Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Congress
Case Studies in Legislative Leadership
by Maxmillian Angerholzer III, James Kitfield, Christopher P. Lu, and Norman Ornstein, Editors
October 2014, 416pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3199-7
$75, £58, 66€, A103
Paperback: 978-1-4408-3335-9
$30, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3200-0
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What are the reasons for the bitter partisan power struggles in today’s Congress?

Published in partnership with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, this book offers insightful examinations of congressional success and failure from the New Deal to today by leading political scholars and journalists. This analysis identifies lessons learned throughout history relevant to present and future politics.

In many ways, Congress has shaped decades of prosperity at home and what is known as the “American Century” abroad. Great individuals have shaped the institution while also overcoming partisanship and rivalry for the sake of the nation. Still, others have succumbed to hubris and the pressure for partisan discord. Throughout this narrative, power has shifted regularly between Congress and the president, creating a very different era of conflict and collaboration.

This book examines what has worked and what has failed, the extraordinary individuals who have led America’s citizen legislators, and the landmark battles and victories that have shaped our nation’s history. It offers the stories behind the headlines, the thinking behind key decisions, and the difficult compromises that have marked the most important episodes in Congressional history.

An invaluable resource for political science majors and researchers in the field, professionals in Washington working in congressional offices, and readers interested in how Congress works and the reasons for recurring gridlock in government, Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Congress: Case Studies in Legislative Leadership describes how Congress has fought internally and externally to define itself and protect its prerogatives, identifying means and methods, politics and pitfalls, collaboration and conflict, challenges and breakthroughs, and unintended consequences throughout history. Case studies of notable congressional leaders that highlight their significant actions—both good and bad—are also provided.


  • Offers compelling analysis of congressional policy and decision-making that enables readers to understand the potential impact on future politics
  • Analyzes congressional relations with the executive branch, including power balance, successes, and points of conflict with the White House
  • Addresses major domestic programs from the New Deal through No Child Left Behind
  • Includes National Security and foreign policy case studies from World War II through the post-9/11 world as well as short biographies of Congress’ most influential leaders
  • Examines Congress' greatest spheres of influence and how these have changed over the years and considers how major congressional battles arose, were reconciled, and had lasting effects
Maxmillian Angerholzer III is president and CEO of the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress (CSPC) as well as senior adviser and corporate secretary of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, a philanthropic institution in Washington, DC. He has served as special assistant to the vice chairman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Angerholzer holds a bachelor's degree (magna cum laude) in political science from The University of the South and a master's degree from The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

James Kitfield is a contributing editor and a former senior correspondent at National Journal who has written on national security, intelligence, and foreign policy issues for more than two decades. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, he is the author of two books, War and Destiny: How the Bush Revolution in Foreign and Military Affairs Redefined American Power and Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionized the American Style of War. Kitfield is a three-time winner of the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense, a five-time winner of the Military Reporters and Editors Association award, and a recipient of the National Press Club's top prize for diplomatic correspondence. His many other awards include the Association of Former Intelligence Officers' Steward Alsop Media Excellence Award and the German Marshall Fund's Peter R. Weitz Prize.

During his long career in public service, Christopher P. Lu has served in all three branches of the federal government and is an expert on how policy gets made in Washington. On Capitol Hill, he was Deputy Chief Counsel for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, then Legislative Director and Acting Chief of Staff to then-Senator Obama. Following the 2008 Presidential election, Mr. Lu was Executive Director of the Presidential Transition Team. From 2009 to 2013, he was the White House Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to the President, and he is currently Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, Mr. Lu also has worked as a law clerk to a federal court of appeals judge.

Norman Ornstein is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic. Named one of 2012's Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, Ornstein led a working group that helped shape the campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold. His many books include The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track and It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, a New York Times bestseller. Ornstein's vast experience includes positions over the last two decades at USA Today, Roll Call, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, CBS News, and the Council of Foreign Relations.


"This anthology offers a wonderful insight into the many interesting policies and people found within the world's greatest deliberative body. I salute Norm, James, Chris, and Max for creating a useful tool for students, policymakers, and citizens; and David Abshire's wisdom in inspiring this project." —John D. Dingell, U.S. Representative (Michigan)

"The lessons of history are an essential guide to those in Congress- particularly in times of crisis. Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Congress is a valuable resource to those policymakers who are struggling with the difficult issues of the day. These case studies can teach and inspire policymakers as they try to meet the ever-changing challenges of our time."—The Honorable Mel Martinez, Former U.S. Senator (Florida); Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development

"Triumphs & Tragedies of the Modern Congress is a magnificent collection of objective, fair critiques of Congress. These historical case studies remind us, as Ben Franklin said, 'We have a Republic, if you can keep it!’" —John W. Warner, Former U.S. Senator (Virginia)
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