AMERICAN PRESIDENCY
POLITICAL SCIENCE 350
STUDY GUIDE


Useful Web Sites:

For information on the current president and office go to White House site at: http://www.whitehouse.gov

For information on former presidents go to the Presidential Libraries site maintained by the National  Archives at: http://www.archives.gov/presidential_libraries/addresses/addresses.html

For links to Official US Executive Branch Web Sites go to the page maintained by the Library of Congress at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/fedgov.html

For some useful Federal government sources on the presidency maintained by the University of Michigan Library go to: http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/fedprs.html

To watch the American Experience programs on Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush go to: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/

For very good resources on the presidency maintained by one of your textbook authors (George C.  Edwards III) at Texas A&M University go to:
http://presdata.tamu.edu/

To view many of the most well known television ads used in presidential campaigns, go to the following site: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952

A useful site for checking on the facts presented in public forums:
http://www.factcheck.org/
Many thoughtful students sometimes wonder how much they can trust information about politics they encounter when viewing political ads and reading political editorials. They also worry about the objectivity of media news reports. Both conservatives and liberals complain about the distortion of facts found in the political ads run by the other side and various websites sponsored by opposition ideological groups. Distorting the views and positions of the opposition to make them look as bad as possible is an all too typical campaign technique. As a citizen and a student you not only should consider examining many different perspectives and sources of information but also make use of above site sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. The experts at this site checks out the factual accuracy of many political speeches, ads, and news releases. They take on both the left and the right, finding errors put out by democrats and republicans. This site is especially useful when elections approach in examining current political debates over public policy.

 

Outline of Assignments for the Semester

Week 1 Introduction to the study of the Presidency
              The Constitution and the Presidency

Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 1, Readings 1-5
           The Constitution
Special Topics:
M: Introduction to the study of the Presidency
      What are the principal approaches to studying the Presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. How do political scientists try to understand the presidency?   
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods of studying the presidency?

W: Creating the Presidency
      What were the most important issues at the Constitutional Convention regarding the office of the Presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. What were the principal debates at the Constitutional Convention about the presidency?
2.  How did these debates get resolved?
3.  How did colonial experiences influence those debates?
4.  How did experiences under the Articles of Confederation influence those debates?
5.  How important and prophetic was Hamilton's vision of the office?
6.  What were the main fears regarding the office?

F:  What does the Constitution have to say about the Presidency?
     What were the challenges faced by the first two presidents in establishing the office?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. What are the principal constitutional parameters of the office?
2. How did Washington contribute to our understanding of the office?
3. What crises confronted the office under Washington and Adams?
4. How did the behavior of Washington and Adams shape the future of the office?
5. How has the Constitution been amended since the convention to resolve various problems regarding the presidency?
6. What are some of the main criticisms of how the electoral college system works and misunderstandings regarding the intent of the framers about that system?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #1 Identify the most important debates that surrounded the creation of the Presidency.  Explain how some of today’s controversies surrounding the office reflect the concerns raised in those original debates. 

Week 2   Perspectives on Presidential Power, Leadership, and the Constitution; Public Opinion and the Presidency; The Media and the Presidency    
 
Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 2, Readings 6-10;  Section 4, Readings 17-20
            DiClerico, Chpt. 4
            Study the data on the following sites:
            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/popularity.php
            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/initial_approval.php
            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/100days_approval.php 
            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/final_approval.php
            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/newsconferences.php
Special Topics:
M: What have been some of the principal positions regarding the valid scope of Presidential powers?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. What are the claims of the strict constructionist view of the presidency advanced by Taft?
2. What are the claims of the stewardship view of presidential leadership advanced by T. Roosevelt?
3. How did Wilson understand the nature of presidential leadership?
4. What did Lincoln contribute to our understanding of presidential power and leadership?
5. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these conceptions of presidential power and leadership?
6. What forces have shaped the modern presidency?

W: What are some of the primary factors that influence Presidential popularity?  How do Presidents try to shape public opinion?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What factors influence presidential popularity and job approval ratings?
2.  Which factors do they have little control over?
3.  What do presidents do to hurt their own popularity?
4.  What do they do to advance their own popularity?
5.  What tools are available to the White House in trying to shape public opinion?
6.  What do presidents need to do in this area?
7.  Which presidents have been most successful in this area?

