POLS 672  The U.S. Presidency 


Semester: Fall 2008
Section:  01
Class Time: Wednesday 7:00-9:50pm 
Classroom: Butte Hall 209 


Instructor: Dr. Charles C. Turner 
Email: ccturner@csuchico.edu
Phone: (530)898-6506(office)
Office: 741A Butte Hall
Office Hours: Wednesday 3-5pm

                   (and by request)

Scope and Purpose

This is a graduate course on the American Presidency.  We will begin with a thorough examination of the role the presidency has played in American constitutionalism.  Then we will focus on the problem of consistency and change in the institution over time.  Our final focus will be on the variety of approaches scholars have taken to studying the presidency.  Throughout, we will be examining both the content and the form of arguments about the presidency in an effort to enhance both our knowledge of the office and our understanding of political science as an academic discipline.  In other words, this is not a course on "Anecdotes About Presidents" but rather a graduate seminar on the development and dynamics of presidential scholarship.  Some of the questions we will explore include:  How do we assess presidential success and failure?  What are the most effective ways of studying the presidency? Is presidential behavior best explained by the institutional and temporal context, individual character and personality, the formal rules of the office, or some combination of these?  In addition to class discussion and shorter writings, you will have an opportunity to address these questions more formally in a seminar/research paper that assesses a presidential crisis.

The format of the class will emphasize and encourage student involvement. Most weeks will consist of a short lecture by the instructor, presentation of one or more book reviews, and discussion and critique of the week's readings. Discussion questions will be generated through short writing assignments. You should expect to come to class each week having completed the assigned reading and prepared to discuss its merits and the questions it raises.

We will be discussing a wide range of issues in this class.  Sometimes you will have questions:  feel free to ask them.  Sometimes you will disagree with a classmate.  Sometimes you will disagree with me.  That's okay!  The political process is about deliberation and reasonable people often disagree.

Course Readings

The following eight books are required for the course and are available at the Associated Students Bookstore (underlined titles are links to publisher web pages--you are welcome to purchase the books from whatever source you like):

Barber, James David.  2009.  Presidential Character:  Predicting Performance in the White House, 5th edNew York:  Prentice Hall/Longman Classics, 9780205652594.

Greenstein, Fred I.  2004.  The Presidential Difference.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 0-691-11909-0. (any edition is fine)

Han, Lori Cox, and Caroline Heldman. 2007. Rethinking Madam President. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 978-1-58826-519-7.

Kernell, Samuel. 2007. Going Public, 4th ed.. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1-56802-899-7.

Schumaker, Paul D., and Burdett A. Loomis. 2002. Choosing a President. New York: Chatham House/CQ, 1-889119-53-9.

Schwarz, Jr., Frederick A. O., and Aziz Z. Huq. 2008. Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror. New York: The New Press, 978-1-59558-347-5.

Skowronek, Stephen. 2008. Presidential Leadership in Political Time. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 978-0-7006-1575-9.

Thach, Jr., Charles C. 2007. The Creation of the Presidency, 1775-1789. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 978-0-86597-697-9.

These books will be supplemented with reading from other sources.  These additional readings are available on the internet (see below).  You will need to access this syllabus on the web on a regular basis in order to complete the readings and other class assignments.

Course Requirements and Grading
For the University grading guidelines, consult the University Catalog.

Your grade for the course will be based on the following:

These are the outcomes:

weekly précis

100 pts.


book review

60 pts.


research paper

200 pts.



40 pts.



400 pts.




372-400 pts.


















0-279 pts.

69% and below


Weekly Précis:  On each of five weeks over the course of the semester (beginning September 10th at the earliest) you should come to class with a 1-2 page (typed, double spaced) précis of the week's assigned reading.  The précis should succinctly summarize the main points of the reading, comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the author's argument(s), and raise questions for class discussion (these questions will be used to form part of the class discussion of that reading). Your first one should include a printed and signed copy of Chico State's Policy on Academic Integrity. Sign it to indicate that you understand what plagiarism is, staple these two things together and bring them to class. These are worth 20 points each for a total of 100 points. Only the first two pages will be read.

Book Review:  On September 10th you will sign up for one additional reading in order to write a book review.  You will be responsible for writing a thorough review (about 4-5 pages) of the additional reading you select, due the day indicated below.  Your review should thoroughly describe the form and content of the author's argument, assess and critique the book’s strengths and weaknesses within the context of its contribution to our understanding of the presidency, assess and critique the book’s organization and method, and discuss appropriate audiences for the book.  You are responsible for bringing enough copies of the summary for distribution to the entire class and the professor (preferably double-sided).  You are also responsible for leading a brief (about five minute) discussion on the book’s topic during class.  Since your book might not be readily available at Meriam Library (meaning that you might need to use inter-library loan), you need to get started on this early. We will discuss this assignment in more detail in class and look at some examples.

Research Paper:  On December 10th you will turn in a research paper (about 15 pages) that investigates a presidential crisis.  While you are not required to use one of the topics from this list, you do need to have your topic approved by the instructor.  Your bibliography must include at least 8 academic sources, including at least 2 articles from scholarly journals.  Your paper should thoroughly describe the crisis (demonstrating independent research) and should thoroughly address how each of the following factors played a role in the outcome of this crisis: the framing and language of the Constitution, the president's personality and leadership style, and the time period (demonstrating an understanding of assigned class readings).  Your paper's thesis should make an argument about how scholars should interpret the president's actions.

