Political Science 308    

The American Chief Executive

Fall 2006

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Office: Zulauf 403 753-7056

Hours: MW 11:00-12:00 & by appointment







This course provides a broad introduction to the American Presidency. We begin by examining the processes through which Presidents are selected and the historical evolution of the office. The second part of the course considers the emergence of the modern Presidency with its emphases on the President as legislative leader and national security leader.





The following books are required for the course and are available for purchase at the campus bookstores:


            Sidney M. Milkis and Michael Nelson, The American Presidency: Origins and

Development (4th Edition, 2003, CQ Press).


James P. Pfiffner, The Modern Presidency (4th Edition, 2005, Thomson-Wadsworth Press).


Glenn Greenwald, How Would a Patriot Act? (2006, Working Assets Publishing).


Other required readings must be located online. I also encourage you to keep track of: (1) this years midterm Congressional Elections; and (2) Presidents Bushs ongoing efforts to maintain congressional, judicial, and popular support for his various policies. Several good news agencies that follow Washington politics closely are available online, free of charge, including washingtonpost.com, and nytimes.com. In addition, a very useful specialty publication, nationaljournal.com, is free if you have access to the NIU computer network. Please take advantage of one or more of these news sources as you take this course.





Exams. One midterm and a final exam will be given. Each exam will contribute 50% toward your final grade. Both will have a significant long essay component plus some multiple choice, identification, and/or matching questions.


Attendance and Proper Decorum. Attendance is not formally computed into your grade but I expect you to come to class regularly, to be on time when at all possible, to exhibit proper decorum in the classroom, and to do the assigned readings on schedule. To encourage you in this regard I reserve the right to increase a final course grade by up to one-third of a letter as a reward for good class participation. To help me learn your names I will set up a seating chart next week and from then on keep a daily record of attendance.


Cell Phones, etc. Cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices are generally forbidden and should be turned off upon entering the classroom. Any exceptions to this policy must be explicitly negotiated, in advance, with the instructor. First time violators will receive a friendly rebuke. Repeat violators will be asked to leave the classroom.

Makeup exams and grades of incomplete will be provided cheerfully when needed, but only for reasons of significant illness, personal tragedy, or other similarly extraordinary circumstances, and documentary evidence of the extraordinary circumstances normally must be provided by the student.


Students with Disabilities. NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type of accommodation, please let me know. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with NIUs Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to working with you.






Part I: Setting the Stage



Aug. 29  Introduction to the course



Sept. 5  Presidential Nominations and Elections


Milkis and Nelson, pp. 30-34.

Pfiffner, pp. 6-11 and Ch. 2, pp. 16-42.

            V.O. Key, A Theory of Critical Elections, Journal of Politics (1955), pp. 3-11 only.

            (Locate at www.jstor.org using an NIU Internet connection).



Sept. 12  Party Realignment and Presidential Leadership


Bibby, "The Party Battle in America," Ch. 2 in John Bibby, Politics, Parties and Elections

in America (Wadsworth, 4th Edition, 2000). (e-reserves)

            Campbell, "A Classification of the Presidential Elections." (e-reserves)

            Skowronek, Presidential Leadership in Political Time. (e-reserves)




Part II: The Presidency in the 18th and 19th Centuries



Sept. 19  The Presidency in the Constitution


            Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 1-2.

            Federalist Papers #48 (paragraphs 1-3), #51 (paragraphs 1-5) and #69 (all).

Locate at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm

Greenwald, Ch. 4, pp. 79-84 in How Would a Patriot Act?

Charlie Savage, Bush Could Bypass New Torture Ban, Boston Globe article at:




Sept. 26  Implementing the Presidency: The Federalists and the Jeffersonians


            Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 3-4.



Oct. 3  Presidential Leadership in the Jacksonian Era; The Rise of Lincoln and the Republican Party


            Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 5-6.

            Skowronek, review pp. 127-133 (Jackson), 137-144 (Polk), and 151-157 (Pierce).



Oct. 10  The 19th Century Reaction Against Presidential Power and the Re-emergence of Strong

Presidential Leadership in the Progressive Era


Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 7-9.


Oct. 17  Midterm Exam



Part III: The Modern Presidency


Oct. 24  Last Gasps of the Deferential Presidency; The Rise of the New Deal and the Modern Presidency


            Milkis and Nelson, Ch 10 and Ch. 11, pp. 270-286.

            Skowronek, review pp. 127-129, 134-137 (FDR).

            Pfiffner, Ch. 3.



Oct. 31  Organizing the Presidency in the Post-WW II, New Deal Era


            Pfiffner, Ch. 4-5.

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 11, pp. 286-304, and Ch. 12 (all).

            Skowronek, review pp. 137-139, 145-151 (JFK), and pp. 151-153, 157-163 (Carter).



Nov. 7  The President as Legislative Leader; Going Public


Pfiffner, Ch. 6 and pp. 43-52.

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 13 and review pp. 310-314.



Nov. 14  The President and National Security I


            Pfiffner, Ch. 7, pp. 196-223.

            Milkis and Nelson, review pp. 282-304 (HST and Eisenhower confront the Cold War); and

pp. 322-323 (LBJ and Gulf of Tonkin Resolution).

            Youngstown Co. v. Sawyer (1952). Locate at www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html using

the Party Name Search box. Read the opinion of the Court by Justice Black and give a close

reading to the concurring opinion by Justice Jackson (scroll down to find it).

Peter W. Galbraith, Mindless in Iraq, Section 1 only; at www.nybooks.com/articles/19197



Nov. 21  The President and National Security II: The War on Terror


            Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 15.

            Pfiffner, Ch. 7, pp. 224-235.

            Erwin Chemerinsky, Speakers Cornered, at www.slate.com/id/2146477

            Akhil Reed Amar, Stealing First, at www.slate.com/id/2146007

            Greenwald, Ch. 1 in How Would a Patriot Act?

            George F. Will, No Checks, Many Imbalances, (e-reserves)

            Erwin Chemerinsky, Every Executive Needs a Limit, at www.slate.com/id/2147955

            Stuart Taylor, Wiretap: How To Fix FISA, locate at www.nationaljournal.com



Nov. 28  The President and National Security III: The War on Terror


            Greenwald, Ch. 2-3 in How Would a Patriot Act?

            Excerpt from Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004). (e-reserves)

            David Cole, Why the Court Said No [in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 2006].

            Locate at www.nybooks.com/articles/19212

            John Sifton, Criminal, Immunize Thyself, at www.slate.com/id/2147585

            Harvey Mansfield, The Law and the President, locate online at:




Dec. 5  Abuse of Power and Reputation


Pfiffner, Ch. 8.

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 14.



Dec. 12  FINAL EXAM  In this classroom from 6:00  7:50.