Political Science 308 (Main Campus)

The American Chief Executive

Professor Wyckoff, Spring 2005

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

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 are also 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 washingtonpost.com, and nytimes.com. In addition, a very useful specialty publication, 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. Two midterms and a final exam will be given. Each exam will contribute 33.3% toward your final grade. All will have a significant long essay component plus a few additional items such as multiple choice and/or identification questions.

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.

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, 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.

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.





Jan. 19 – Introduction to the course

Jan. 26 – Presidential Nominations and Elections

Milkis and Nelson, pp. 30-34.

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

Feb. 2 – 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. 9 – 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: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm

Feb. 16 – Implementing the Presidency: The Federalists and the Jeffersonians

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 3-4.

Feb. 23 – EXAM I

Mar. 2 – Jackson, Lincoln and the 19th Century Reaction Against Presidential Power

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 5-7.

Mar. 9 – 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).

SPRING BREAK: Week of March 14



Mar. 23 – Organizing the Modern Presidency

Pfiffner, Ch. 3-5.

Mar. 30 – The President and National Security

Pfiffner, Ch. 7.

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

April 6 – Exam II


April 13 – The President as Legislative Leader; Going Public

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

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 12.

April 20– The President and the Budget Process

Milkis and Nelson, Ch. 13-15.

April 27 – Abuse of Power and Reputation I

Pfiffner, Ch. 8.

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

May 4 – Abuse of Power and Reputation II

Pfiffner, Ch. 8 (finish).

May 11 – FINAL EXAM – In this classroom from 6:00 – 7:50.