George Hawley, author of “Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism,” is featured in articles by The Daily Caller and The Guardian. The Guardian states, “Hawley’s book is one of the best places to begin to understand what’s happening not only in America, but, by extension, throughout the English-speaking world.”
Joel K. Goldstein, author of “The White House Vice-Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden,” offers a list of thoughts for potential VPs to consider this election year via Larry J. Sabato’s Cyrstal Ball:
1. Do you want to be vice president?
The first question for a prospective running mate is whether they want to be vice president. The question may sound the same as the one that John Nance Garner, Richard M. Nixon, Hubert H. Humphrey and others faced in their days, but the considerations are quite different now. The vice presidency has grown remarkably, moving into the executive branch beginning with Nixon’s VP terms and into the White House since Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale reshaped the office 40 years ago. Whereas the vice presidency used to have formal stature but little role, more recently, the term “second office” has come closer to describing its real significance.
Still, as with many career choices, there are considerations going both ways. The advantages include the fact that since Carter and Mondale created the White House vice presidency, the vice president has become a senior, across-the-board presidential adviser and troubleshooter who counsels the president on the central issues facing the country and represents the United States on significant international missions. In other words, a presidential insider. The specific activities and influence of recent vice presidents have varied but the last six vice presidents (beginning with Mondale) have each performed the roles described above with a set of resources to support that activity. Vice presidents now provide highly significant public service.
Whereas a presidential race presents a daunting challenge, a vice presidential run is much more manageable. Presidential candidates have to spend years raising enormous amounts of money and winters in Iowa and New Hampshire, but a vice presidential race is essentially a 10 to 14 week sprint. Even so, a vice presidential candidate emerges from the campaign with high name recognition, a national platform, and friends around the country.
The vice presidency is also the best presidential springboard. While even most modern vice presidents don’t become president, being vice president enhances the chance that almost any individual will become a presidential nominee (e.g., Nixon, Humphrey, Mondale, and Al Gore) or president (Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and George H.W. Bush). Even many unsuccessful candidates see their stature rise and later assume significant roles (Bob Dole, Edmund Muskie, Lloyd Bentsen, and Paul Ryan). Many future presidential nominees had previously been considered but passed over for the second spot on the ticket (Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney).
There are disadvantages, too. A vice president loses independence in becoming part of the president’s team. The VP’s role is to help the president succeed, not advance an independent agenda. A vice president will be associated even with administration actions he privately opposed. The public may perceive the vice president as a follower, not leader, because that is the public role she plays.
Moreover, being vice president subjects the vice president and family to intense scrutiny. The Naval Observatory and other amenities are attractive, but the vice presidential spouse and children will lose some privacy. An in-law’s shady business dealing or a nephew’s DWI will become national news.
2. Are you suited to being No. 2?
The vice presidency is a much better job than it was even 40 years ago, but it’s still not for every able public official. Although vice presidents must be leaders who can tell the president discretely, but candidly, when he/she is wrong and who can relate to heads of state and congressional leaders as at least equals, they also have to be able to operate comfortably in a subordinate role. LBJ and Nelson Rockefeller were temperamentally unsuited to be vice president. Both were pretty miserable, and not particularly successful, in that office. Someone who cannot follow will probably not do well as vice president. Most recent vice presidents have adjusted pretty well to the role, uncomfortable or unnatural as it was for some of them. It cannot have been easy for Joe Biden, after six terms in the Senate and chairing two major committees, to defer to anyone, especially someone 19 years younger with 32 years less Senate seniority, yet he did. At the least, a vice president probably needs to respect the president and possess interpersonal skills and discipline to manage relationships with the president, the First Spouse, chief of staff, and the young and often overly-assertive campaign associates of the presidential candidate.
3. Do political considerations counsel against a race?
Sometimes political considerations deter a candidacy. Joining a presidential candidate who seems destined to lose has less appeal than running with a likely winner or one who at least has a chance. Similarly, a prospective candidate who is up for re-election is less likely to accept the second spot. Although some recent vice presidential candidates were able to run simultaneously for their current position (LBJ, Bentsen, Joe Lieberman, Biden, Ryan), some others were precluded from doing so by state law or because the competitive nature of their re-election campaign demanded their undivided attention. Further, prudent candidates consider their readiness for a national campaign, an undertaking that focuses attention on a candidate unlike any prior experience. Someone who is not ready for prime time is likely to damage their party’s campaign and their political future, costs that even a post-campaign gig as a talking head may not redeem. Think Sarah Palin. Whereas presidential candidates can hone their pitches long before Iowa and New Hampshire when few are watching closely, a vice presidential candidate has little time to prepare. He/she must step under the campaign’s bright lights immediately. Negative early impressions are difficult to erase especially for those new to the national stage. Finally, association with the presidential candidate may have advantages but also disadvantages. Given Donald Trump’s polarizing place even within the GOP, prospective Republican candidates, particularly those who are considering future runs for office, will have to consider the pluses and minuses of joining Trump’s ticket.