F:   Why is the relationship between the President and the press often strained?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What is the basis of the adversarial relationship that often exists between presidents and the press?
2.  How do presidents often make this relationship even worse?
3.  How do presidents try to influence media coverage?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #2 Explain the most important factors that shape public perceptions of the President and job approval ratings.  What can Presidents do and what should they not do in regard to building and maintaining popular support?

Week 3  The Selection Process and Political Parties
Read:   Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 3, Readings 11-16
                               DiClerico, Chpt. 1
Exit poll data on 2004 Elections: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/
Exit poll data on 2008 Elections: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/
Gallup data on voting by different demographic groups in presidential elections 1952-2008:
 http://www.gallup.com/poll/139880/Election-Polls-Presidential-Vote-Groups.aspx#1
Special Topics
M: No classes on Labor Day

W:  How does one go about becoming President?  How do Presidential candidates get nominated?
       What factors shape the conduct and results of Presidential elections?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  How did the party system evolve under Jefferson and Jackson?
2.  How is the current nomination process different from earlier nomination processes?
3.  What are the most important things to know about how to get nominated?
4.  What sorts of candidates are favored by the current nomination process?
5.  What are some of the major criticisms of how we nominate presidential candidates?
6.  What are some of the major reform proposals for the nomination process? 

F:  Case Study: What can be learned from Election 2008? 
       Is this nation served well by the manner in which it selects Presidents? Should the process be changed?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. What can be learned from the experiences of the Obama and McCain campaigns?
2. What does it take to win in the general election?
3. What are the most important factors in shaping the outcome of presidential elections?
4. What factors had the greatest impact on the outcome of the 2008 election? 
5. Should the electoral college system be retained?
6. How does that system shape the conduct of presidential campaigns?
7. Is there such a thing as a presidential mandate?
8. What are the main tasks presidents face as party leaders when they try to govern?
9. What forces limit a president's party leadership?
10. Under what circumstances are presidents able to be successful in their role as party leader?
11. What are some of the major criticisms of how we elect presidents?
12. What are some of the major reform proposals for the general election?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise # 3 Explain and evaluate what you regard as the five most important criticisms of the current presidential selection process. 

Week 4  The Debate Over the Extent of Presidential Power
Read: Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 5, Reading 24; Section 7, Readings 31, 32; Section 9, Readings 40, 42
          Watch the Frontline program, “Cheney’s Law” at:  http://video.pbs.org/video/1082073775/
          Information on presidential signing statements: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/signingstatements.php
          Information on executive orders: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/orders.php
Special Topics:
M:  How have Presidential powers evolved?  What dynamic social, economic, political and military forces have shaped the emergence of the modern presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What forces have shaped the modern presidency?
2.  How have presidential powers evolved?
3.  What forces place limits on those powers?

W:  Is there an Imperial Presidency?  What is involved in the debate over the theory of the unitary executive?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What do some critics means when they speak of an imperial presidency?
2.  Has presidential power gone too far?
3.  What are the claims made for and criticisms of the unitary executive theory?
4.  What is meant when scholars talk about the administrative presidency?
5.  What is the proper scope of unilateral powers belonging to the office?

F:   Note:  Your first test for the semester will be on Friday and will count for 1/6 of your semester grade.

Week 5   The President and Congress
Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 6, Readings 26, 27; Section 7, Reading 30
           Milkis & Nelson, Chpts. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
           Edwards & Wayne, Chpt. 10
Special Topics:
M:  What forces were behind different Eras Congressional Dominance and emergence of a more Dominant Presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What were the main shortcomings of so many post Civil War presidents?
2.  How did Congress go about reasserting itself after Lincoln?
3.  What was at stake in the battle over the impeachment of Johnson?
4.  What tools did Congress use to dominate presidents in the second half of the nineteenth century?
5.  How did some of the presidents of that period try to resist Congressional domination?
6.  How would 20th century developments within American society transform the presidency?

W:  The Progressives and the Presidency; Case Studies: The Modern Presidency and FDR, LBJ
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What were Teddy Roosevelt's contributions to the presidency?
2.  What made him a leader?
3.  What were Wilson's contributions to the presidency?
4.  What were his most important leadership skills?
5.  How did the progressives help to transform the presidency?
6.  What were Franklin Roosevelt's greatest skills as a leader?
7.  What made the 100 days possible?
8.  What were Roosevelt's greatest achievements?
9.  What were his biggest mistakes?
10.  How did he shape the modern presidency?
11.  What were Johnson's strengths in dealing with Congress?
12.  What were his chief accomplishments in dealing with Congress?
13.  What damaged his relations with Congress?
14.  What was the Johnson treatment?
15.  What lessons should be learned from his relationship with Congress?

