The American Presidency
Political Science 467
Professor Dan Tichenor GTFs: Michael Faherty
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Jeremy Strickler
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 8:45-11:45am, PLC 927
The central goal of this course is to enrich your understanding of the American presidency, with special emphasis on the uneasy relationship between liberty, democracy, and executive power.
During the ratification debates over the U.S. Constitution, Anti-Federalists charged that the Framers had created an executive office that would become “the fetus of monarchy,” one that would eventually rob the cherished liberties of individuals. At the same time, champions of democracy like Thomas Paine warned that executive leadership is a “slavish custom” poorly suited for representative systems in which citizens must be “proprietors in government.” From this perspective, presidential power has the potential to make citizens passive, dependent, and deferential – qualities unsuited for self-government. Over time, however, presidents have presented themselves as the only elected representative of the whole people and the true embodiment of the popular will. In this view, other political actors – legislators, bureaucrats, party officials, and lobbyists – are taken to represent only partial or selfish interests. “The President is the political leaders of the nation, or has it in his choice to be,” observed Woodrow Wilson. “The nation as a whole has chosen him, and is conscious that it has no other political spokesman. Its instinct is for unified action, and it craves a single leader.” Champions of broad executive power argue that presidential leadership is both crucial for advancing the democratic will of the people and critical for keeping Americans safe in times of national security crisis.
Yet contemporary critics alternatively argue that our modern chief executives are ineffective in domestic policy and unaccountable in national security policy and foreign affairs. The original debate over liberty, democracy, and executive power rages on.
It is hard to imagine a better time to study the U.S. presidency. Not only are we in the middle of a momentous presidential election year, but a host of bedeviling challenges confront the White House today at home and abroad from soaring gas prices, high levels of unemployment, record national debt, and income inequality to menacing developments in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. We will relish the opportunity to discuss the current issues, but we will do so within a rich context. Our analysis of presidential leadership will illuminate the nature of the presidency as an institution as well as the significance of the person who occupies the office at any given moment. Along the way, we will consider how executive influence is shaped by an American political system that fragments power among numerous political actors and structures. We also will consider how the timing of a presidential term affects the capacity of an incumbent to exercise leadership and the character of what s/he attempts to accomplish. During the first portion of this course, we will study the origins and development of the American presidency, concentrating on its constitutional design and how the powers, functions, and expectations of the executive office evolved over more than two centuries. Equally important, we will consider distinctive theoretical perspectives on presidential leadership during this portion of the course, considering individual agency, historical context, and structural opportunities and constraints. The second portion of the course focuses on key features of the modern presidency, such as presidential selection, executive interactions with the media and press, Congress, the judiciary, the federal bureaucracy, interest groups and political parties, domestic policy-making, presidential war powers and crisis-management, and nature of so-called presidential greatness.
COURSE EXPECTATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS
Midterm Exam 30%
Research Paper 25%
Final Exam 35%
Participation Grade Bump Potential*
* Not all of us are comfortable speaking up in class, so I will not deduct for sparse participation. However, quality participation will encourage me to bump up your grade.
I have ordered the following required books through the university bookstore. A variety of other readings will be available on Blackboard.
Sidney Milkis and Michael Nelson, The American Presidency: Origins and
Development, 6th edition (Congressional Quarterly Press, 2011).
Michael Nelson, ed., The Presidency and the Political System, 9th edition
(Congressional Quarterly Press, 2009).
COURSE OUTLINE AND READING SCHEDULE
April 3 - Introduction: On Liberty, Democracy, and Executive Power
April 5 - Constitutional Designs: Inventing the Presidency and Enduring Ambiguities
(Food for thought: Would the framers recognize the modern presidency? How limited or expansive did they expect presidential power to be?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapter 2.
David Nichols and Terri Bimes on whether the Constitutional Framers would approve of the modern presidency, Blackboard.
