Pardon Me, Mr. President

In this week’s trip on the Wayback Machine, we commemorate an anniversary that went largely unnoticed last week in the media focus on Obama’s foreign policy: Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon. Forty years ago from last Monday, Ford issued the following proclamation granting a “full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed” during his time as President:

As Ford noted in his proclamation, he believed developing a case against the former President and bringing him to trial on civil charges would prove to be a prolonged and divisive spectacle that would delay the nation’s ability to heal the wounds inflicted by the Watergate scandal. Ford also thought Nixon, by being forced to resign, had already paid a steep price for his crimes. In his aptly titled memoir A Time To Heal, Ford recalls that he was surprised that the first question at his initial press conference as President “dealt with whether or not I thought Nixon should have immunity from prosecution.” Follow up questions were variations on the same theme. Ford, expressing disappointment that the reporters seemed uninterested in anything else, quickly realized that Nixon’s legal status would be front and center until it was resolved and that adjudicating Nixon’s guilt in a civil trial would likely be a very lengthy process lasting more than a year. “The story,” Ford concluded, “would overshadow everything else. No other issue could compete with the drama of a former president trying to stay out of jail.” And so, after consulting with five of his closest aides, Ford decided to issue the pardon. “The hate had to be drained and the healing begun.” Here is his address explaining the pardon decision:

Not everyone accepted Ford’s explanation. His press secretary Jerry terHorst resigned in protest, the most visible symbol of a vehement public backlash that Ford confessed he failed to fully anticipate. Most notably, critics suggested there was a secret deal in which Nixon agreed to resign on Ford’s promise to issue the pardon. And, in fact, Nixon aide Alexander Haig had presented Ford with a document describing the pardon power and another blank pardon form.  Both later denied that any discussion of a deal took place, but the perception that one occurred damaged Ford’s political standing.  His approval rating, as measured in Gallup polls, dropped from 71% before the pardon to 49% after it was granted.

How much of a long-term political price Ford paid for the pardon remains a matter of speculation. In the aftermath of Watergate, and with a poor economy, he was already facing a stiff headwind as he sought reelection in 1976. Early polls showed Ford trailing his opponent, Jimmy Carter, by more than 20%, and Carter was quick to bring up the Nixon pardon during their presidential debates. Polls suggested that the pardon remained an important issue for many voters – but so did an economy plagued by both slow growth and inflation. In the end, although Ford was able to close the gap with Carter (a final Gallup poll actually showed Ford ahead 47%-46%), he lost a very closely contested contest; Carter won 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240 and took the popular vote by 50%-48%.

In his memoirs, Ford begins his post-election chapter by asking, “What if I hadn’t pardoned Nixon?” – the first, and probably most significant, of several “what ifs” he lists that might have turned the election. However, throughout his post-presidential life he steadfastly refused to express any regret over his decision. And, over time, many who first criticized the decision came to agree with Ford that the pardon was the right thing to do.

In 2001, a bipartisan panel awarded Ford the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his decision to pardon Nixon. In his acceptance speech Ford noted, “President Kennedy understood that courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No advisor can spin it. No historian can backdate it. For, in the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.” When deciding to pardon Nixon, it is clear Ford thought it was the right thing to do for the health of the nation. But, while he understood he would pay a political price, it is not clear to me that he fully grasped the potential impact of pardoning Nixon on his presidential reelection chances. Would Ford have pardoned Nixon if he knew with certainty that it would cost him reelection?  When he was sworn in as Nixon’s Vice President, Ford famously remarked, “I am a Ford. Not a Lincoln.” But I am not sure even Lincoln, in a similar situation, could answer that question.

It is fitting, I think, that we give Ford the last word – here is his speech (click here) accepting the Profile in Courage Award and once again defending his decision to pardon Nixon.