F:  What does the President have going for him in dealing with the Congress?
     What forces limit Presidential influence with Congress?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What institutional tools do presidents have in dealing with Congress?
2.  What are some of the most successful tactics presidents use in trying to influence Congress?
3.  What circumstances favor presidential leadership of Congress?
4.  What are the some of the biggest mistakes presidents make in dealing with Congress?
5.  Why is legislative leadership so difficult for presidents?
6.  What resources does Congress have in challenging presidents?
7.  What circumstances favor congressional dominance?
8.  Is presidential leadership of Congress more difficult in recent times?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise 5 Why are some presidents more successful in getting their domestic agenda enacted by Congress than others? What makes for Presidential success in dealing with Congress? 

Week 6   Evaluating Presidential Greatness and Leadership
              

Read:  Online articles and surveys on ranking great presidents
           Milkis & Nelson, Chpt. 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13
           Be sure to finish by this week viewing all the American Experience documentaries on presidents from FDR to George H.W. Bush found at:
           http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/
You may check out some rankings of presidents at: http://www.americanpresidents.org/survey/historians
                                                                                            http://www.fed-soc.org/doclib/20070308_pressurvey.PDF
                                                                                            http://www.zogby.com/news/readnews.cfm?ID=1057

Special Topics:
M:  What makes for Presidential greatness?  How do most surveys tend to rank our past presidents?  Which ones are seen as great?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  How have the experts rated presidents on the greatness scale?
2.  What makes for presidential greatness?
3.  Why do the rankings change in certain cases?
4.  Do rankings tell us more about the presidents or about the rankers?
5.  How do you rate recent presidents?
6.  What factors shape such rankings?
7.  Is greatness more a function of the times or of the person?

W:  Case Studies:  Jackson and Lincoln
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  Why does Lincoln usually top rankings of great presidents?
2.  What were his strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
3.  What did Jackson contribute to the Presidency?
4.  What were Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader?

F:  Case Studies: Theodore Roosevelt, FDR
1. Why is FDR considered by most experts the greatest president of the 20th century?
2. What were FDR's greatest skills?
3.  What did TR contribute to the Presidency?
4.  What were his strengths and weaknesses as a leader?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #5 What criteria should be used in evaluating presidential leadership and greatness?  Why are such evaluations so difficult and often controversial?

Week 7  Domestic Policy; Economic and Budget Policy      
Read:  Edwards & Wayne, Chpts. 12, 13
           Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 7, Readings 30, 31
Special Topics:
M:  What factors dominate domestic policy and economic and budget policy?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What forces shape how presidents develop domestic policy proposals?
2.  What forces shape budgetary policies?
3.  What is the role of the president in developing these policies?
4.  What forces seem beyond the President’s control in these areas?

W:  What resources do Presidents have in these areas? 
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  Which executive office institutions are central to developing presidential domestic policy proposals?
2.  What role do those institutions play in policy implementation?
3.  Which executive office institutions are central to developing presidential budget proposals?
4.  Which executive office institutions are central to developing economic policy?
4.  How has White House policy making evolved?
5.  What are the differences between presidential persuasion and unitlateralism in policy making? 

F:  What limitations do they face in these areas?
Questions for Class Discussion: 
1.  Why do presidents often face defeat in domestic policy and budgetary policy areas?
2.  What skills should a president have to be successful in these areas?
3.  What are the most important limitations presidents face in these areas?

 Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #6  Explain the most important forces shaping the making of economic and budget policies and the role played by the key offices and institutions involved in making those policies.

Week 8  The Presidency and the Bureaucracy
Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 5, Reading 25
                              Edwards & Wayne, Chpt. 9
Special Topics:
M:  No Classes Fall Break

W: What have some recent Presidents tried to do in trying to get greater control of the federal bureaucracy? Why are Presidents so often frustrated when it comes to dealing with the federal bureaucracy?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What are the main problems presidents face when dealing with the bureaucracy?
2.  What are some of the tools available to presidents in dealing with the bureaucracy?
3.  How have recent presidents tried to reform the bureaucracy? 

