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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

From my earliest days in congress I believed strongly in the importance of an informed electorate and the regular dialogue between representative and represented. So in March 1965, after being in office for only two months, I wrote my first newsletter for constituents—on the Vietnam War. in December 2014 the commentary that closed out my fiftieth year of writing these was on the need for Congress to focus on long-term economic growth. in between I wrote some two thousand commentaries giving my observations on Congress and American politics, usually on a weekly basis.

I am not aware of a similar effort as extensive by another member of Congress. It took a fair amount of work, both by me and by my staff. and it could be difficult, especially during busy times in Congress, to produce a thousand-word statement each week on key issues of the day, but I felt it was worth the effort. Congress can be a bewildering institution even to those of us who have worked in it for several years; it’s even more confusing for the people back home.

The idea for the commentaries arose from what I saw as several needs. When I first went to Congress, my immediate impression was that Washington, dc, needed a lot of explaining to the people back home. I also saw the complexity of the issues early on, and I was not pleased with the coverage of Congress in the media. Plus, from meetings back home I would get a sense about concepts that were not well understood by the public, and I felt that my commentaries could contribute to enhancing the quality of the relationship between elected official and voter. I also found writing the . . .

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