About Those Senate Forecasts

I’m up today at U.S News (see here) trying to make sense of the variation in the more quantitatively-driven Senate forecasts that are popping up.  At first glance they seem all over the map, running the gamut from the Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang’s optimistic 75% probability that Democrats will retain a majority on November 4th to the more pessimistic mid-30% probabilities projected by the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight.  Here are the projections at six of the sites as of last Friday – the percentage is their assessment of the probability that Democrats will retain control of the Senate:

DailyKos 56%
Five Thirty Eight 36%
Huffington Post 55%
New York Times 38%
Princeton Election Consortium 75%
Washington Post 47%

As I argue in my US News post, however, there is an underlying pattern to this seemingly disparate set of projections.  The projections that are purely poll driven (the bold-faced forecasters above) are much more optimistic regarding the Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate than are those forecasts that include some structural component into their model, such as Obama’s approval ratings, or a measure of economic performance or a generic party preference.   It’s too early to say which type of forecast model will prove more accurate – my guess is that they will converge as we get closer to election day.  See my US News post for a more detailed discussion.

As I noted to those of you who are on my email distribution list, with classes starting today, the frequency of my posting is likely to go down a bit.  Moreover, I’ll be depending a bit more on you to flag interesting items about which you will want me to post.  So keep those suggestions coming!



Obama, Carter and the Problem of National Security Leaks

This weekend the WayBack machine takes us to 1979 and an inside look at archival documents from Jimmy Carter’s White House during a particularly volatile time in his presidency, when he struggled to deal with the fall of the Iranian government under the Shah Pahlevi – a situation not dissimilar to what President Obama is confronting in Syria and Iraq today. As you will see in the document below, Carter’s difficulties were exacerbated by divisions within his own administration regarding the proper strategy to follow in dealing with the Iranian Revolution – and the willingness of his Iranian experts, particularly in the State Department, to use media leaks to force policy in their preferred direction.

As always, some background is in order. Beginning in late 1978 into 1979, Iran was in the throes of revolution against the repressive regime of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi. Although Carter had taken office in 1977 promising to push human rights on a global basis, for geopolitical reasons the President valued the Shah’s leadership despite his authoritarian ways. Iran generally had good relation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and it had provided oil to Israel at a time of the Arab boycott. And, not least, Iran shared a 1,500-mile border with the Soviet Union which appeared increasingly willing to flex its foreign policy muscles. (Recall that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979).

For all these reasons, despite growing civil unrest in Iran, Carter was initially eager to see the Shah remain in power, backed by the Iranian military. In a trip to Iran at the end of 1977, Carter toasted the Shah, and called Iran “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” But as it became clear a year later that the Shah was losing control, and that some of the opposition to his regime was beginning to coalesce behind the radical exiled cleric the Ayatollah Khomeini, Carter faced a dilemma – one not dissimilar to what Obama faces today in Syria and Iran – regarding how deeply to become involved in Iranian domestic affairs. Should he go all in to prop up the Shah in the hope that the autocratic leader, with military support, could lead a transition to a more moderate and democratic government? Should he allow (or even implicitly suggest to) the Shah to crack down on the dissidents? Or should he leave Iran to its own affairs, and risk watching the strategically-situated nation fall under the control of Khomeini and his clerical supporters, with uncertain consequences?

It didn’t help that his advisers were split on the issue. William Sullivan was Carter’s Ambassador to Iran at the time, and although he initially advocated backing the Shah, by November 1978 he was pushing Carter to force the Shah to negotiate with opposition leaders. By the end of the year, despite the Shah’s effort to mollify the opposition by establishing a civilian government that actually had some power, it was increasingly clear that he had to step down. The Shah was reluctant to do so, however, and at the end of 1978 he appointed a relative moderate, Shahpour Bakhtiar, as Prime Minister. Bakhtiar, hoping to shore up his support with the opposition, immediately called for the Shah to leave Iran. The Shah argued that he should do so on his own timetable and Carter agreed, hoping to gain time for Bakhtiar, backed by the Iranian military, to solidify his position. However, at this point Ambassador Sullivan advocated a more complete break with the Shah, and an effort to open up a direct dialogue with the exiled Khomeini.

