Congress, Presidents, and American Politics
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Congress, Presidents, and American Politics : Fifty Years of Writings and Reflections

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When Lee H. Hamilton joined Congress in 1965 as a US Representative from southern Indiana, he began writing commentaries for his constituents describing his experiences, impressions, and developing views of what was right and wrong in American politics. He continued to write regularly throughout his 34 years in office and up to the present. Lively and full of his distinctive insights, Hamilton's essays provide vivid accounts of national milestones over the past fifty years: from the protests of the Sixties, the Vietnam War, and the Great Society reforms, through the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs, to the post-9/11 years as the vice chairman of the 9/11 commission. Hamilton offers frank and sometimes surprising reflections on Congress, the presidency, and presidential character from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. He argues that there are valuable lessons to be learned from past years, when Congress worked better than it does now. Offering history, politics, and personal reflections all at once, this book will appeal to everyone interested in understanding America of the 20th and 21st centuries.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 27.94mm | 667g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253020867
  • 9780253020864

Review quote

"A brief review cannot do justice to Hamilton's fine book. Readers familiar with his record will find fewsurprises in his championing of civic engagement, reasoned debate, political moderation, checks and balances, and responsible governance. Others will find a brief introduction to the career, thoughts, and life's work of an important legislative leader during a particularly transformative period in American history. Congress, Presidents, and American Politics deserves a wide audience." -Indiana Magazine of History "[R]eaders who expect dry-as-dust policy analysis or self-serving political pablum will be surprised by this delightful collection. Hamilton does far more than reproduce the original newsletters, which were written to explain current issues and Congressional procedures for the folks back home. Each newsletter is accompanied by Hamilton's insightful, often humorous, reminiscences." -Bloom Magazine "This is a chronicle of a fascinating odyssey.It is a trip, not by the "wise Odysseus" from Troy to Ithaca, but the story of the more than fifty-year journey of the sage former congressman and senior statesman Lee Hamilton from the first of his thirty-four years in Congress during the Johnson Administration to the present day...One of the most remarkable and valuable characteristics of the work is that it is written at a level that is readily understandable by the average citizen for whom the newsletters it contains were written. It is essentially an exercise in civic education and enlightening not only for the general populace, but also for teachers and students of American government throughout the nation." -Chuck Quigley "A balanced treatment that does not assign the blame for current political dysfunction solely to members of Congress, donors, interest groups, or any other single cause." -C. Lawrence Evans, co-author of Congress under Fire "Lee Hamilton is a careful writer, and here he draws on his many years of public service in Congress, at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and on commissions and other special executive branch assignments. This is an original work stemming from the combination of his experience." -James A. Thurber, author of Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations "This superb collection of Lee Hamilton's commentaries about Washington reminds us why he was a great bipartisan leader for half a century: he understood politics, and he always put his country first. Here, readers can see how Hamilton kept his balance and good sense, from Vietnam to Watergate to Iraq. If you want an inside look at how the federal government really works, read this powerful book." -David Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington Post "Lee Hamilton offers a sweeping and insightful history of America's governmental structure, contemporary politics, and the responsibility of citizens in our representative democracy. Given his 34 years of first-hand experience, a reader could not ask for a more informed guide through the controversies and debate that shaped the United States during the second half of the 20th Century. This work will be valuable to anyone interested in understanding our political/governmental past, contemplating how we might make the future better, and grasping what each of us can do to be informed and effective citizens." -Senator Evan Bayh "This book is a treasure trove of insightful, real-time commentaries from a consummate legislator highly respected by members of both parties. Hamilton's observations could not be more relevant today, as they illustrate how the political process can, in fact, be made to work; and that thoughtful, principled compromise in both the legislative and executive branches is a lynchpin for producing solutions and the best possible policy for America's future." -Senator Olympia Snowe "His writings will appeal to everyone interested in understanding America in the 20th and 21st centuries." -Indiana University Alumni Magazine "Hamilton provides a solid look at the thinking, actions, and failures from the Lyndon Johnson years to the present.... Hamilton's views on politicians might just renew some readers' faith in our elected officials. At once encouraging and enlightening, his writings stir hope, and what he says is still important all these years later.... The book-essentially an encapsulation of the author's philosophy of politics and politicians-is a good choice for those who want to believe in government again." -Kirkus Reviewsshow more

