To establish a public record of the first-person accounts, opinions, anecdotes, and reflections of Members who retire from office, The Brademas Center has established The Reflections Project: Congress in America. Beginning the summer of 2006, the Center has interviewed departing and newly retired Members to look back on their careers, some spanning up to 30 years, and to explore what they have learned about the country and the institution. This material aims to help scholars track the evolving nature and decision-making capacity of Congress, and contains observations that could lead to other research projects at the Center and at other institutions across the nation.
The Brademas Center has conducted several interviews, led by Linda Douglass, former Senior Fellow of the Center and former chief Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC News. Tim Naftali, former Director of the Nixon Library, and Head of the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, has resumed the project.
Former House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) retired at the end of the 109th Congress after serving for 23 years. On October 12, 2006, Brademas Center Senior Fellow Linda Douglass and a select group of NYU students interviewed Boehlert on the NYU campus. They covered many subjects, including the rise in partisanship in the House, the political moderates' struggle to influence policy, intra-party battles over environmental legislation, the vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, battles over the Bush administration's use of scientific data, Congress's image, the role of lobbyists, and more.
During his 26 years in Congress, Tom Daschle (D-SD) served in the House and later the Senate, as both Majority Leader and Minority Leader. He was defeated in the 2002 election. On October 19, 2006, he participated in the Reflections Project in his Washington office and discussed a wide range of issues, including the contested election of George Bush over Al Gore, his own relationship with Bush, the 50-50 Senate, the events during and after 9/11, the Democrats' vote to support the use of force in Iraq, the impeachment of President Clinton, his relations with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and more.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) resigned from Congress in June, 2006 after serving for 21 years. As part of the Reflections Project, on July 19, 2006, he talked about a wide range of topics, including the Republican takeover of the House in the 1994 elections, the impeachment of President Clinton, Republican dominance of the Washington lobbying industry known as “K Street,” the rise of social conservatism, the increased partisanship and polarization between Republicans and Democrats, his view of his own role and more.
Former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and, later, the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde (R-IL) retired at the end of the 109th Congress after serving for 31 years. On July 17, 2006, he was interviewed in his Washington Office as part of the Reflections Project, and was asked about a range of issues including his memories of early days in Congress, his legislation banning federal funding for abortions, the impeachment of President Clinton, the effect of media coverage on Congress, the quality of Congress's decision-making capacity, the relations between the political parties, the effect constant fundraising has on Congress and more.
The Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) retired at the end of the 109th Congress. He was interviewed by Brademas Center Senior Fellow Linda Douglass and a select group of NYU students on the NYU campus on December 5, 2006. They covered many topics, including his views on partisanship in Congress, his opinions of Republican leaders, the rise of social conservatism, the battle over immigration reform and Social Security, his encounters with various presidents, the state of homeland security, his experience as the only openly gay Republican House member and more.
Representative Major Owens (D-NY) retired at the end of the 109th Congress, after serving for 23 years. In his Capitol Hill office on October 31, 2006, he discussed many issues, including the personalities of various presidents, the changing character of the Congressional Black Caucus, his pride in being labeled a “liberal”, corruption in Congress and more.
Former Budget Committee Chairman Martin Sabo (D-MN) retired at the end of the 109th Congress. He was interviewed by Brademas Center Senior Fellow Linda Douglass and a select group of students on Capitol Hill on December 6, 2006. They covered many topics, including his views on the rising divisiveness in Congress, the challenges of balancing the federal budget, the battle for comprehensive health coverage, his opinions on the state of homeland security and more.
Former House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) retired at the close of the 109th Congress in 2006 after serving for 27 years. On September 9, 2006, Brademas Center Senior Fellow Linda Douglass and a select group of students interviewed him at the Library of Congress. They covered many subjects, including changes in Congress after Republicans took over after 1994, the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together, the battle to reform Social Security, the controversial vote on the landmark Medicare prescription drug entitlement, why Members decide to retire, relations between the House and Senate and more.
With a joint appointment in History and at Wagner, Timothy Naftali is a Clinical Associate Professor of History and Public Service and co-director of NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. A native of Montreal and a graduate of Yale with a doctorate in history from Harvard, Naftali writes on national security and intelligence policy, international history and presidential history. Using Soviet-era documents, he and Russian academic Aleksandr Fursenko wrote the prize-winning One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964 and Khrushchev’s Cold War, the latter winning the Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature in 2007 and inclusion on Foreign Affairs’ 2014 list of the ten best books on the Cold War. As a consultant to the 9/11 Commission, Naftali wrote a history of US counterterrorism policy, published as Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism.
Naftali came to the Brademas Center at NYU after serving as the founding director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, where he authored the Library's nationally acclaimed exhibit on Watergate and oversaw the release of 1.3 million pages of presidential documents and nearly 700 hours of the infamous Nixon tapes. Naftali, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Slate and Foreign Affairs, is also seen regularly on television as a commentator on contemporary history. Most recently, he was featured in CNN’s The Sixties and The Seventies and in the PBS documentaries Dick Cavett’s Watergate, Dick Cavett’s Vietnam, and The Bomb.
Following a long and distinguished career as journalist with ABC News and CBS News, Linda Douglass joined NYU Wagner as a fellow at the Brademas Center. While at the Center, she instituted the Reflections Project. Following her time at NYU, Linda became director of communications for the White House Office of Health Reform in the Obama Administration (May 2009 – April 2010). In June 2010, she was named Vice President, Head of Corporate and Strategic communications at Atlantic Media. She was later named Senior Vice President of Global Communications. She left that position in June, 2013 to do independent consulting, and later that year, she moved to Italy when her husband, John Phillips, was named ambassador to Italy. Douglass was first associated with Barack Obama as a senior strategist and spokeswoman of his presidential campaign. She joined his campaign on May 21, 2008. Following Obama's victory in the November 2008 presidential elections, Douglass was appointed spokeswoman of the presidential inauguration committee.