Carter began suspecting, as he notes in his memoirs Keeping Faith, “deviations within the State Department from my policy of backing the Shah while he struggled to establish a successor government.” As a result, and with the backing of his Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, Carter sent a military envoy, General Robert Huyser to Iran, ostensibly to keep Carter informed regarding Iran’s military needs. Eventually Carter asked his Secretary of State Cy Vance to remove Sullivan, but Vance convinced him Sullivan’s withdrawal would further destabilize the situation in Iran. However, Carter no longer trusted Sullivan to support the President’s policies and he increasingly relied on Huyser as his source of information and conduit to the Iranian government. Moreover, he was backed in his efforts to prop up the Shah by his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (you know – Mika’s dad). In his memoirs Power and Principle, Brzezinki argues that once the Iranian crisis “had become a contest of will and power, advocacy of compromise and conciliation simply played into the hands of those determined to effect a complete revolution.” This hard-line message, he suggests, was not adequately conveyed by the State Department.

At this point, with unrest growing, the Shah finally left Iran and, on February 1, Khomeini flew into Teheran, while Bakhtier struggled – ultimately unsuccessfully – to retain some authority. With the country seemingly on the brink of civil war Carter brought Huyser back to the White House to brief him on the situation, where Huyser informed the President that Sullivan’s interpretation of American policy differed greatly from Huyser’s. In his memoirs, Carter writes that after meeting with Huyser, “I became even more disturbed at the apparent reluctance in the State Department to carry out my directives fully and with enthusiasm.”

He was not the only one. On February 6, 1979, Carter’s chief White House aide Hamilton Jordan drafted this confidential “eyes only” memorandum for the President. As you can see, Jordan expresses his anger, particularly at State Department officials, for “this malicious leaking [that] continues at great cost to our country and to your administration.” Jordan goes on to recommend that Carter meet directly with State Department officials to warn them that unless the leaking stops, there will be repercussions. Toward this end Jordan concludes the memo with this: “[Y]ou should avoid saying anything that is positive—the entire focus of the meeting should be on your displeasure with them collectively, leaving the strong impression that their jobs are at stake.”

jordan leaks(1)

jordan leaks(2)

Carter took Jordan’s advice. In his memoirs he recalls asking the State Department Iranian desk officers and others to come to the White House. There Carter “laid down the law to them as strongly as I knew how…There had been a stream of news stories in Washington, seeming to originate with those who opposed my judgment that we should give our support to the Shah, to the military leaders, and later to Bakhtiar. I told them that if they could not support what I decided, their only alternative was to resign….I….repeated that they would have to be loyal to me or resign.”

The dispute of how to deal with the Shah was just one clash of many between Carter’s State Department under Cy Vance and Brzezinski’s  national security team. Vance eventually resigned in protest over Carter’s decision to attempt a secret mission to rescue Americans held hostage by the Khomeini-led Iranian government – a mission that Brzezinski not only backed, but which he wanted combined with a retaliatory military strike.

In Carter’s diary entry from Feb. 7 (as reprinted in his memoirs) the President placed part of the blame for the differences between State Department and NSC officials on the news media which “constantly aggravate the inevitable differences and competition between the two groups.” But the differences run deeper than a media-driven effort to fan the flames of controversy. They reflect an ongoing tension between a president’s need for expertise and his desire for loyalty. To fully reap the benefits of aides’ expertise, presidents must give those specialists the freedom to disagree, and to propose and actively argue for policies that a president may oppose. Of course, it is the case that many specialists well-versed in their field and who truly believe that their advice is in the best interests of the nation are going use multiple tactics to make sure that message is heard by decisionmakers – including selective leaking via the press. And just as inevitably, presidents and their closest White House advisers are going to see these leaks as signs of disloyalty. In the end, when faced with dueling recommendations, presidents typically choose loyalty over expertise. It is one reason why, as I’ve discussed previously in this post regarding Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, that over time presidents tend to rely more on their NSC staff, and often grow increasingly skeptical of the advice they get from State.  For presidents, the foreign policy establishment often seems more sympathetic to the interests of the countries in which they are stationed than they are to the president’s perspective.

However, to the extent that efforts to stifle leaks and close ranks cuts presidents off from contrary advice, it is a tendency that should be resisted – even if it means tolerating public reports of internal dissension. I have no doubt that we are seeing this type of selective leaking by foreign policy experts within the Obama administration now, as Obama struggles to fashion a policy for fighting the Islamic State and for dealing with civil unrest and war in both Iraq and Syria. And Obama appears no happier about it than Carter did.  Of course, journalists have been complaining for some time that the Obama administration’s efforts to prosecute leakers is having a chilling effect on investigative journalism. Such arguments, coming from journalists, are unlikely to exercise much sway with the President, particularly when the administration feels these national security leaks break the law.