The identity of the presidential candidate matters. The experience, as vice presidential candidate and as vice president, will depend on the compatibility, politically and personally, between the presidential and vice presidential candidates. The two principals don’t have to be ideological carbon copies: Carter-Mondale, Ronald Reagan-Bush, Bush-Dan Quayle, among others, were not. Some variation probably helps, from a political and governing standpoint. But their world views must be generally harmonious so that differences occur at the margins, not routinely over matters of principle.
A prospective running mate should also ask whether he/she could envision a beneficial relationship with the presidential candidate over four or eight stressful years in the hierarchical situation the presidency-vice presidency imposes. At its best, it’s a partnership, but the partners do not share power or benefits equally. The vice president is dependent on the president.
Is the presidential candidate someone to be trusted, someone of decency, someone who will treat others as he/she would want to be treated? Does the presidential candidate appreciate the vice presidency as an asset and envision a substantive role like Mondale, Bush, Quayle, Gore, Cheney, and Biden had? Does the presidential candidate value the prospective running mate? Will the president make others in the campaign and administration accord the No. 2 respect? Being Johnson’s or Nixon’s vice president was no picnic. The last six presidents have treated their vice presidents well, but that had something to do with the personalities of the presidents and the relationships of the principals.
5. Does the running mate add value to the ticket?
A vice president is most likely to be successful if he/she adds something of value, not simply during the campaign but after the votes are counted. Of course, a vice president who contributes to the victory, as Mondale and Gore did, will start out with political capital. So will one, like Dick Cheney, who has a strong relationship with the presidential nominee based on prior work together. But such advantages are unlikely to sustain the relationship if the vice president cannot continually prove his/her value. Successful vice presidencies depend on the incumbent’s ability to add value through some combination of his/her knowledge, judgment, skills, relationships and personal characteristics (e.g. loyalty, hard-work). The vice president has to be able to contribute through advising and troubleshooting on some combination of diplomatic, legislative, inter-governmental, political, and constituency work that is significant for the administration.
A prospective running mate who decides he/she would like to be vice president must also consider whether he/she can pass a rigorous vetting screen. The process of vice presidential vetting has come a long way since 1976 when the questionnaire given Carter’s shortlisters posed fewer than 20 questions. The process is now much, much more burdensome, much more time-consuming, much more costly, and much more intrusive. Joe Lieberman compared it to a “colonoscopy without anesthesia” after 2000 (although he was prepared to undergo another one eight years later to join McCain’s ticket). Between the vetting the presidential candidate imposes, media investigation, and opposition research, a vice presidential candidate has to assume that virtually everything in his/her life will become public. And the scrutiny will extend to their spouse and children who also may be questioned about sexual affairs, sexual orientation, drug use, and other very personal matters. A prospective vice presidential candidate must be prepared to allow his/her personal and family secrets to become fodder for opposing Super PACs.
The foregoing assumes that a prospective running mate would simply consider self-interest in making the decision. Yet some make themselves available because they feel obligated, to country and/or party, to do so. There is reason to believe, for instance, that a sense of duty led John Danforth in 2000 and Biden in 2008 to allow themselves to be considered.
In the 19th century, Daniel Webster declined the second spot because he did “not want to be buried until I die.” In modern times, many of our ablest political leaders have been willing to accept the second spot on a ticket. And vice presidents since Mondale (other than Bush, who later served as president) performed their most consequential public service in the second office. Still, some eminent figures, such as Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley, and Colin Powell, have recently declined to be considered. Again, a Trump nomination could create a unique dynamic: Given the intense opposition from many party regulars to his nomination, it is conceivable that at least some prospective running mates may conclude that duty to the party counsels avoiding the second spot on his ticket (whereas others might reach a different conclusion).
In any event, dozens of public figures are now, or will soon be, deciding whether the White House vice presidency appeals to them. Those decisions will be one important variable in shaping the pools from which the major party running mates are chosen.