F:  Note:  You will have your second test on Friday.  It will count for 1/6 of your semester grade.

Week 9     The Presidential Office, the Cabinet, and Decision Making
                 Read:  Edwards & Wayne, Chpts. 6, 7
                 Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 5, Readings 21, 22, 23, 24; Section 7, Reading 34
Special Topics:
M:  What are the principal offices and agencies which Presidents have at their disposal for decision making?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. How has the cabinet evolved over time?
2.  What are the most important offices in the White House staff?
3.  What are the most important offices in the EOP?
4.  What are the most important lessons to be learned from the establishment and evolution of the EOP?
5.  What is meant by the institutionalization of the presidency? 

W:  What roles are played by the EOP, senior White House Staff, and cabinet in the Executive Branch?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1. Why is the job of a cabinet secretary so difficult?
2. Why do some presidents become disappointed with the cabinet as an institution?
3. Why is there so often tension between cabinet officers and White House staffers?
4. How could presidents make more effective use of the cabinet? 
5. Why has the EOP and senior White House Staff become so important?

F: What are the problems of coordinating the offices serving the President?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What are the difficulties associated with overseeing the work of the White House staff?
2.  What are some of the different ways by which presidents have tried to manage the White House staff?
3.  Why are the problems of coordinating work of all the offices reporting to the president so great?
4.  What are the most important lessons to be learned about how to successful coordinate all this work?
5.  What are the most important mistakes to avoid in this area of presidential leadership?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #7 Write a position paper in which you advise a new President on the most important principles he or she should follow in organizing the work of the White House. Also explain the main sorts of problems he should try to avoid.  

Week 10 The Presidency and Foreign Policy
Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 7, Reading 33; Section 8, Readings 35-38
           Edwards & Wayne, Chpt. 14
           Milkis & Nelson, Chpts. 14, 15
           The War Powers Act, 1973 at: http://www.cs.indiana.edu/statecraft/warpow.html
           Optional:  CRS report on War Powers Act after 30 years: http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL32267.html  
Special Topics:
M: What is the extent of the President’s powers in making foreign policy?
      What limits a President’s powers in making foreign policy?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  Why are presidents the dominant player in the making of foreign policy?
2.  What forces limit presidential leadership in foreign policy?
3.  How does Fisher describe the intentions of the framers of the Constitution when it comes to foreign policy?
4.  How does Mervin go about rejecting the position taken by the constitutionalists on this matter?
5. What did Aaron Wildavsky mean by the two presidencies thesis?
6.  What is the importance of the 1936 case of United States v. Curtiss-Wright?
7.  What factors help to explain the degree of influence Congress may have on some foreign policy issues?

W: What institutional resources do President’s have in this area?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What are the advantages presidents have in dealing with Congress on foreign policy matters?
2.  What institutional resources serve the president in making foreign policy?
3.  What institutional problems confront presidential decision making in foreign policy?
4.  How did Congress try to check presidential power with the 1973 War Powers Act?
5.  How did Congress try to check presidential power with the 1972 Case Act?
6.  What are some of the other ways Congress tries to compete with the president in this area?

F:  Foreign Policy in the Clinton and Bush years
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What were the principal foreign policy issues faced by the Clinton administration?
2.  What were his problems with Congress in dealing with foreign policy issues?
3.  Why did foreign policy come to dominate the attention of the Bush administration?
4.  What changes in national security policy were advanced by the Bush administration?
5.  How do you evaluate the foreign policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise # 8 Have presidents carried their war making powers too far?  Or are such powers necessary for the security of the country?

Week 11   The Presidency and Mid-Term Congressional Elections                            
Read:  Newspaper articles on the elections this fall – you should have been reading these all semester
           The following websites may be very useful:
            http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/
            http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/election.2010/the.basics/
            http://www.foxnews.com/politics/index.html 
Special Topics:
M:  What are the most important things one should know about trends in Mid-Term Congressional Elections?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What is the record for the President’s political party in mid-term Congressional elections?
2.  What factors explain that record?
3.  What factors explain those situations in which mid-term losses are greater or lesser than the average losses for the President’s party?

W:  What factors contributed to the results of this year’s elections?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What were the most important results of this year’s mid-term elections?
2.  What factors contributed to those results?
3.  Which were the most important individual races?