I would argue, however, that even efforts like Carter’s that fall short of legal prosecution, but nonetheless are designed to tamp down dissent, are potentially costly for the President.  The reason is that they run the risk of reducing the willingness of specialists to convey advice that the President and his closest aides are not initially inclined to hear.  Sometimes those specialists can’t be sure that their advice is reaching the President, and hence they use alternative channels, including the media, to make certain their views are known and to encourage a more robust debate regarding policy options.  Understandably, the President hopes to keep that dissent in house, in order to provide a united front to the public and other audiences who are watching for signs regarding what the President will do. Just as understandably, specialists – particularly those who feel cut out of the decisionmaking process – may choose to make their views known through alternative means.

No president likes dissent, particularly when it is expressed through media leaks. In his memo to the President, Jordan asserts, “I … doubt if any President has ever had more people in policy positions at the State Department whose views differ from yours on critical issues and who feel free to fight their policy battles through the media.”  I’m willing to guess that, contrary to Jordan’s claim, almost every president in the modern era feels they confront the most damaging leaks.  But those leaks are the inevitable byproduct of governing in a system in which political actors, responding to their own incentives and from different vantage points, must collaborate to make policy, and presidents should accept them as the cost for encouraging productive debate.

Take Two, Drew! Linzer Unveils His Senate Forecast Model

Longtime readers will know that I was a big fan of Drew Linzer’s 2012 presidential forecast model contained at his Votamatic website, and not just because he was kind enough fly out here to give a talk to Middlebury students during the middle of the presidential campaign. Linzer’s model, you will recall, correctly predicted the electoral vote outcome in each state during the 2012 presidential election, thus making his final Electoral College prediction of Obama 332, Romney 206 the most accurate of the transparent forecast models of which I’m aware (along with political scientist’s Simon Jackman’s) for that cycle. Now Linzer is back with another forecast model (two actually!) looking at both Senate and gubernatorial races during the current election cycle and, as was the case in 2012, he is once again opening up the model so we can see the moving parts.

As I’ve said repeatedly, for political scientists, getting a prediction right is not the ultimate objective – it’s knowing why the prediction was right that matters. For that reason it is imperative that we understand the assumptions built into the model and why I generally only discuss forecast models that are transparent to outside inspection.  Of course, for most of you, the bottom line – who is going to win – is what really matters!  Fortunately, I’m pretty sure Linzer’s model will satisfy both our needs.

What do we find when we look at Linzer’s model? Interestingly (and here I’m subject to Drew’s correction) his Senate forecast model appears to differ from his presidential model. In 2012, Linzer used a combination of a fundamentals-based forecast model combined with state-based polling data to generate his presidential prediction. Essentially, he began by establishing a baseline forecast using Alan Abramowitz’s original Time for a Change forecast model, which estimates the presidential popular vote using three variables: the incumbent president’s net approval rating at the end of June, the change in real GDP in the second quarter of the election year and a first-term incumbency advantage. Drew then updated that forecast based on state-level polling data, which factored more heavily into his prediction as the campaign progressed so that by the time of the presidential election his forecast model was based almost entirely on polling data.

However, for his 2014 Senate forecast at the DailyKos website, Linzer is no longer incorporating any “fundamentals” into his model. Instead, he appears to rely entirely on state-level polling data. Why the change in methodology from his phenomenally successful presidential forecast model? My guess is that Linzer is less confident that there exists a Senate-oriented fundamentals model equivalent to the Abramowitz time for a change forecast model in terms of accuracy. That is, he does not believe his forecast will be improved even at this early date by incorporating structural elements, such as measures of the economy, presidential approval ratings, or generic ballot results beyond what the state-based Senate polls tell him.  If so, I can see the logic to this – in contrast to a presidential election, there are a lot more moving parts in trying estimate which party will gain the majority in the Senate. To begin, with 36 Senate races there’s many more candidates, rather than just two, and they are operating in different local political contexts, instead of in the more national-based electoral context prevailing during a presidential election year. Linzer’s approach assumes state-based polling data is going to do a good enough job picking up these state-based variations without the added noise provided by incorporating fundamentals into his prediction model. In contrast, in a presidential election with only two major candidates and the likelihood of greater correlation in the votes across states due to the more nationalized environment, incorporating fundamentals as a starting point probably makes sense.

