The American Presidency
In November 1996, Bill Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin
D. Roosevelt to be elected to a second term in office and just the third
president in the last half of the twentieth century to be given this opportunity
(Eisenhower and Reagan preceded). Two years later, however, he became just
the second president in American history to be impeached. As this semester
begins, his fate is still uncertain.
By this time in their service, most presidents have already turned to a major preoccupation: shoring up their historical legacy and helping to select a successor. From the beginning, the prospects of Clinton's second term were clouded--by a less than enthusiastic election endorsement, by continued Republican dominance of Congress, and by ongoing scandals that had dogged his years in office. The Lewinsky affair and subsequent impeachment proved to be a yearlong weight that threatened to drag the administration down.
During this semester, we will look closely at Clinton's efforts to secure a more promising place in history as well as the struggle among a group of aspirants to replace him in office, i.e., the Y2K election. We will also be concerned with the office of the president, its evolution over time, and its theoretical capabilities. By the end of the semester, I hope you have a much firmer grasp on what presidents actually do on the job and the range of views re. what scholars feel presidents should do once installed in office.
This course provides students with a broad introduction to the presidency. It will illuminate the realities of the office and provide a basis to better evaluate the people who seek and exercise its power. Topics covered include a review of the executive's constitutional powers and how they have changed over time; the presidency's many-sided relations with the public; struggles between the president and other political elites in our system, especially Congress, bureaucrats and the press; and the dynamics of White House decision-making. Our focus will be mainly contemporary, emphasizing the nine administrations since Franklin D. Roosevelt with particular attention to the present incumbent.
This course will ask you to exercise a variety of analytic abilities; this will be evident in the nature of class discussions as well as your out-of-class assignments. At times, we will be concerned with highly contemporary topics, in particular, evaluating Bill Clinton's performance in office. At other times, we will be concerned with how the presidential office and its occupants have evolved over time, particularly the past fifty years, and its condition on the eve of the twenty-first century. Bringing a partisan perspective to bear on these issues will sometimes be necessary and at other times unavoidable, but it is even more important to be able to think about topics analytically.
Classes will follow a lecture/discussion format. You will get the most out of class by doing the reading beforehand although discussion will often digress from the assignments. You are encouraged to keep up with the news on a regular basis. You can do this by reading The New York Times or another national publication on a daily basis or on the web.
PLEASE BE CERTAIN THAT YOU HAVE AN ACTIVATED E-MAIL ACCOUNT FOR THIS COURSE. I WILL BE SENDING OUT MATERIALS FROM TIME TO TIME BEFORE CLASS MEETS THAT I WILL WANT YOU TO ACCESS.
READINGS: Three books
(all paperbacks) are required reading for the course. The books will be
available at the University Bookstore. (Used copies might be available
to help reduce your costs but be sure you have the correct edition.) The
first book, Thomas and Pika, will be used as the core text for the course.
There is a "readings" book and the other works concentrate on particular
topics that we will be examining in greater detail.
Thomas & Pika, The Politics of the Presidency revd. 4th ed., CQ Press(TP)
Nelson, M. ed. The Presidency and the Political System 5th ed. CQ Press
Lowi, T. The Personal President Cornell Press
New York Times subscription or web access.
Reading Alert: One of these books is a collection of essays. Students sometimes find these difficult to work with. Please try to master the substance of the arguments and gain some sense of who is making the argument.
REQUIREMENTS AND GRADES:
Students will be evaluated on the basis of two hourly exams (15% and then
20%), a final exam (30%), group projects (worth a combined 15%), individual
papers based on the collective group research efforts (15%), and unannounced
current events quizzes (5%). All assignments are course requirements and
must be completed in order to pass the course. The exams will include
both multiple-choice and essay questions and will be given on the dates
below. The final exam will be given during the exam period and will combine
material covered since the previous exam and a portion that will require
you to integrate material from throughout the entire course.