F:   What do the results of this year’s elections mean for the Obama presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What is the spin our two major political parties are trying to put on this year’s election results?
2.  What do those results mean for the Obama presidency?
3.  To what extent was the election a judgment on the Obama administration?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #9 Explain the results of this year’s mid-term Congressional Elections.  What factors contributed to those results?  What do the results mean for the Obama Presidency?   

Week 12    Presidential Personality and Character; Scandals
                   Read:  Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 9, Reading 39
                              Milkis & Nelson, Chpts. 12, 13, 14
                              Edwards & Wayne, Chpt. 8
                   Watch the following documentaries online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/clinton/
Special Topics:
M: Case Study: Nixon and Watergate
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What was the political climate at the time of the Watergate scandal?
2.  Why did the break in take place?
3.  What went wrong with the cover up?
4.  What were Nixon's key errors in all of this?
5.  What character issues were at play?
6.  What were the consequences of Watergate for the presidency"
7.  What should be learned from this scandal?

W: Case Study: Reagan and Iran-Contra
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What foreign policy issues were the basis of the Iran-Contra scandal?
2.  What issues were at stake in the sale of missiles to the Iranians?
3.  What issues were involved in the transfer of funds to the Contras?
4.  What were the consequences of the scandal for the Reagan administration?
5.  What mistakes were made by the President?
6.  What were the key findings of the Tower Commission?
7.  What should be learned from this scandal?

F:  Case Study: Clinton, Lewinski and Impeachment
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What political climate existed at the time of Whitewater/Lewinski scandals and the impeachment struggle?
2.  What mistakes were made by Clinton and his critics?
3.  What can be learned from all of this?
4.  How and why did Clinton survive?

Critical Thinking Writing Exercise #10 What should be learned from the Iran-Contra scandal? What are the lessons about presidential leadership that should be learned from this scandal?

Week 13    The Presidency and the Courts, The Vice Presidency, Leadership and Democracy

Read: Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 6, Readings 28, 29
          Milkis & Nelson, Chpt.16
          Edwards & Wayne, Chpt. 11
Special Topics:
M: What is the impact of the Presidency upon the courts? What impact have the courts had on the Presidency?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  How have the courts defined the parameters of presidential power?
2.  What have been the major presidential victories before the Supreme Court?
3.  What have been the major presidential defeats before the Supreme Court?
4.  What problems have recent presidents faced with judicial nominations?
5.  Why have these nomination battles become so bitter?

W:  How has the office of the Vice President evolved in the past half century?
1.  Why have so many vice presidents in the past view the office in such negative terms?
2.  How has the office of the vice president evolved in the past half century?
3.  What factors shape how much influence a vice president might have?
4.  How important has the vice president been in the past two presidencies?
5.  What factors are involved in the controversy over the Cheney vice- presidency?

F:  Are strong presidential leadership and democracy compatible?
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  Why have some observers seen strong presidential leadership as vital to democracy?
2.  Why have other observers seen strong presidential leadership as a danger to democracy?
3.  What have been some of major reform proposals to alter the constitutional parameters of the presidency?
4.  How do you evaluate these proposals?

Week 14    Test and Thanksgiving Vacation
M: Note:  You will have your third test on Monday.  It will count for 1/6 of your semester grade.

Week 15    Recent Presidents
Read:  Milkis & Nelson, Chpts. 14, 15
            Pfiffner & Davidson, Section 7, Readings 31, 34; Section 8, Reading 37; Section 9, Readings 41, 42
Special Topics:
M: Case Study: Bill Clinton
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What problems did Clinton inherit from the Bush administration?
2.  What were the principal achievements of the Clinton administration?
3.  What were the main failures of the Clinton administration?
4.  How do you assess his leadership

W:  Case Study: George W. Bush
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What advantages and problems did Bush inherit from the Clinton administration?
2.  What problems were posed to his leadership by the 2000 election?
2.  What have been the principal achievements of the Bush administration?
3.  What have been the main failures of the Bush administration?
4.  How do you assess his leadership?

F:  Case Study: The Obama Presidency
Questions for Class Discussion:
1.  What problems did Obama inherit from the Bush administration?
2.  What have been the principal achievements of the Obama administration?
3.  What have been the main failures of the Obama administration?
4.  How do you assess his leadership?
5.  Where do you see his presidency going?
6.  What adjustments do you think he should make?
7.  How do you assess his re-election chances?
8.  What factors will most shape those chances?