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, 2009


I. Faculty Information

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

            b. Office Location:  DuSable 476

            c. Office Hours:          Wednesday: 11:00a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Thursday: 2:00-3:30 p.m.

Also, By Appointment

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

e. Department Phone #: (815) 753-1015 (leave a message with one of the       

administrative assistants at the Political Science Department).


II. Course Identification:

            a.   Credit Hours: 3

            b.   Total Credit Hours: 3

            c.   Days and Hours Course Meets: Tuesday/Thursday: 12:30-1:45 p.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.Campbell, Colin et al. 2008.  The George W. Bush Legacy. Washington,

DC: CQ Press.

2. Kernell, Samuel. 2007.  Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential

Leadership. Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

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

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

4. Neustadt, Richard E. 1990. Presidential Power and the Modern

Presidents. New York: The Free Press.

5. Pika, Joseph and John Maltese.  2008.  The Politics of the Presidency. 

Seventh Edition. Washington, DC: CQ Press.  


Additional handouts and required readings listed below may be accessed via web addresses, Blackboard or through NIU’s electronic reserves.  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 6, 2009 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: May 7, 2009 at 12:00 pm 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 as this is distracting to other students

and disrespectful towards the instructor. 

            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!

Furthermore, 50 points of your final grade is based upon the quantity and quality of your participation.  I expect everyone to contribute during class discussions! Moreover, information will be presented during lectures and discussions that will not be found in the required readings.  

Once again, please attend class.  The examinations will consist of lecture materials, and information absorbed, comprehended and otherwise discerned from assigned readings and lectures.  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.

            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.  Please consult NIU’s Academic Integrity webpage at

www.ai.niu.edu/ai/ for further information.



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 8 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 and emailed to me) will be due on        April 21, 2009.  No exceptions! However, papers may be submitted prior to      April 21st.  No late papers will be accepted. The paper is worth 100 pts.


However, to assure you are actively researching your chosen paper topic, I will have you submit a paper proposal (abstract) by February 17, 2009 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).  The abstract is worth 50 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       (20%)

                  Examination #2                      100 points       (20%)

                  Examination #3                       100 points       (20%)             

                  Research Paper                        100 points       (20%) 

Abstract                                    50 points      (10%)

                  Attendance/Participation           50 points      (10%)

                                                      Total:   500 points       100%

e.   The grading scale will be as follows:

                                    450-500 points =A

                                    400-449 points =B

                                    350-399 points =C

                                    300-349 points =D

                                    299 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 #: 815-753-1303). 


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 2009 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 13:                              Introduction, distribute syllabi and other necessary stuff


January 15:                              Lecture: Approaches to Studying the Presidency

                                                Readings:  Campbell, Chapter 14, the Legacy of the George

W. Bush Presidency-A Revolutionary President? pp. 325-34

and Pika, Chapter 1, pp. 1-31

Second Week                                     

January 20:                              Lecture: The Constitutional Convention and Creating                                                                          the Presidency

Readings: Milkis, Chapter 1, pp. 1-23,

Article, Roche; “The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus

In Action” Blackboard

Handouts: The Articles of Confederation, Debate of the Constitutional Convention and Checks and Balances Blackboard


January 22:                              Readings: Milkis, Chapter 2,   pp. 26-63 (pay special

           attention to pp. 60-62)

Federalist Papers #s 47, 48 and 51 can be accessed via:

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




Third Week    

January 27:                              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:



January 29:                              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 3                               Lecture: Jacksonian Democracy

                                                (Elite versus Popular Democracy) Blackboard

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


February 5:                              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 10:                            Lecture: The Rise of Executive Power, the Progressives

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


February 12:                            Lecture: The End of the Progressive Era

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter10, pp. 258-277      


Sixth Week

February 17:                            Research Paper Proposal due by the beginning of class!

Lecture: the Evolution of the Presidential Selection Process

Readings: Pika, Chapter 2, pp. 37-83,

Handouts: The Nomination Process & Electoral College



February 19                             Lecture: The Permanent Campaign

                                                Reading: Pika, pp. 136-137

Review for Examination #1

Part II: The Modern Presidency


Seventh Week            

February 24:                            Examination #1(Weeks 1-6)


February 26:                            Lecture: The Modern Presidency

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


Eighth Week

March 3:                                  Lecture: The Consolidation of Executive Power

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


March 5:                                  Lecture: and the Executive Office of the President                 

Readings: Pika, Chapter 6, pp. 246-89 and the Economic

Sub presidency, pp. 388-407


Ninth Week                            

March 9-13:                             Spring Break, No Classes!! 


      Part III: Institutional Checks on the Executive Branch


Tenth Week                            

March 17:                                Lecture: The President and Congress

                                                Reading: Pika, Chapter 5, pp. 200-238


March 19:                                Lecture: The President and the Judiciary

                                                Reading: Pika, Chapter 7, pp. 298-327


Eleventh Week

March 24:                                Lecture: Presidential Leadership in the Washington                                                                           Community

                                                Reading: Neustadt, Preface-p 49 (Chapter 3)


March 26:                                Lecture: The Federal Budget and Economic Policy

                                                Reading: Neustadt, pp. 50-90 (Chapters 4-5)


Twelfth Week

March 31:                                Lecture: The War Powers Act of 1973 and

Signing Statements and Executive Orders

Reading: Pika, pp. 221-23

Review for Exam #2


April 2:                                    Examination #2: (Weeks 7-12)




Part IV: The President and the Public


Thirteenth Week

April 7:                                    Lecture: The President and the Public

                                                Reading: Pika, Chapter 3, pp. 93-136


April 9:                                    Lecture: Personalizing the Presidency. Kennedy-Carter

                                                            and Psychological Approaches to Assessing

Presidential Character

                                                Reading: Milkis, Chapter 12, pp. 323-360


Fourteenth Week

April 14:                                  Lecture: The Presidency of Ronald Reagan                           

Readings: Milkis, Chapter 13, pp. 366-385


April 16:                                  Lecture: Going Public

                                                Reading: Kernell, pp. 1-45 (Chapters 1 and 2)


Fifteenth Week

April 21:                                  Research Paper Due (Final Draft)!!!!!!!!

                                                Lecture: Avenues of Going Public

                                                Reading: Kernell, pp. 48-106 (Chapters 3 and 4)


April 23:                                  Lecture: The Growth of Going Public and a Case Study of

Going Public: Reagan and His First Three Budgets

                                                Reading: Kernell, pp. 110-177(Chapters 5 and 6)


Part V: Executive Leadership and Public Policy


Sixteenth Week                                  

April 28:                                  Lecture: Presidential Decision Making: Domestic Policy

                                                Reading: Pika, Chapter 8, pp. 333-362


April 30:                                  Lecture: Presidential Decision Making: National Security

and Foreign Policy

                                                Reading: Pika, chapter 10, pp. 412-446


(I will schedule a review session for the final exam for those students interested)


Seventeenth Week                              Final Exam Week


May 7, 2009                           Examination #3 (Weeks 13-16)

                                                Special Time; same location: Thursday: 12:00-1:50 pm

                                      (This time is designated by the university)