Louis Fisher - On Appreciating Congress: The People’s Branch

Last week, the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies welcomed Louis Fisher to discuss On Appreciating Congress: The People’s Branch, his new book that argues that Congress is critically important to the Republic of the United States and, as a coequal branch of the government, it must not necessarily defer to the supposed expertise of the Judiciary or the capability of the Executive.  Fisher began by developing skepticism about the Executive and Judiciary branches by relating decisions in each branch that certainly did not warrant respect, such as the overturning of legislation passed by Congress that would grant newly freed slaves public accommodation or the decades of Supreme Court case law that denied women equal protection under the law.  To highlight what Congress does well, Fisher addressed the many way in which Congress has been critical to the expansion and maintenance of minority rights.  He cast doubt on the role of the Judiciary as the guardian of minority rights and insisted that Congress has done much more for minorities.  Fisher finished with a spirited engagement with several students’ questions about how Congress could better maintain its power in relation to the other branches.

Louis Fisher is currently a Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project.  Over the previous four decades, Fisher has worked for the Congressional Research Service and Library of Congress as Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers.  He has countless publications including nineteen books.


The meaning of the 2010 Midterms - A JHU Panel Discussion

by Ariel Roth

Today’s event brought together three retired members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, all known and respected for their moderate politics and commitment to civility.  William Klinger, Tom Davis and Martin Frost, all former committee chairmen were joined by political consultants Charlie Black and Maria Cardona as well as journalists Tim Starks and Rachel Van Dongen.  Rounding out the panel was JHU’s own Robert Guttman, Director of the Center on Politics and Foreign Policy at SAIS. 

 Back row (left to right): Robert Guttman, Charlie Black, Maria Cardona, William Clinger. Front row: Rachel Van Dongen, Tom Davis, Martin Frost, Tim Starks. Moderator: James Norton

After briefly reviewing their take on the significance of the elections, the panelists debated a range of topics including the future of moderates in Congress, campaign finance reform and the ways in which new media have changed the cycle of politics and elections.

In contrast to the bitter tone which passes for political discourse today, the panelists managed to engage in substantive debate- debate which reflected legitimate disagreements over the direction of policy- while maintaining a courteous disposition towards each other.  More interesting, perhaps, was the extent of agreement between erstwhile political rivals.  Davis and Frost both agreed on the problematic nature of campaign finance reform laws as well the ill conceived oversight structure of the Department of Homeland Security.  

James Norton, a former Bush administration official and a faculty member in Governmental Studies at AAP moderated the panel and directed the Q & A.  James in particular has our gratitude for recruiting the panelists and giving us all the chance to learn from practitioners and scholars alike.

Pictures here


View Live Feed of Midterm Election Campaign Analysis

You can go to to view a live feed of this morning's Midterm Election Campaign Analysis panel.  Click here to see the event flyer.

The event will be moderated by AAP professor James Norton.  Panelists are:

The Honorable Martin Frost (D-TX)  Former Chairman of Democratic National Campaign Committee, former ranking member House Rules Committee

The Honorable Tom Davis (R-VA)  Former Chairman of National Republican Congressional Committee, former Chairman of House Government Reform and Oversight Committee

The Honorable William F. Clinger, Jr. (R-PA)  Former Chairman of House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Senior Resident Fellow, Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies

Mr. Charlie Black  Chairman Prime Policy Group, Republican Campaign Strategist, Senator John McCain’s Presidential Campaign Senior advisor

Ms. Maria Cardona  Principal, Dewey Square Group, Democratic Campaign Strategist, President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Campaign consultant

Mr. Tim Starks  Senior Intelligence and Homeland Security Reporter, Congressional Quarterly

Ms. Rachel Van Dongen 
Editor, by The Washington Post

Mr. Robert Guttman, Director, Center on Politics and Foreign Relations.


Saturday's Staff Ride of the Battle of Gettysburg

A month or so ago, when we announced that we planned to take a small group of Governmental Studies students on a staff ride of the Battle of Gettysburg, there was a fair amount of confusion.  The most common question:  Do we have to reenact the Civil War??  A close second:  Will we have to dress up?  We were tempted to say yes.

But the point of a staff ride is not reenactment-- it is to help students of military strategy understand the material constraints and political considerations that inform command decisions.  We wanted to get inside the commanders' heads.  And to see how--despite 147 years and amazing changes in technology--militaries today face many of the same basic issues that confronted the leaders of 1863.

Not a reenactment... but we were still enthusiastic.

Empowered by successes in Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia began a campaign in the North, aiming to inflict enough damage to convince the Northern  population that the war to preserve the Union was not worth it.  Lee's defeat at Gettysburg is considered a turning point in the Civil War.  Instead of being in a position to invade Washington, DC from the North, Lee's army had to return to Virginia and the Confederacy's best chance to end the war in its favor passed.  As we surveyed the battlefield, we addressed a recurring theme:  was the Confederate loss inevitable?  Given what we knew about the commanders, and what we learned about the terrain, could Gettysburg have ended differently?

We examined the terrain of McPherson's Ridge from the ground and from an observation tower, and imagined how the Corps commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia converged their troops upon Gettysburg.  We discussed Ewell's (or Lee's?) failure to gain Cemetery Hill.  We hiked through Devil's Den and up Little Roundtop, seeing the stunning advantage of the Union's defensive position atop the hill.  We followed in the footsteps of Pickett's Charge, and weighed the political aims of the Confederacy's campaign in the North in order to evaluate whether or not General Lee had any other choice.

I was impressed by the level of preparation and enthusiasm our students brought to this event.  The discussion was insightful and helped everyone think about the battle from competing perspectives.  The participants were good humored and the day was gorgeous-- a 65 and sunny backdrop for walking around the wooded hills and open fields around Gettysburg.  We are looking forward to next year's trip!

Click here for pics.


Symposium: Elaine Duke, Former DHS Under Secretary of Management

On November 10th, Governmental Studies welcomed speaker Elaine Duke, the Former Under Secretary of Management at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Under Secretary Duke spoke about the challenges of managing the most recent Presidential Transition and the challenges of the highest ranking Bush administration official to remain with the Obama administration for 15 months.  She also discussed the challenges of creating "One DHS" with 22 different organizational cultures, budgets, and historic agendas.    

Elaine Duke began her career with the Department of Defense as a career Federal government procurement official.  As the Under Secretary, she was responsible for the management of the Department's $47 billion budget, appropriations, expenditure of funds, accounting and finance.  She administered control over the Department's $17 billion in acquisition and procurement and was responsible for directing human capital resources and personnel programs for the Department's 208,000 employees. 

She discussed many challenges of being a senior official including having to balance the pressures of Congress, private industry and executive branch direction.  Students had many career questions on how to become a Fed.  If anyone would like more information on this event or the job opportunities discussed by Elaine please contact Professor James Norton,