interview clips can be found here. Photos from the meeting are available here

Book Review: The End of Greatness

The End of Greatness by Aaron David Miller

In his book The End of Greatness, Aaron David Miller has developed a successful synthesis of the presidential greatness literature on why we don’t see great presidents anymore, yet we still demand one every presidential election cycle. This work should be very useful to students and to the general public as a way to discuss important questions about presidential greatness and seemingly unrealistic voter expectations. 

Ray LaHood, Antonio Villaraigosa to Co-Chair Commission on Infrastructure and Middle-Class Jobs

Co-Chairs LaHood and Villaraigosa

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will co-chair a new University of Virginia Miller Center commission charged with developing innovative, bipartisan ideas on how to create and sustain middle-class jobs through infrastructure policy. Read the media advisory here

ARTICLE: ‘Made in America, Again”

Misltein Commission on New Manufacturing member James Fallows references the commission report in The Atlantic, stating that "The Miller Center report, 'Building a Nation of Makers,' is mainly about practical steps that might let start-ups and small companies take advantage of global trends. For instance, mapping now-opaque manufacturing supply chains could help connect smaller companies with potential customers. Because they are so practical, ideas like these don’t figure into normal political debate. But their very practicality increases their chances of paying off."

ARTICLE: “Making the SF Case for a Second Stimulus”

Milstein Commission on New Manufacturing member Kate Sofis and Miller Center lead policy analyst Tony Lucadamo recommend the return of programs that offer low-interest, fixed-rate loans that manufacturing SMEs can use for hiring new workers in a San Francisco Business Times opinion piece.

“They’d Impeach a President”

LBJ with Senator Richard Russell

This clip, presented to the Nantucket Project this weekend, features LBJ and Senator Richard Russell as they consider the risks and politics of escalation in Vietnam. The full recording (27 minutes) is available here, a curated exhibit (4 minutes) is here.

The Presidential Recordings Program was established by the Miller Center in 1998 to make the secret White House recordings accessible through transcripts and historical research. These recordings constitute an extremely rich historical resource, but one that cannot be unlocked without considerable time and experience in working with the tapes. Once unlocked, the tapes shed considerable light on our understanding of recent political history and on the workings of the U.S. government. Thousands of hours of this secret history remain to be transcribed, annotated, and analyzed within the constraints of limited resources.

Book Review: Unreasonable Men

Unreasonable Men by Michael Wolraich

Michael Wolraich's Unreasonable Men is an immensely readable account of the Republican Party's split leading up to the 1912 presidential election.

LBJ Tapes Capture Echoes of Ferguson

President Lyndon B. Johnson (seated behind desk) discussing 1967 Detroit crisis with L-R: Joe Califano, Sec. Robert McNamara, Sec. Of the Army Stanley Resor (obscured), Sec. Ramsey Clark, George Christian, Justice Abe Fortas, Marvin Watson (back to camera).

The shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police and the militarized police response to protestors angry over Brown’s death has brought the issue of police brutality to the forefront of national attention. It has also raised echoes of the urban rebellions of the 1960s. Although more than four decades separate these events, the issues involved are in many respects the same. The White House recordings of Lyndon Johnson capture one small aspect of such connections, raising questions about the extent to which the core racial challenges of the 1960s have truly been transcended today.

POTUS at Play

As President Obama catches some R&R on Martha’s Vineyard, a pictorial montage of 20th century presidents at play reveals how some of his predecessors enjoyed their down time.  It also provides a glimpse of how presidential sports create images of White House occupants.