To put this another way, to justify including fundamentals into his Senate forecast model, Linzer would have to assume that there was some structural variable that influenced the election results that was not being picked up in the polling data. Since he has no baseline fundamentals tempering his Senate forecast even this early in the campaign, his prediction is based entirely on polls right from the start. (This may be one reason – a paucity of good Senate polls prior to Labor Day – that he has gotten a relatively late start on the prediction game compared to some of the other forecasters.)

Note that Linzer’s approach differs from the “mixed” forecast models presented at the New York Times Upshot  or the Monkey Cage Election Lab sites, both of which incorporate structural factors in addition to polling data. As a result, you should not be surprised to see Linzer’s initial Senate forecast differ from what these other models are predicting. And that is the case – as of today, the Linzer-based DailyKos model gives Democrats about a 56% chance of holding onto the Senate. That’s a bit more optimistic for Democrats than most of the models that include a structural component. For example, at last look the MonkeyCage’s Election Lab forecast model gives Democrats a 47% chance of retaining their majority, while the New York Times Upshot model gives them only a 33% chance.

Before you email me with the inevitable “What about this forecast model” prediction, let me conclude with two reminders. First, given the uncertainty in the models at this early date, you – unlike the pundits who are even now ready to “unskew” the models – should not place too much stock in the difference between a 56% and a 33% chance of retaining a majority. As we get closer to Election Day, most of the structurally-based forecast models will likely increasingly rely on polling data, and I expect their forecasts to move closer to Drew’s. But it is also the case that Drew’s current estimate is going to change as well, as his model incorporates more and better Senate polling data. (One potential variable to watch is the impact of pollsters switching from registered to likely voters samples as election day draws night.) Barring some dramatic poll-changing event, such as an escalation of the U.S. military presence in Iraq (or Ukraine?), all signs point to an extremely tight race for control of the Senate in 2014. At this point, I would be skeptical of any forecast model that suggests otherwise.

By the way, since I will likely be blogging increasingly about these various election forecasting models, you might be interested in hearing Drew assess how reliable presidential forecast models are (hint: he’s not a huge fan of fundamentals-only models). Some of his criticisms apply to the Senate fundamentals-based models as well. As you can see in this video, however, Lynn Vavreck and I both are a bit more optimistic about political scientists’ understanding of elections.  This panel took place at the Dirksen Senate building this past spring.


Klein, Kristof and the Most Advanced Field in the Study of Politics

One of my lasting memories of graduate school is hearing Professor Mo Fiorina, tongue only partly in cheek, tell a gathering of first-year Government (political science to most of you) doctoral students that the study of American politics was the most scientifically advanced among the discipline’s four major subfields. At the time I thought Mo’s statement was absurd, mostly because as a former cub reporter covering local Massachusetts politics I was pretty sure there was nothing that could be scientific about studying American politics at any level. Politics was about people, in all their bewildering complexity, operating under contingent and unpredictable conditions. You might as well create a science to explain variation in cloud shapes.

As the years have passed since I first heard Fiorina’s declaration, I have been amazed by how much smarter he has become. In fact, as my Middlebury students can attest, I’m not ashamed to admit that I now repeat Fiorina’s assertion in orientation meetings with political science majors (not to mention in gatherings with my colleagues who study International Relations and Comparative politics, which pleases them no end. The theorists just seem bewildered that anyone would want to create a science of politics.)

I thought of Fiorina’s remark yesterday when I read this curious Ezra Klein column claiming that political science had, in effect, “conquered Washington.” Klein, the founder of the Vox website, observes that a decade ago, “knowing political science wasn’t a legitimate form of knowing about politics, or at least it wasn’t presented as one to young journalists like me.” Since then, however, “the single best thing that’s happened to political journalism … is the rise of political science”. This rise is exemplified in part by the increased visibility of blogs presenting political science research.

