Miller Center

Lessons for 2012

Election Year Resources From The Miller Center's Digital Archives

When Burkett Miller founded the Miller Center more than 35 years ago, he was disheartened by the dysfunction and partisanship that characterized national politics in the 1970s. Miller envisioned an institution where leaders, scholars, and the public could come together in civil discussions to offer sound policy solutions grounded in history. Today, the 2012 presidential election season is in full swing. With the candidates finding the campaign trail just as rocky as many of those who came before them and our nation facing critical policy dilemmas with no solution in sight, this vision is needed now more than ever.

To this end, the Miller Center has embarked on a year-long endeavor, “Lessons for 2012,” which highlights the lessons provided by history in order to illuminate the 2012 presidential contest and analyze current policy issues. Building on the Miller Center’s strength in presidential and political history and introducing a number of exciting new initiatives, “Lessons for 2012” is a Center-wide effort which puts the circumstances, challenges, and choices facing our next commander-in-chief–and our nation–in greater context.

Policy Analysis

National War Powers Commission

James Baker and Warren Christopher led the Miller Center’s National War Powers Commission. The unanimous report calls for the replacement of the 1973 War Powers Resolution with the proposed War Powers Consultation Act.

Transportation Policy

Five former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation have worked with the Miller Center to draw attention to the nation’s transportation challenges in a new report, building on consensus recommendations of the country’s transportation experts.

Public Programs

Miller Center - ABC News Debates

“There’s Too Much Government In My Life”

The Miller Center partners with “This Week” on the fourth season of its acclaimed debate series. Our first debate focused on issue of the size of government and our second one asked if the economic recovery is built to last. Four additional broadcasts will take place prior to Election Day.

“America’s Economic Recovery: Is It Built to Last?”

The Long Battle Ahead: The 2012 Presidential Election and How The Washington Post Will Cover It

Marcus Brauchli, Washington Post executive editor, oversees print and digital news operations. Previously, he had served as managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, overseeing its print and online news operations, both in the U.S. and internationally. Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for The Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and web site. Cillizza has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, and CNN.

When the World Seemed New: American Foreign Policy in the Age of George H.W. Bush

Jeffrey A. Engel teaches history and public policy at Texas A&M University, where he is the Verlin and Howard '52 Founders Professor and Director of Programming for the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs. The author and editor of six books on American foreign policy, he is currently writing a history of American foreign relations in the age of George H.W. Bush.

The Real Romney

Mitt Romney has masterfully positioned himself as the front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. In “The Real Romney,” a definitive, unflinching biography by Boston Globe investigative reporter Michael Kranish, with Scott Helman, readers will finally discover the true Romney. Even though he’s become a household name, the former Massachusetts governor remains an enigma to many in America, his character and core convictions elusive, his record little known. Who is the man behind that sweep of dark hair, distinguished white sideburns, and high-wattage smile? Romney often seems to be two people at once: a savvy politician, and someone who will simply say anything to win. A business visionary, and a calculating dealmaker. A man comfortable in his faith and with family, and one who can have trouble connecting with average voters. 

Presidential Elections - The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents

The Miller Center held a special Presidents Day Forum with Linda Killian on her new book "The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents." In “The Swing Vote,” Killian paints a vivid portrait of swing voters, focusing on four key swing demographic groups and states–Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia–that will be critical in the 2012 election.

Election 2012 and Retooling the American Economy

Alan Murray is deputy managing editor and executive editor, online, for The Wall Street Journal. He has editorial responsibility for the Journal's web sites, including and MarketWatch, and the Journal’s books, conferences and television operations.

The Obamas

Jodi Kantor has covered the world of Barack and Michelle Obama since the beginning of 2007, also writing about Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Richard Holbrooke, Eric Holder and many others along the way. Ms. Kantor graduated from Columbia and attended Harvard Law School. But soon after she arrived, she caught the journalism bug, took time off to work at, and never looked back. She joined The New York Times in 2003 as Arts & Leisure editor, revamping the section and helping lead a makeover of the culture report.

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, where she served as director of the Center for American Political Studies (1999 to 2006) and as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2005 to 2007). Her focus is on U.S. public policy and citizen participation.

Scholarly Analysis

Romney’s Winning Hand?

Saladin M. Ambar

Now that we have some distance from Mitt Romney’s less than spectacular victory in Michigan Tuesday night, perhaps it is worth considering just what Romney has that the rest of the Republican field can’t seem to acquire or destroy. Romney’s got money, organization, and the support of the professionals in the Party, to be sure. But he also has something that has been the only elixir to taking down a sitting president since Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888. He has a governor’s resume.More →

Ambivalent Leadership? Obama, Militant Partisanship and the Challenge of the Modern Presidency

Sid Milkis and Carah Ong

We all remember the excitement and promise of Barack Obama’s 2008 crusade for the presidency, when he memorably offered the voters “Change We Can Believe In.” But the momentous and rancorous first three years of his administration has left unclear what kind of change he represents. More →

“Shadow” Parties and the Origins of Super PACs

Emily Charnock

“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. More →

Obamacare at the High Court: A Self-Inflicted Wound for the Supremes?

Barbara Perry

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. More →

The Economic Crisis and the (Political) Revival of Manufacturing

Guian McKee

Since his January State of the Union address, President Obama has emphasized the centrality of manufacturing for the U.S. economy. In a rare example of shared cross-partisan priorities, Obama’s Republican rivals have also emphasized manufacturing in recent months. This is a significant and surprising departure from the economic focus of most recent presidential campaigns. More →

Secret White House Tapes and Oral History Interview Excerpts

Nixon and Haldeman on the White House Correspondents Dinner

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Not all Presidents have enjoyed the annual White House Correspondents' Dinners—listen to this clip of Richard Nixon, talking to chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, wherein Nixon relays his feelings about the 1971 dinner which had taken place two days earlier.

LBJ and Robert Wagner: Choosing a Vice President

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In this July 1964 call, about 3 weeks before the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, LBJ asks Robert Wagner, a former Democratic Senator from New York, to leak to the press that the party leaders support the President's right to choose his running mate and that a divided party is something to be avoided.

Nixon, Kissinger, and the "Decent Interval"

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On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Listen to this secret White House recording from 1972 between President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, as they discuss ending the war and reveal the interplay between U.S. Policy and electoral politics.

LBJ and Hubert Humphrey: We Won!

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Listen to this secret White House recording from the evening of the 1964 election to hear LBJ's perspective on the physical toll of a presidential election.

Oral History Excerpt: John Sununu

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In this excerpt from the George H.W. Bush Oral History Project, John Sununu, Bush Chief of Staff, reflects upon Clarence Thomas’s 1991 appointment to the Supreme Court. The interview took place in June 2000 in Charlottesville, VA.

Oral History Excerpt: Jimmy Carter on Afghanistan

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Listen to an excerpt from the Jimmy Carter Oral History Project where President Carter reflects on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in 1979. From a November 1982 oral history interview.

Oral History Excerpt: Hamilton Jordan on the 1980 Kennedy Challenge

This excerpt features Hamilton Jordan, White House chief of staff in the Carter administration, on Ted Kennedy's challenge to President Carter in the 1980 Democratic Primary. He contends it was a primary reason for Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan. Excerpt taken from the November 6, 1981 interview, a part of the Jimmy Carter Oral History Project.