In September 2003, seven former heads of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs gathered for the first time ever to compare their experiences working for every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. For two days, these congressional liaisons, charged with moving their respective presidents’ legislative agendas through an independent—and sometimes hostile—Congress, shared first-hand views of the intricacies of presidential-congressional relations: how it works, how it doesn’t work, and the fascinating interplay of personalities, events, and politics that happens along the way.
Hosted by noted presidential scholar Russell Riley and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, this seminar also featured a number of invited scholars of American politics, including the eminent Richard E. Neustadt, who appeared just before his death a month later.
As explained by Riley, “. . . these discussions enlighten in two ways: they provide us a revealing glimpse into the inside, usually hidden, business of Washington, and they afford us the considered reflections of a thoughtful group of political veterans.” What makes these exchanges especially compelling, however, is their bipartisan cast, with Republicans Max L. Friedersdorf, William L. Ball III, and Frederick McClure joining Democrats Frank Moore, Charles M. Brain, John Hilley, and Lawrence Stein in thoughtful and friendly conversation.