April 10 - Breathing Life Into the Office: Washington, Adams and the Early Presidency
(Food for thought: Do presidents have certain “inherent” powers? For instance, should presidents dominate foreign and national security policies?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapter 3.
Nancy Kassop and Richard Pious on presidential war power, Blackboard.
April 12 -The Presidency and Democratization: The Jeffersonian and Jacksonian “Revolutions” (Food for thought: Can elections be transformational? What are the merits and dangers of the Jackson/Van Buren model of partisan democracy?)
Typed, one-paragraph paper abstracts are due at the start of class
Readings: The American Presidency, chapters 4 and 5.
April 17 -The Lincoln Persuasion and the Prerogative Presidency
(Food for thought: Was Lincoln a “constitutional dictator”? What checks, if any, should be placed on the power of presidents during national security crises of the first order?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapters 6.
April 19 – From Congressional Dominance to the Progressive Era Presidency that TR Built
(Food for thought: Can presidents be held accountable by the impeachment process? Did
Theodore Roosevelt breathe life into the modern presidency?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapters 7-8.
April 24 - The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency: Popular Leadership and Its Challenges
(Food for thought: What are the possibilities and perils of the president’s “bully pulpit” and of popular leadership more generally?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapter 9.
Tulis, “The Two Constitutional Presidencies,” in Nelson, chapter 3
April 26 - In the Shadow of FDR: Toward a Modern Presidency
(Food for thought: What sets the “modern presidency” apart from earlier presidencies?
FDR struggled to define and defend his reform agenda against critics on the Left and
Right – how should we understand his public philosophy and policy legacies?)
Readings: The American Presidency, chapter 11.
May 1 – Theoretical Models of Presidential Leadership: Skill, Context, and Leadership Over Time (The Insights of Neustadt and Skowronek)
Readings: Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power, excerpt on Blackboard.
Skowronek, “Presidential Leadership in Political Time,” on Blackboard.
May 3 – Midterm Exam
May 8 – Presidential Personality and Character
Readings: James David Barber, Presidential Character, excerpt on Blackboard.
Fred Greenstein, The Presidential Difference, excerpt on Blackboard.
May 10 – Presidential Elections, I
Readings: Pious,”The Presidency and the Nominating Process,”in Nelson,
chapter 7, pages 195-217.
May 15 – Presidential Elections, II
Readings: Aldrich et al, “The Presidency and the Election Campaign,”in
Nelson, chapter 8, pages 219-233.
May 17 -The Media and Presidential Public Relations
Readings: Miroff, “The Presidential Spectacle,” in Nelson, chapter 10,
George Edwards, “The Presidential Pulpit: Bully or Baloney?,” Blackboard.
May 22 - Rivals for Power: Congress, the Presidency, and Domestic Policymaking
Readings: Tichenor, “The Presidency and Interest Groups: Allies,
Adversaries, and Policy Leadership,” in Nelson, chapter 12,
Roger Davidson, “Presidential Relations with Congress,” Blackboard.
May 24 - Venerable or Vulnerable Courts?: Executive and Judicial Powers
Readings: Yalof, “The Presidency and the Judiciary,” in Nelson, chapter 18,
May 29 - A Tale of Two Wars: Executive Discretion and National Security
Readings: Fisher, Presidential War Power, chapters 1, 3, and 6, pages 1-16, 56-80, and 128-153, available on Blackboard.
RESEARCH PAPER DUE AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
May 31 -Thirteen Days: Presidential Leadership in the Nuclear Age
Readings: Polsky, “The Presidency at War,” in Nelson, Chapter 17.
June 5 – Freedom Under Fire: Prerogative Power and Civil Liberties
Readings: Geoffrey Stone, War and Liberty, Blackboard.
Jack Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency, Blackboard.
June 7 – Parting Thoughts: Presidential Greatness, Executive Power and Liberal Democracy
Readings: Nelson, “Evaluating the Presidency,” in Nelson, chapter 1, pages 1-23.
Marc Landy and Bruce Miroff on presidential greatness, Blackboard.