Wednesday March 15 First hourly exam worth 15%
Wednesday April 21 Second hourly exam worth 20%
Wednesday May 26 Final Exam worth 30%
Paper Dates -
Friday March 26
Friday April 30
There will be two group projects and related papers: in each case, there
will be an oral presentation based on the efforts of several students and
a written paper which draws on the collective effort but is written as
your own, individual report and evaluation. These papers must be typed
double-spaced and include footnotes and bibliography.
There will be several class meetings during which I will discuss the papers with particular attention to problems that students often encounter with plagiarism while completing an assignment of this sort. It is your responsibility to obtain this information even if you are not in class on these days.
POLICY ON INCOMPLETES: Incompletes are given at an instructor's discretion. My policy is to give incompletes only in a very narrow range of instances-specifically, when students can demonstrate to my satisfaction that they have been unable to complete course requirements because of medical or emotional problems.
MAKE-UP EXAMS/PAPER EXTENSIONS: Only available when medical or emotional problems, or extraordinary circumstances (e.g., funeral) make it impossible for you to complete the assignments on time. This must be demonstrated by documentation and I will consult with the physician/professional referred to in the documentation. To my knowledge, none of the exams or submission dates falls on a religious holiday. If they do, it is your responsibility to alert me to the problem ahead of time.
SCHEDULE OF ASSIGNMENTS
1. Evaluating and Studying a Special Office
2. Constitutional Foundations and Historical Perspectives
Feb. 12, 15, 17 - TP Chap. 1 and Appendix C (pp. 474-480);
Nelson Chap. 1 (pp. 3-28) and 4 (Tulis pp. 91-123)
3. Presidential Selection: The Y2K Election
Feb. 19 - Overview of Process - TP Chap 2
Recommended: Nelson Chaps. 9 (Buchanan 251-274)
and 10 (Aldrich and Weko pp. 275-296)
Feb. 22-24 What Kind of Leader do We Want/Need?
Right for the times: Nelson Chap. 5 (Skowronek pp. 124-170)
Competent: Nelson Chap. 6 (Quirk pp. 171-198)
Emotionally Healthy: Nelson Chap. 7 (Nelson pp. 199-222)
4. Public Leadership between elections
March 1, 3, 5 - TP Chap. 3, Nelson Chap. 11 (Miroff pp. 299-322),
Chap. 12 (Cook and Ragsdale pp. 323-357) and
Chap. 14 (Milkis pp. 374-407)
Clinton and the Polls
5. The Man (?) and the Office: The Strange Case of William Jefferson Blythe
III (a.k.a. Clinton)
March 8, 10 - TP Chap 4
Review Session March 12
***March 15 - FIRST EXAM***
Project #1: Selecting the Y2K Presidential Tickets
March 17, 19, 22: Handicapping the Field of Potential Candidates
March 24: Sharing Perspectives
Paper due no later than class time on March 26th
Washington Post's early GOP field
Washington Post's early Democrat field
Washington Post Report on White House 2000
Spring Break: March 29-April 2 No Classes
6. Presidents and Congress
April 5,7, 9 - TP Chap. 5; Nelson Chap. 17 (Peterson pp. 469-498)
7. Presidents and Bureaucrats
April 12, 14 - TP Chap 6; Nelson Chap. 15 (Burke pp. 411-436), Chap. 16
(Moe pp. 437-468), Chap. 19 (Pika pp. 527-564)
Clinton's Cabinet -- The Washington Post report on backgrounds
8. Foreign Policy
April 16, 19 - TP Chap 10
***April 21 SECOND EXAM***
Group Project #2: The Kosovo Crisis
April 23, 26 - Group Meetings
April 28, 30 Sharing Perspectives
Paper due no later than in class on May 3
New York Times Article
9. Domestic and Economic Policy
May 3, 5, - TP Chaps. 8, 9
10. Leadership in the Modern Era
May 7, 10, 12 Lowi, entire
May 14, 17 Nelson Chap. 20 (Quirk & Nesmith pp. 565-588)
11. Review and Conclusions
May 19 Last Class
***May 26 FINAL EXAM***