About Lee H. Hamilton

Lee Hamilton is a Distinguished Scholar atIndiana University. He was a member of the US House of Representatives for 34 yearsandVice Chair of the 9/11 Commission. In2015, Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.He is author of many books, includingHow Congress Works and Why You Should Care(IUP, 2004) andStrengthening Congress(IUP, 2009).show more

Table of contents

Introduction1. The Johnson Years (19651968): A Remarkable Time to Begin in Congress Passing Medicare The Other War in Vietnam Thanksgiving 1966 Luncheon at the White House Visit to the CIA President Johnson Off the Record Urban Riots The Regular Order The U.S. Role in the World Senate Hearings on the Vietnam War Civil Disorder after Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The Assassination of Robert Kennedy2. The Nixon Years (19691974): Accomplishments Amid Turmoil Christmas at the Nixon White House Changing the House Seniority System Meeting with Student Protesters Reducing the Voting Age Setting up our System of Government Reports on Trip to War Zone The Pentagon Papers Nixon's Trip to China Evaluation of the Apollo Program Inauguration 1973 The Costs of the Vietnam War The Vice President's Resignation The House Judiciary Committee and Impeachment After Watergate3. The Ford Years (19741976): A Needed Respite The Pardon As We Leave Vietnam The Middle Class The Women's Rights Movement Politicians Democracy and Capitalism Big Government Congress and Foreign Policy4. The Carter Years (19771980): Intra-party Discord Inauguration Day 1977 Human Rights Reorganizing the Federal Bureaucracy The Panama Canal Treaty An Assessment of the Carter Administration The Congressional Budget Process A Good Word For America The Gasoline Shortage The Iranian Hostage Crisis Deregulation5. The Reagan Years (19811988): Letting the Democratic Process Work President Reagan Looks at Social Security Improving Intelligence Analysis The Week the Government Stopped Reflections on the 97th Congress The Military Balance Religion in Politics How a Member Decides The Appeal of Congress Our Constitutional Heritage Issues of the Future Covert Actions in a Democratic Society The Reagan-Gorbachev Summit The Budget Legacy of the Reagan Years The Quiet Crisis6. The George H. W. Bush Years (19891992): A New World Order SDI reassessment House Ethics Reform Supply-side Economics National Spending Priorities Lessons of the Great Society The United States Flag and the Constitution The Balanced Budget Amendment The President's Arms Control Speech Congressional Perks The Confirmation Process Iraq and the Persian Gulf War One Year Later7. The Clinton Years (19932000): Opportunity Lost Questions About Congress Reinventing Government Public Cynicism The Term Limit Movement and Congressional Change The Contract with America A Sensible Role for Government The Budget Battle Civility in Congress The Budget Surplus The Starr Report and the Congressional Response The Work of Congress The Record of the 105th Congress Why Voting Matters8. The George W. Bush Years (20012008): A Timid Congress Why the President Needs the Help of Congress to Make Foreign Policy The Merits of Citizen Engagement Why Congress Needs to Assert Itself Oversight At Last We Urgently Need Redistricting Reform Our Leaders Must Find a Balance on Iraq What Politics Should Be About The Ten Commandments of Citizenship9. The Obama Years (20092014): Continuing Struggles Is Congress Up To The Task Before It? Polarization Will Not Disappear Quickly Here's An Idea For Congress: Try Democracy In Congress, Going Big Isn't Always the Answer It's Not Just Congress: Citizens Also Have Room to Improve The Invisible Lawmakers The Justices and the Scramble for Cash Now It's Time to Focus on the Economy The Summer of Our Discontent10. Some Concluding Thoughtsshow more