Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

In addition to comments, I'd love to have guest posts. Please send ideas or full-blown posts to me at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taxing the Wealthy Debate To Be Broadcast on WRVO Next Week

The first Campbell Debate on taxing the wealthy will be broadcast on WRVO this Sunday at 3 p.m., and then again on Monday at 10 p.m.  Tune in to hear former governor Eliot Spitzer, State Senator John DeFrancisco, Maxwell Professor Len Burman, American Enterprise Institute economist and former Bush and McCain advisor Kevin Hassett, business advocate Deb Warner, and religion minister Jennifer Hamlin-Navias wrestle with this complicated issue.  Narrated and moderated by yours truly.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Presidents on a Roll?

It's hard to make generalizations about presidential administrations because there are relatively few cases in any given era, but they are on the verge of doing something that hasn't been done since the Monroe administration, and it has left me wondering what it might mean (if anything).

If the economy continues to turn around--which it is beginning to show signs of doing--and if presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney continues to offer a solid but uninspiring challenge to President Obama, it's likely that the president will be re-elected. 

And if that happens, it will be the first time since Jefferson-Madison-Monroe that three presidents in a row have sought and been re-elected to a second term.  The trio of Roosevelt-Truman-Eisenhower is the closest second, with FDR himself being re-elected three times and Truman serving most of Roosevelt's fourth term before being elected in his own right, but he did not stand for re-election in 1952, and probably would not have survived a challenge from IKE. 

It's even more interesting to note that Jefferson-Madison-Monroe were all in the same "Democratic-Republican" Party, while our recent three are far more diverse.  Clinton and Obama can each stake a claim to be centrists or moderates in their party--especially Clinton--but they are clearly cut from a different cloth than Bush. 

What does this mean?  Is it just coincidence?  Is it now harder somehow to beat an incumbent president?  Bush certainly seemed beatable in 2003, but in the end he was tough to dislodge.  Does it reflect something about our polarized politics?  Hypotheses welcome.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Should We Increase Taxes on the Wealthy?

We had our first Campbell Debate on February 1 and it was great--a lively and smart exchange among six panelists on a pressing public policy question.  The house was packed and there was a buzz before, during, and after the event. 

The proposition:  This Assembly Would Increase Taxes on the Wealthy. 

The audience was heavily tilted toward agreement going in, and that didn't change much going out--we did a pre and post-debate poll.  But nonetheless it was good, substantive political theater, in the best sense of that phrase.  The debaters really lit into the issues, argued well and passionately, and at all times remained civil.  Even though minds may not have changed, the basis for differing views was clearly enriched and a model for spirited interaction was put on display.  What personally struck me the most was how, particularly in response to the audience questions and comments, the issue became more complex as time went on.  It's a complicated question.

The panelists were: 
In the Affirmative--Len Burman (Maxwell School, Syracuse University), Jennifer Hamlin-Navias (May Memorial Unitarian-Universalist Church), and Eliot Spitzer (former New York governor, attorney general and CNN host)
In the Negative--Senator John DeFrancisco (New York State Senate), Kevin Hassett (American Enterprise Institute), and Deborah Warner (CenterState CEO)

WRVO will broadcast the debate on Sunday February 19 at 3 p.m., and Monday February 20 at 10 p.m.  Check it out.