POLS 308: The American Chief Executive Syllabus

Northern Illinois University

DeKalb, IL 60115

(815) 753-1015

www.niu.edu, http://polisci.niu.edu



Course Title:  The American Chief Executive

Course Number: POLS 308, Section 1

Class Location: DuSable Building, Room 461

Semester: Spring, 2008


I. Faculty Information

            a. Instructor:  Geoff Rogal (nomad14005@comcast.net)

            b. Office Location:  DuSable 476

            c. Office Hours:          Monday: 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Wednesday: 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Friday: 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Also, By Appointment

            d. Mailbox Location: Zulauf 415, Outside of Departmental Office

e. Department Phone #: (815) 753-1015 (leave a message with Karen Schweitzer,                  Administrative Assistant, Political Science Department).


II. Course Identification:

            a.   Credit Hours: 3

            b.   Total Credit Hours: 3

            c.   Days and Hours Course Meets: Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 9:00-9:50 a.m.

            d.   Prerequisite:  At least sophomore standing or consent of department. A                               previous course in American politics (POLS 100, 150) is highly recommended.

            e.   Corequisite: None

            f.    Course Description:

Within this course, we will explore the philosophical and constitutional origins of the American Chief Executive and the evolution of the office to gain a greater understanding for the role the President occupies in modern American politics.  To this end, theoretical, historical, legal, institutional and psychological approaches will be used to examine the Presidency and those individuals who have served the office. Special attention will be given to the institutional Presidency and its relationship with Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as the influence public opinion and the media have on the office.  Finally, the philosophical and theoretical foundations of Presidential leadership, ethics, and decision-making and their influences on public policy will be explored.





III. Textbooks/Reading List:

            a. Required

1. Edwards, George, C. and Stephen J. Wayne. 2006. Presidential  

    Leadership: Politics and Policy Making. Seventh Edition. Belmont,

    CA: Thomson Publishing Co.


2. Milkis, Sidney M. and Michael Nelson. 2008. The American   

    Presidency: Origins and Development. Fifth Edition. Washington, DC:  

    CQ Press.


3. Pfiffner, James P. 2008. The Modern Presidency. Fifth Edition.

    Belmont, CA: Thomson Publishing Co.


Additional handouts and required readings listed below may be accessed via web addresses, Blackboard or through NIU’s electronic library.  It is your responsibility to read these articles before attending class.


            b. Recommended

                        1. Brinkley, Alan and Davis Dyer. 2004. The American Presidency. Boston:                         Houghton Mifflin Co.


IV. Program/Course Goals or Major Purposes:

            a.   To think critically

            b.   To understand the origin, powers and structure of the Executive Branch.

            c.   To gain a better understanding of the selection, tenure, succession, and                                      leadership of the American chief executive in the policy, administrative, and   

                   legislative processes of American government.  

            d.   To understand the concept of separation of powers.

            e.   To better understand the United States Constitution.

            f.    To understand the role of the President in formulating and implementing the    

                  annual federal budget.

            g.   To investigate the influence special interest groups, the media and public                                  opinion have on the President.   

            h.   To understand the history and role of the federal bureaucracy in the American

                   political process.

            i.    To understand the relationship between the President, Congress and the

                  Supreme Court.

            j.    To gain a better understanding of Presidential War Powers.

            k.  To investigate the role Presidential leadership and decision making have on 

                  public policy formulation and implementation.







V. Classroom Policies/Procedures, i.e. The Rules of the Game

a. Any student who fails to complete the following assignments will not receive a       

satisfactory grade for this course.

            b. Withdrawal Policy:

A student who does not withdraw from the course by March 7, 2008 may receive a grade of ‘F', depending on course progress and\or course attendance, which will become a part of the student's permanent record.  Please note the withdraw date at www.courselistings.niu.edu

            c. Final Exam Dates:

                        Final Exam: Wednesday, 5/7/08 from 8:00-9:50 a.m. in DuSable 461

            d. Turn off cell phones, pagers, MP 3 players and Blackberries before the start of                           all classes. If  you have a computer, please do not surf the web, work on                                  other assignments or chat during class. 

            e. Be considerate of your classmates.

f. Attendance Policy:

From past teaching experiences, I have amassed substantial empirical evidence suggesting a student who attends class regularly is more likely to perform at a higher level during course evaluations (examinations, papers, class participation) than a student who is frequently tardy or absent from scheduled classes. So, come to class! While attendance is not required, it is strongly recommended. You, or somebody else, are/is paying for this opportunity to gain knowledge—Take advantage of it!    