–-Written by Joel K. Goldstein, author of The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden
Some regions of the United States—particularly the south and the west—are the subject of focused scholarly attention. Many argue that these regions have distinct histories and characteristics that shape the life of those who live there as well as the history of our country. Should the Midwest also be treated as a region with important and distinctive characteristics that should not be ignored by scholars? A recent conference at the University of Kansas posed this question to a panel of experts on the Midwest, including myself as director of the University Press of Kansas. The conclusion is that the Midwest, defined generally as the area of the country beginning in Ohio and ending at the western boundary of Kansas, has particular regional characteristics drawn from the way it was settled, the nature of the economy, the natural environment, and the mix of small towns and major cities, among other factors, that have shaped the way people living in this area respond to important national issues. Whatever the outcome of this debate, Kansas, the Midwest, and the Plains is our home. We regard publishing on the history, society, economy, and environment of the Midwest to be an important part of the program at the University Press of Kansas. From books such as John Miller’s “Small Town Boys: Stories of Midwestern Boys who Shaped America”; Arnold Bauer’s “Time’s Shadow: Remembering the Family Farm in Kansas“; Iralee Barnard’s “Field Guide to the Common Grasses of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska” to the forthcoming “God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right” by Rebecca Barrett-Fox, the University Press of Kansas has published excellent work about the Midwest and its impact on American life. We continue to publish work not only about Kansas and the Midwest, but work from this region that is about America.
–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas
A: We wanted to help Americans understand campaigns in the 21st century from the inside and we wanted to help people involved in populist or participatory campaigns win their elections. Some campaign techniques haven’t changed since Cicero or Abraham Lincoln were elected, others are radically different. There aren’t any good books about the 21st century campaigns and their challenges to democracy so we wrote “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”
Q: How have your own political views changed since writing this book, or have they?
A: We haven’t changed our personal political philosophies but we have come to understand the ways in which campaigns are run today in much greater depth. We believe that fundamental reforms like public financing have to be made if our democracy is to endure.
Q: What are some campaigning strategies and techniques that the Everyman can learn to better assess candidates’ readiness to hold office?
A: It is likely that any candidate that can’t master the techniques of running a modern election won’t be effective in running a modern government either. But the candidate with the most money is not necessarily the best candidate and in our book we show how candidates with less money can still get their message to the voters and win. In “Winning Elections in the 21st Century,“ we show “how the sausage is made” and demystify the process so voters can make real choices on the merits of the candidates.
Q: Are there any aspects of the information age that are changing the way politicians campaign and Americans vote?
A: Voter analytics and social media have fundamentally altered how campaigns are run. They can enhance getting information about the candidates and the issues to the voters and can help campaigns find supporters that might otherwise have been bypassed. On the other hand, these same tools can be used to create a false candidate persona and fake stands on issues that only pander to small groups through “narrowcasting” and micro-targeting.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from Winning Elections in the 21st Century?
A: We need to use the tools we provide in “Winning Elections in the 21st Century“ to elect the best possible candidates to public office and we need to reform our political system to insure our democracy continues. Young people, especially should know it is not impossible to elect good candidates, and getting involved in their campaigns is important and worthwhile.
–Dick Simpson and Betty O’Shaughnessy are the authors of “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”
The passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan brings back memories of Ronald Reagan’s transformative presidency and her role in it. Some argued that she played an important part in managing the president and his staff as she single-mindedly pursued her goal of protecting President Reagan. She denied that she was some sort of “power behind the throne.” James G. Benze, Jr. authored, “Nancy Reagan: On the White House Stage” for UPK’s series on American First Ladies. In that book, which focused on her years in the White House, Benze portrays her as a forceful presence who was unafraid to take on powerful figures like Oliver North and Don Regan if she thought they were not serving the interests of the president. He shows how Nancy Reagan played the consummate supporting actor to Ronald Reagan and was a key figure in advising him on administration appointments and on policy issues during the eight years he was president. The book also follows Mrs. Reagan as she continued to care for the former president as he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. This book, like others in the series, shows how Nancy Reagan took the unscripted part of first lady and found her own way to have an impact on the nation.
–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas
The Los Angeles Times highlights the Mendez v. Westminster case as Philippa Strum, UPK author of “Mendez v. Westminster: School of Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights,” explores the important role Latinos play in the upcoming election. As Strum states, “In the coverage of the 2016 election cycle, you’ll hear this time and again: Latinos—immigrants and their families—are playing an important role in electing the next U.S. president. They are the largest minority group in the nation, and they are poised to make a major impact on American democracy.”