Somewhat dubiously, Klein suggests that one reason for the increased prominence of political science is that elected officials and other members of the political elite can no longer be trusted to explain what is happening in the political realm: “Washington is listening to political scientists, in large part because it’s stopped trusting itself.” This is in part, Klein argues, because “Politicians are losing power and political parties are gaining it”. Never mind that parties are led by politicians – Klein believes the flow of power from politicians to parties means that “these structural explanations for American politics have become more important.”

What is one to make of Klein’s assertion? I confess that, probably more than most of my political scientist colleagues, I’ve been more willing to take Klein to task for oversimplifying political science research in order to drive his preferred narrative, particularly when he flat out gets the research wrong.  Unfortunately, this column, beginning with the claim that structural explanations are becoming more important for understanding American politics, is ripe for the same type of critique.  However, lest I be accused of hating on Ezra once too often for his tendency to boil down complex subjects into two-minute declarative statements (after all, that is the explicit mission of his Vox website), let me instead this time praise him for his willingness to engage with political science research to a much greater degree than do many of his fellow journalists. True, the examples he cites in this article aren’t all equally effective at demonstrating what political scientists think they know. (For example, as Fiorina has shown, Klein’s assertion that political science has demonstrated that independents are closet partisans is far from settled – indeed, it is probably wrong.) Still, it would be curmudgeonly of me to criticize Klein for praising my field of study.

So I will let Klein’s fellow journalist Nick Kristof do it for me. Readers will remember that in this column Kristof lamented the unwillingness of political scientists to engage in debate about the most pressing political issues of the day. Rather than the increasingly important players Klein describes, Kristof sees political scientists as smart, but largely isolated from real world discussions: “Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates. The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: ‘That’s academic.’ In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.” This is why, Kristof believes, “t]here are … fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.”

Significantly, Kristof puts the blame squarely on political scientists’ search for the “structural explanations” that Klein praises as helping scholars “conquer” Washington. Rather than advancing our understanding of politics, Kristof laments how “Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Instead of engaging in debate about topics of relevance in order to advance policy prescriptions, political scientists “seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.” The result of this pretense toward “science” is a decline in area studies and in real-world prescriptions.

How do we reconcile these contrasting views? At the risk of offending my peers in other subfields, I think in part it is a function of the difference in their respective topical focus. Klein is most familiar with research in American politics, while Kristof seems far more interested in studies in the fields of international relations and comparative politics. Here is where Fiorina’s partly tongue-in-cheek observation may in fact have some explanatory bite. No, I am not arguing that those who study American politics are smarter or better researchers. The explanation for Fiorina’s (undoubtedly deliberately provocative) observation – assuming it has any validity today – is far more complex than that (and I am certainly, through my own ignorance of other subfields, not doing full justice to the progress made outside the American politics realm). But one reason for Klein’s greater optimism, I think, is that as my colleague Professor Amy Yuen – an IR scholar whose research into third-party intervention into conflicts and on weapons of mass destruction is as topical, and as rigorous, as one can hope – suggests, students of American politics often have much greater access to relevant data than do their counterparts in other subfields. In this vein, it is not surprising that the research Klein cites as particularly noteworthy – such as the study of U.S. national elections or voting in Congress – is particularly data-rich topics. In these areas, a combination of accessible data and simple theory has produced at least a modicum of scientific progress, (although perhaps not as much as some of we Americanists like to think.)

Fiorina had it right, I think, all those years ago. The explanation for why Klein thinks political science has conquered Washington, while Kristof laments its irrelevance, is that Klein has trained his sights on the most scientifically advanced subfield within the discipline: the study of American politics. I think most Americanists secretly recognize the truth of that observation, even if they won’t publicly admit it. Most comparative and IR scholars, in contrast, likely think I’m full of sh*t. If so, I understand their sentiment. But they shouldn’t blame me. I’m just the messenger. Listen instead to Ezra, as he cites in particular the many election forecast models developed by Americanists: “Young political journalists I talk to know a lot more about political science and how to use it to inform their reporting than they did when I came to town. And readers are better for it.”

But it’s not just Klein’s readers who benefit from these advances. Next week we start classes here, just in time for me to pass on Fiorina’s message to a new generation of budding young scholars eager to delve into the brave new world of political science. To them I say, “Study American politics. It doesn’t get any better!”