Once again, please attend class.  The examinations will consist of lecture materials, and information absorbed, comprehended and otherwise discerned from assigned readings.  However, I understand a class may be missed, skipped or “blown off” on occasion.  It is your responsibility to acquire the missed class material. Please, don’t—I repeat—do not ask me for lecture notes or missed materials. If a class is missed, ask a fellow student for the lecture notes. You might have to wash his\her car, but the reward of increased knowledge and understanding is worth it!!!


            g. Cheating, Plagiarism and Student Conduct:

                        If found cheating on an exam, the student(s) will receive a grade of zero for                       that exam.  If plagiarism occurs, the student(s) will also receive a                                               zero for that paper, activity or project.  Northern Illinois permits the                                     instructor to withdraw the student(s) from the course if found plagiarizing                               or cheating on an assignment, paper or examination.  I will not hesitate in                           doing so in the aforementioned cases. Each student is responsible for                                  adhering to the code of Student Conduct as stated in the NIU Undergraduate              Student Catalogue.






VI. Grading Policies/Procedures:

            a.   There will be three (3) examinations.  Each examination will be worth 100                                points.  You will be tested on the required readings from the textbooks,                              websites and handouts, as well as the information presented during class                                   lectures. The examinations will consist of multiple choice, matching, short                                   answer and essay        questions. Make-up exams and incompletes will be allowed           only with the PRIOR approval of the instructor. 


b.   Additionally, you will be required to complete a research paper. The research   paper will explore some aspect of the George W. Bush Presidency. Your grade         will be determined by your ability to compose a well-written, legible,   grammatically correct research paper (minimum 7 pages in length with 5 cited       scholarly sources, double-spaced, spell-checked and typed). The paper will be evaluated according to the quality (support for the thesis, spelling, grammar,      sentence structure, organization) of the information presented. The             expectations for the paper will be discussed in detail during the second week of       class.  The final paper (in hard copy-no emailed copies) will be due on         April 18, 2008.  No exceptions! However, papers may be submitted prior to       April 18, 2008.  No late papers will be accepted. The research paper      will be             worth 80 points.


However, to assure you are actively researching your chosen paper topic, I will have you submit a paper proposal (abstract) by February 15, 2008 stating your thesis and providing an annotated bibliography including 4 sources (basically, cite each source and provide 3-4 sentences explaining why the book or journal article is relevant to your research topic).  This will be worth 20 points.


c.   The final grade will be based upon your performance on and successful            completion of the aforementioned examinations and research paper.


d.   The individual assignments will comprise the following percentages of your   

      final grade:

                  Examination #1                       100 points       (25%)

                  Examination #2                      100 points       (25%)

                  Examination #3                       100 points       (25%)             

                  Research Paper Abstract           20 points       (05%)

                  Research Paper:                         80 points       (20%)

                                                      Total:   400 points       100%

e.   The grading scale will be as follows:

                                    360-400 points =A

                                    320-359 points =B

                                    280-319 points =C

                                    240-279 points =D

                                    239 or below     =F     


            d.    No extra credit will be awarded.


VII. Students With Disabilities:

NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that 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 tell me early in the semester so I can help you attain the needed assistance.  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 (telephone #: 753-1303). 


VIII.   Student Athletes

            Student athletes should submit the official NIU Student-Athlete Academic Support          Services (SAASS) form to me as soon as possible. Failure to do so will result in            unsatisfactory reports when academic progress is requested from the NIU         Associate Director of Athletics.



IX. Course Schedule/Calendar:

 Spring 2008 Semester Course Outline and Required Reading Assignments

(Assigned Readings and Examinations May Change At the Discretion of Instructor. If so, I will inform the class prior to the change(s). 


Week/Date:                                         Required Readings


Part I: The Origins and Evolution of the Presidency


First Week                              

January 14:                              Introduction, distribute syllabi and other necessary stuff


January 16:                              Lecture: Approaches to Studying the Presidency

                                                Reading: Edwards and Wayne, Chapter 1, pp. 13-27


January 18:                              Reading: Pfiffner, Chapter 1, pp. 1-18


Second Week                                     

January 21:                              No Class, Martin Luther King Day!


January 23, 25:                        Lecture: The Constitutional Convention and Creating                                                                          the Presidency

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 1, pp. 1-23 and Chapter 2,                                                                                                pp. 26-63 (pay special attention to pp.                                                                                    60-62)

                                                                Federalist Papers #s 47-48 can be accessed via:

http://www.conservativetruth.org/library/fed47.html (Paragraphs 1-3)


Third Week    

January 28, 30:                        Lecture: The Pre-modern Presidency and Sources of                                                                            Constitutional Ambiguities  

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 3 (George Washington and John                                                                    Adams), pp. 68-93 and 

                                                             Pacificus/Helvidius Debates, Access from the                                                                              website:



February 1:                              Readings: Milkis, Chapter 4(Thomas Jefferson), pp. 97-114                                                              and