When asked which branch of government protects citizens’ rights, we tend to think of the Supreme Court—stepping in to defend gay rights, for example, in the recent same-sex marriage case. But as constitutional scholar Louis Fisher reveals inside “Congress: Protecting Individual Rights,” this would be a mistake—and not just because a decision like the gay marriage ruling can be decided by the opinion of a single justice. Rather, we tend to judge the executive and judicial branches idealistically, while taking a more realistic view of the legislative, with its necessarily messier and more transparent workings. In Congress, Fisher highlights these biases as he measures the record of the three branches in protecting individual rights—and finds that Congress, far more than the president or the Supreme Court, has defended the rights of blacks, women, children, Native Americans, and religious liberty.
After reviewing the constitutional principles that apply to all three branches of government, Fisher conducts us through a history of struggles over individual rights, showing how the court has frequently failed at many critical junctures where Congress has acted to protect rights. He identifies changes in the balance of power over time—a post–World War II transformation that has undermined the system of checks and balances the Framers designed to protect individuals in their aspiration for self-government. Without a strong, independent Congress, this book reminds us, our system would operate with two elected officers in the executive branch and none in the judiciary, a form of government best described as elitist—and one no one would deem democratic.
In light of the history that unfolds here—and in view of a Congress widely decried as dysfunctional—Fisher proposes reforms that would strengthen not only the legislative branch’s role in protecting individual rights under the Constitution, but also its standing in the democracy it serves.
A: He was the first member of my generation to become president. We were born within a couple of months of one another and were shaped by many of the same events: the Cold War, the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, the draft, Vietnam. His heroes were my heroes: Elvis, JFK, Martin Luther King. So I felt a sort of kinship with Bill Clinton—and Hillary.
I was also interested in understanding why they were such polarizing figures. Why the reactions to the Clintons, both pro and con, seemed out of proportion to their actions. How, for example, to account for the hatred that consumed so many of their critics? Sure, they rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by supporting abortion rights, affirmative action, gays in the military, and gender equality. The president’s infidelities understandably upset many. Still, most of their views resided safely in the political mainstream. Indeed, Clinton’s economic and fiscal views made him one of the most conservative Democrats to occupy the White House in the twentieth century. Here was a president who hailed the end of big government; who was more pro-business than pro-labor; who presided over deregulation of the telecommunications and banking industries; approved more corporate mergers than his two predecessors combined; wore his religion on his sleeve; approved drastic cuts in welfare; and was tough on crime. Before he became president, Clinton supported the Gulf War, and, after gaining his footing in the White House, showed himself more willing than many of his Republican critics to deploy American forces abroad. Something other than policy was at work here. The Clintons had become a kind of national Rorschach test upon which people projected their personal hopes and fears, values and attitudes. Critics weren’t alone in projecting onto the Clintons. Ardent supporters were apt to do it as well. How else to explain prominent African Americans like writer Toni Morrison describing Clinton as “the first black president” and “one of us,” even as they deplored Clinton’s support for welfare reform, discriminatory sentencing guidelines, and the death penalty (even in the case of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged African American inmate in Arkansas).
Q: What did you learn about Clinton that you did not know before you wrote this book?
A: Foreign affairs loomed much larger in his administration than I had remembered. After a stumbling start, Clinton devised a plausible strategic substitute for the containment policy that had guided the United Stated throughout the Cold War. He helped resolve conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, of course, but also helped diffuse conflicts in Haiti, North Korea, and between India and Pakistan. More controversially, Clinton expanded the president’s war-making powers over Congress; anticipated some of the George W. Bush administration’s tactics in the post-9/11 War on Terror; and, by accusing Saddam Hussein of concealing weapons of mass destruction, helped lay the groundwork for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. We don’t think of foreign policy when we think of the Clinton administration. We should.
Q: What do you think was Clinton’s defining moment as president?
A: Politically, the defining moment of the Clinton presidency came on the heals of two devastating defeats in 1994: The demise of health care reform—“Hillarycare”—and Republican rout in the midterm elections. For the first time in forty years, the GOP controlled both house of Congress. “The shape of American politics will very probably never be the same again,” said the dean of American historians, Walter Dean Burnham, adding that the GOP might be the dominant party for years, perhaps even generations. With seemingly no chance of being reelected, Clinton was reduced to telling reporters—not very convincingly—that he was still relevant. But at that very moment–with Clinton laying flat on the canvas and Newt Gingrich, the new Republican Speaker of the House, standing over him with arms raised in triumph–Clinton was plotting his comeback. And what a comeback it was. In 1996 he became the first Democrat since FDR to win a second term. For anyone interested in politics for politics sake, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Q: How do you think Bill Clinton’s presidency affects Hillary’s campaign?
