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Norman Ornstein        

Bestselling Author, Political Analyst & Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He pens a weekly column for Roll Call called "Congress Inside Out" and is an election eve analyst for CBS News. He served as co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission, working to ensure that our institutions of government can be maintained in the event of a terrorist attack on Washington; his efforts in this area were recounted in a profile of him in the June 2003 Atlantic Monthly. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the McCain-Feingold Law, which reformed the campaign financing system.

His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future; The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, which was co-written with Thomas E. Mann and named one of the best books of 2006 by The Washington Post and dubbed "a classic" by The Economist; and most recently, the New York Times bestseller It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, also co-written with Tom Mann.

He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other major publications, and regularly appears on such television programs as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose.

Through a combination of scholarship, hard journalism, and practical down-to-earth understanding of human nature, he shares his insights on the Washington political scene, major elections, and such hot issues as campaign finance reform, economic policy, and healthcare.

Ornstein also dabbles in comedy. He began working with Al Franken in 1992 when he served as Comedy Central's pollster and commentator covering the party conventions and the election for "Indecision '92." He has also done comedy with satirist Mark Russell.

Ornstein co-directed a multi-year effort called the Transition to Governing Project to create a better climate for governing in the era of the permanent campaign and is currently co-directing a project on election reform. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the Campaign Legal Center, and the Board of Trustees of the US Capitol Historical Society and he was also elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.

Speech Topics

The Institution of Compromise: Why Hyper-partisanship is No Laughing Matter

With a political climate that reveals an unprecedented level of hyper-partisanship and an extreme unwillingness to compromise, longtime political pundit and commentator, Norman Ornstein outlines how the U.S. is on the brink of institutional collapse and doubled-over in deadlock. As chronicled in his recent book, Its Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (2012), Ornstein identifies the two primary causes behind this pernicious state of affairs. At the lead is the issue of party mismatch and a governing system that makes it difficult for majorities to act. In close second is the issue of party culpability and asymmetric polarization. With a unique sense of humor, extraordinary eye for detail and over 30 years in the field, Ornstein discusses specifically what each of these issues entails and their possible solutions.

  • The American Political Landscape
  • The Direction of the Obama Administration in Politics and Policy
  • The Politics of Health Care Reform
  • Politics and Economic Policy
  • What's So Funny About Washington (Half Humorous, Half Serious Talk)

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: Political Polarization in Washington

Nonpartisan congressional scholar Norm Ornstein discusses the hyperpartisanship that has seeped into every part of our political process. With Congress deadlocked and our two main political parties abandoning the idea of compromise, our political system is at a standstill. Ornstein identifies the two overriding problems in our institutions – the parliamentary shape our system has taken and the vehemently adversarial parties than have become ideologically extreme. With nothing happening simply for the good of the country, both sides would rather block bills they once supported than let the other Party have a “win.” While Ornstein states that there is no panacea, he does offer useful reform ideas, endorsing solutions like greater public participation, an institutional restructuring of the House and Senate, and a focus on fixing the true causes of the dysfunction rather than a rinse-and-repeat cycle of “throwing the bums out.”

Other Topics

Politics and Washington, The Bush White House, The Elections Ahead, The Politics of Health Policy, Politics and Economic Policy, Politics and Foreign Policy

What's So Funny About Washington

Understanding the Upcoming Election


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American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein pointed to the flawed news judgment of political editors and cable news producers when it comes to election  ...

Memo to GOP: Forget your obstructionist policies. They backfired ...

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, with Thomas E. Mann, of “It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the ...

Why Congress Needs to Fix America's Broken Mental-Health System

Norm Ornstein is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal, and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise  ...

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