                                                                  Milkis, Chapter 2, pp. 63-64 and Chapter 16                                                                                (Vice-President), pp. 451-461


Fourth Week                          

February 4                               Lecture: Jacksonian Democracy

                                                (Distribute handout: Elite versus Popular Democracy)

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter 5, pp. 121-147


February 6, 8:                          Lecture: Expanding Presidential Power

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 6 (Abraham Lincoln), pp.                                                                                     151-170 and Chapter 7 (Reaction against                                                                              Presidential Power), pp. 173-180                     


Fifth Week                             

February 11, 13:                      Lecture: The Rise of Executive Power, the Progressives

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 8, pp. 208-232 and Chapter 9,                                                      pp. 237-255


February 15:                            Research Paper Proposal due by the beginning  of class!

                                                Lecture: The End of the Progressive Era

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter10, pp. 258-277      


Sixth Week

February 18:                            Lecture: Selecting the President

                                                (Distribute Handout: The Nomination Process)

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 2, pp. 28-58 and

                                                                  Pfiffner, Chapter 2, pp. 19-25


February 20:                            Review for Examination #1


February 22:                            Examination #1(Weeks 1-6)






Part II: The Modern Presidency


Seventh Week            

February 25:                            Reading: Milkis Chapter 10, The Triumph of Conservative                                                                Republicanism, pp. 258-277


February 27, 29:                      Lecture: The Consolidation of Executive Power

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter 11, pp. 280-317


Eighth Week

March 3:                                  Lecture: The Executive Office of the President

                                                Reading: Pfiffner, Chapter 4, The Institutional Presidency                                                                pp. 100-114


March 5, 7:                              Lecture: The Presidential Election

                                                (Distribute Handout: The Electoral College)

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 3, pp. 59-99 and

                                                                Pfiffner, Chapter 2, pp. 25-45


Ninth Week                            

March 10-14:                           Spring Break, No Classes!! 


Part III: The President and the Public


Tenth Week

March 17:                                Lecture: Public Opinion and Polling

                                                Reading: Edwards, Chapter 4, pp. 100-146


March 19, 21:                          Lecture: Personalizing the Presidency. Kennedy-Carter

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 12, pp. 323-360 and

                                                                 Pfiffner, Chapter 6, pp. 173-181


Eleventh Week

March 24:                                Lecture: The President and the Media

                                                Readings: Pfiffner, Chapter 2, pp. 45-54 and

                                                                 Edwards, Chapter 5, pp. 154-192


March 26:                                Review for Examination #2


March 28:                                Examination #2 (Weeks 7-11)         






      Part IV: Institutional Checks on the Executive Branch


Twelfth Week                        

March 31:                                Lecture: The President and Congress

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 10, pp. 330-376 and

                                                                 Pfiffner, Chapter, 6, pp. 153-171


April 2 and 4:                          Lecture: The President and the Judiciary

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 11 pp. 378-404 and

                                                                Pfiffner, Chapter 8, pp. 255-284


Thirteenth Week

April 7, 9:                                Lecture: The Federal Bureaucracy    

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 9, pp. 286-324 and

                                                                 Pfiffner, Chapter 5, pp. 120-146


April 11:                                  Lecture: The Federal Budget

                                                Reading: Edwards, Chapter 13, pp. 442-471


Part V: Executive Leadership


Fourteenth Week                               

April 14:                                  Lecture: Presidential Decision Making: Domestic Policy

                                                Reading: Edwards, Chapter 12, pp. 409-438


April 16:                                  Lecture: Presidential Decision Making: Foreign Policy

                                                Readings: Edwards, Chapter 14, pp. 475-494 and

                                                                 Pfiffner, Chapter 7, pp. 203-217


April 18:                                  Research Paper Due (Final Draft)!!!!!!!!


Fifteenth Week                      

April 21:                                  Lecture: The Presidency of Ronald Reagan

                                                Readings: Milkis, Chapter 13, pp. 366-393 and

                                                                  Pfiffner, pp. 181-184


April 23 and 25:                      Lecture: Case Studies in Presidential Leadership and                                                                        Decision Making

                                                Reading: Pfiffner, Chapter 7, pp. 217-248








Sixteenth Week

April 28:                                  Lecture: The Presidency of Bill Clinton

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter 14, pp. 398-419


April 30:                                  Lecture: The Presidency of George W. Bush and Beyond

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter 15, pp. 423-447


May 2:                                     Review for Examination #3


Seventeenth Week                              Final Exam Week


May 7, 2008                           Examination #3 (Weeks 12-16)

                                                Special Time: Wednesday: 8:00-9:50 a.m.

                                       (This time is designated by the university)