A: It’s both help and hindrance. Hillary’s years in the White House, coupled with her career in the Senate and State Department, equipped her with a command of issues and policies rare among presidential candidates. No candidate in either party this year can match her detailed knowledge. Hillary also acquired a network of high-level advisors and policy experts that would be the envy of any presidential aspirant. A year or two ago, her experience and connections would seem to have been an unqualified plus. But no longer. We’re now in the year of the outsider. Senator Sanders’s surprisingly strong challenge has also forced Hillary to distance herself from many of the actions of her husband’s administration: the Defense of Marriage Act, deregulation of the telecommunications and banking industries, and the decision to leave unregulated the market in credit default swaps and other risky derivatives. President Clinton’s Iraqi policies are also a potential millstone. In the end, my hunch is that experience will still work to her advantage, but it’s too early to tell for certain.
Q: What aspects of Bill’s presidency could Hillary use to her advantage?
A: Instead of running away from the record of her husband’s administration, as Al Gore did in 2000 and as she is doing now, she might at least embrace some of the economic successes of the nineties. She might also note that despite the partisan rancor of the times, there was more bipartisan cooperation than at any time since.
Q: How do you think Clinton’s presidency will be remembered?
A: Bill Clinton may well be remembered less for the successes and failures of his administration than for his personal resilience. Journalist Anna Quindlen compared him to “one of those inflatable children’s toys with sand weighting the bottom. You knock him down and he pops back up.” What historian Garry Wills said of Richard Nixon is also true of Clinton: “He rose again, eerily, from each stumble or knockout, apparently unkillable. He raised undiscourageability to heroic scale.” It’s possible Hillary will be remembered in the same way.
–Patrick J. Maney, author of “Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President“
At first thought the conjunction of Abraham Lincoln’s name with that of William Shakespeare’s may seem surprising. What is it that connects these two iconic figures, one an American political hero, the other probably Great Britain’s most famous individual? Some have suggested that these men have a lot in common: both were born in humble circumstances and made their way in the world through hard work and visionary aspirations. But, of course, these are incidental matters, and the real interest in examining Lincoln and Shakespeare lies in the former’s reading and appreciation of the latter.
So the question becomes, how did this ill-educated frontiersman come to value the plays of the great English playwright? One answer is that however minimal Lincoln’s schooling, Shakespeare played a role in it. School “readers,” as they were called, emphasized the arts of reading, writing, and, especially, public speaking. When the author of one of these nineteenth century textbooks wanted examples of moving and powerful poetry and prose, Shakespeare’s heroes and kings provided some of the best examples: the rhetorical eloquence of Marc Antony, Henry V, Hamlet, and Othello could stir the imaginations of the young. And Lincoln, according to some witnesses, was also fortunate in his friends: the shadowy figure of schoolmaster Jack Kelso, characterized by some as somewhere between the village poet and the village idiot, loved Shakespeare and fishing: “Uninterested in the ‘right to rise,’” as one writer has suggested, Kelso “spent his days hunting and fishing, wandering in the woods, and generally not giving a damn.” Kelso and young Abe supposedly read and recited Shakespeare as they waited for the fish to bite.
As a young lawyer, Lincoln found that citations from Shakespeare could sometimes spice up dry legal arguments. Riding the circuit from courthouse to courthouse, he included a copy of Shakespeare’s works along with Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Law” in his saddlebags. And among friends he would love to read or quote from Shakespeare’s plays. Occasional references to Shakespeare, usually indirect, would pop up from time to time in his early political speeches and writings.
As president, Lincoln continued to read Shakespeare, sometimes out loud and late into the night, once putting his young secretary, John Hay, to sleep. Living in Washington, he was able to see some of the great actors of his day in Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies: Edwin Booth (brother of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes), Charlotte Cushman, and Edwin Forrest. The last week of his life, he read over and over again passages from his favorite play, “Macbeth.” After his death, he would be eulogized as Macbeth’s royal victim, Duncan, because, like that martyred king, he “bore his faculties so meek and was so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet tongued, against the deep damnation of his taking off.”
–Written by Michael Anderegg, author of “Lincoln and Shakespeare”