Political Science 308/495 (Hoffman Estates)

The American Chief Executive

Professor Wyckoff, Spring 2005

Office: Zulauf 403

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

815/753-7056 mwyckoff@niu.edu



This course provides a broad introduction to the American Presidency. We begin by examining the historical evolution of the office and the processes through which Presidents are selected. The second part of the course considers the modern Presidency with a particular emphasis on the role of the President as legislative 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).

Other readings, in the form of handouts or articles located online, will also be assigned from time to time. All students, furthermore, are expected to keep track of President’s Bush’s efforts to steer his policy agenda through the Congress this year. One of the essay questions on the final exam will deal with this issue. Several good newspapers that follow Washington politics closely and regularly are available online, free of charge, including www.washingtonpost.com , and www.nytimes.com. In addition, a very useful specialty publication, www.nationaljournal.com, is available free if you have an NIU account. Please take advantage of one or more of these news sources as you take this course.



Exams. A midterm and a final exam will be given. For POLS 308 students, Exam 1 will contribute 40% toward your final grade and Exam 2 will contribute 60%. Both exams will have a significant long essay component plus a few additional items such as multiple choice and/or identification questions.

POLS 495 Credit. Students taking the course as POLS 495 will need to read an additional book on the Presidency chosen from a list to be provided by the instructor. Each student will then summarize and critique the central ideas in his or her book in a 5-10 page paper, typed and double-spaced. For students in POLS 495, this assignment will count as 30% of your final grade and Exams 1 and 2 will count as 30% and 40%, respectively.

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, 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 be setting up a seating chart about one week from today, and from then on will keep a daily record of attendance.

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 must be provided by the student.

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

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 instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can help you obtain needed assistance. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to working with you to enhance your academic success in this course.





Feb. 3 – Introduction to the course

Feb. 10 – Presidential Nominations and Elections

Milkis and Nelson, pp. 30-34.

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

Feb. 17 – The Partisan Structure of Presidential Politics

*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)



Feb. 24 – The Presidency in the Constitution

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 1-2.

Federalist Papers #48 (paragraphs 1-3) and #51 (paragraphs 1-5) in documents located at:


Mar. 3 – Implementing the Presidency: The Federalists and the Jeffersonians

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 3-4.


SPRING BREAK: Week of March 14

Mar. 24 – The Jacksonians, the Lincoln Republicans and the Reaction Against Presidential Power

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 5-7.



Mar. 31 – Transitional Presidents: T.R., Wilson and F.D.R.

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 8-9, Ch. 10 (esp. pp. 261-265), and Ch. 11 (esp. pp. 270-286).

Apr. 7 – Organizing the Modern Presidency

Pfiffner, Ch. 3-5.

Apr. 14 – The President as Legislative Leader

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

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 12.

Apr. 21 – The President and the Budget Process

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 13-15.

Apr. 28 – The President and National Security

Pfiffner, Ch. 7.

Milkis and Nelson, review pp. 286-304 in Ch. 11 (Truman and Eisenhower).

May 5 – Abuse of Power and Reputation

Pfiffner, Ch. 8.

Milkis and Nelson, review relevant material for Grant, Harding, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton.




List of Additional Readings for POLS 495 Students:

William G. Mayer, The Making of the Presidential Candidates, 2004. Rowman and Littlefield (2004).

Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make. Harvard-Balknap (1997).

Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents. Simon and Schuster (1991).

Fred I. Greenstein, The Hidden-Hand Presidency. Johns Hopkins Press (1994).

James David Barber, The Presidential Character. Pearson Education (1992).

Samuel Kernell, Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership. CQ Press (1997).

Jon R. Bond and Richard Fleisher, The President in the Legislative Arena. U. of Chicago (1990).

Kenneth R. Mayer, With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power. Princeton University Press (2002).