Experts

Russell Riley

Professor and Co-Chair of the Presidential Oral History Program

Fast Facts

Areas Of Expertise

  • Leadership
  • Political Parties and Movements
  • Politics
  • The Presidency

Professor Russell Riley, co-chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program, is the White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions. He is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and the contemporary presidency. He has logged more than 1,500 hours of confidential interviews with senior members of the White House staff, cabinet officers, and foreign leaders back to the days of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. Since 2003, he has led both the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project and the George W. Bush Oral History Project. He has lectured extensively on American politics and oral history methods across the United States, as well as in China, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands, and by videoconference (for the US Department of State) at Al Quds and Najah Universities in the West Bank.

In 2003, Riley led the Center’s biographical oral history of Washington lawyer Lloyd N. Cutler. He organized and directed, also in 2003, a symposium of former leaders of the White House Congressional Affairs operation, and he helped to organize and carry out, in 2008, a symposium of former White House speechwriters, which was nationally televised on C-SPAN.

Riley graduated from Auburn University in 1983, where he received the Charles P. Anson Award as outstanding student of economics. He subsequently studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then received his PhD from the University of Virginia, where he was a research assistant to James Sterling Young at the Miller Center. He subsequently taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown. He helped found Penn’s Washington Semester Program and from 1994 to 1998 was its resident director and a lecturer in American politics. From 1998 to 2000, he was a program director with the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Austria, where he organized week-long sessions on topics ranging from racial politics to the evolution of transatlantic relations in the post-Cold War world. He returned to the Miller Center in January 2001.

He has authored or edited six books, including Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History (Oxford, 2016); Bridging the Constitutional Divide: Inside the White House Office of Legislative Affairs (Texas A&M, 2010); and The Presidency and the Politics of Racial Inequality: Nation-keeping from 1861 to 1965 (Columbia, 1999). The last of those was a finalist for that year’s Neustadt Award as the best book on the presidency. His commentary on American politics has also appeared in The Washington Post, Politico, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and TIME.   
  

 

Russell Riley News Feed

Trump’s approach reflects his us-against-them mind-set, tendency to assign blame and combative view of geopolitics — characteristics that have only been amplified by the global crisis, said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “It is a persistent, enduring and probably irreversible feature of this president that he’s going to approach a problem on his own and will rise or fall based on his ability to succeed in doing that,” he said, describing Trump’s strategy as a “recipe for a disastrous exercise in leadership.”
Russell Riley The Washington Post
A February 24 Washington Post article quoted presidential historian Russell Riley, who noted that Trump had “hollowed out the senior leadership of so many departments of the government -- especially in the scientific community,” adding that “he is now in desperate need of professional guidance among people he has abused for three years.”
Russell Riley Media Matters for America
Trump has "hollowed out the senior leadership of so many departments of the government — especially in the scientific community," University of Virginia presidential historian Russell Riley tells the Post, "If the markets continue to drop and the medical news gets very bad, then this president is singularly ill-prepared to deal with it in a rational manner."
Russell Riley The Week
For a president who has governed “by tweet and circus,” a potential global health crisis that blunts economic growth could expose one of Trump’s main weaknesses as he prepares to face voters in November, said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “Having hollowed out the senior leadership of so many departments of the government — especially in the scientific community — he is now in desperate need of professional guidance among people he has abused for three years,” Riley said. “If the markets continue to drop and the medical news gets very bad, then this president is singularly ill-prepared to deal with it in a rational manner.”
Russell Riley The Washington Post
One big difference between the Clinton and Trump impeachments is that Mr. Clinton’s took place toward the end of his presidency, and Mr. Trump’s is taking place amid a reelection bid. But there’s also a big difference in their respective postures. With Mr. Clinton, “there was this general sense that he was chastened and remorseful,” says Russell Riley, co-chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “With Trump, there’s none of that. So there’s an enormous amount of anxiety about what he might do as president from this point forward, because he’s effectively a president unbound.”
Russell Riley The Christian Science Monitor
While the paths to the impeachment procedures and their backgrounds differ significantly between the two presidents, there are also some similarities. As historian Russell Riley of the University of Virginia told US National Public Radio (NPR) , both Clinton and Trump had survived previous, politically sensitive incidents - and then repeated the same mistake.
Russell Riley web.de