Participation:  Class attendance and participation are vital elements of a graduate seminar.  You should come to each class prepared to discuss the week's readings.  We will be learning a lot through active participation in discussions--working though our ideas and interpretations out loud, with our classmates.  I will call on you to answer questions if I have to, but would prefer that you all participate voluntarily.  I'm not expecting "right" answers--sometimes there isn't a right answer; I am expecting thoughtful and intelligent answers that demonstrate you have done the reading and are paying attention.

Other Details
You must make arrangements with the instructor ahead of time if you cannot attend a class session or complete an assignment on time. Late assignments will be assessed a full one letter grade penalty (10%) for each class period they are late. Students are expected to complete their own work. Academic dishonesty will result in a zero on the assignment and formal charges with Student Judicial Affairs. For questions or concerns about plagiarism, please ask me or consult the University Catalog's section on Academic Honesty and the University's Policy on Academic Integrity. The instructor reserves the right to check papers via Turnitn.com. (If you object to the use of turnitin.com, you are welcome to choose an alternative recommended by turnitin: “turn in a photocopy of the first page of all reference sources used, an annotated bibliography, and a one page paper reflecting on your research methodology.”) If you are unhappy with a grade you receive on an assignment, do not understand my comments, or believe that I have mis-interpreted your writing, come talk to me.  It is always possible that I have erred. This syllabus is subject to change and/or revision during the academic term.  Turn off cell phones, pagers, and other distracting devices during class.  If your cell phone rings during class you will be expected to leave the classroom for the remainder of the period.

If you have a documented disability that may require reasonable accommodation, please contact Disability Support Services (DSS) for coordination of your academic accommodations. DSS is located in Room 100 of the University Center. The DSS phone number is 898-5959 V/TDD or Fax 898-4411. Visit the DSS Web site at http://www.csuchico.edu/dss/

Since even graduate students are not perfect writers  , you are encouraged to take advantage of Chico State's University Writing Center, which is located on the 4th floor of the Meriam Library. Indeed, there are writing assignments every week, so you should look at this class as an opportunity to enhance your writing skills. Writing well is a lifelong learning process, so don't feel like you have to be a "bad" writer to take advantage of student writing services, or that there is no need for help once you are a "good" writer. There is always room for improvement! Also, if you do not already own one, a writing guide/manual is an invaluable tool. Our library has several print examples and several web sites that provide citation guides. Some good print examples are:

Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. Sixth Edition, St. Martin's Press. 2007..
Lunsford, Andrea, and Robert Connors. EasyWriter: A Pocket Guide. Third Edition, Bedford/St.Martin's Press. 2006..
Scott, Gregory M., and Stephen M. Garrison. The Political Science Student Writer's Manual. 5th ed., Prentice Hall. 2006.
Strunk, William, Jr. Elements of Style.


Semester Schedule

  • Part 1: The Constitutional Presidency: history and development
    • Week 1, August 27
      • Introduction of class and syllabus
      • Watch video on constitutional presidency.

    • Week 2, September 3
      • The Prehistory of the Presidency
      • reading:  Thach, Foreword and ch.1-4
      • discussion of weekly précis assignments

      • Additional readings:
        • The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, particularly the debates on the presidency: May 29, June 1, 2, 4, 18, July 17, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, August 6, 14, 17, 20, 24, September 4, 6.
        • Thomas E. Cronin, ed., Inventing the American Presidency.
        • Michael Nelson, ed., The Evolving Presidency.
        • Gary L. Gregg II, Thinking About the Presidency.

    • Week 3, September 10
      • Creating and Debating an Institution
      • reading: Thach, ch.5-7 and Appendix; find a book review in a political science journal, print it out, read it, and bring it to class.
      • We will sign up for book reviews in class and discuss the book review assignment.

      • Additional readings:
        • Richard J. Ellis, Founding the American Presidency.
        • Sidney M. Milkis and Michael Nelson, The American Presidency--Origins and Development.

    • Week 4, September 17
      • Historical Perspectives
      • Discuss and select research paper topics
      • reading:  Skowronek preface and chapters 1-2, King handout.

      • Additional readings:
        • Joseph M. Bessette and Jeffrey Tulis, eds., The Presidency in the Constitutional Order.
        • Russell L. Riley, The Presidency and the Politics of Racial Inequality.
        • Richard F. Fenno, The President's Cabinet.

  • Part 2: Assessing The Modern Presidency
    • Week 5, September 24
      • Presidential Power, the Modern Presidency, and Leadership Style
      • reading: Greenstein, all.

      • Additional readings:
        • Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents.
        • Charles W. Dunn. The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership.
        • Michael A. Genovese, The Presidential Dilemma.
        • James MacGregor Burns, Running Alone.
        • Theodore J. Lowi, The Personal President.
        • Robert S. Hirschfield, ed., The Power of the Presidency.
        • David K. Nichols, The Myth of the Modern Presidency.
        • William W. Lammers and Michael A. Genovese, The Presidency and Domestic Policy.
        • Steven A. Shull, Policy by Other Means.
        • Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Imperial Presidency.
        • Aaron Wildavsky, The Beleaguered Presidency.

    • Week 6, October 1
      • Presidential Personality and Character
      • reading:  Barber, all.

      • Additional readings:
        • Stanley Renshon, The Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates.
        • Jerrold M. Post, The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders.
        • George C. Edwards III, John H. Kessel, and Bert A. Rockman, eds., Researching the Presidency.
        • Richard Rose, The Postmodern President.
        • Phillip G. Henderson, ed., The Presidency Then and Now.
        • David Abshire, ed., Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency.
        • John H. Kessel,  Presidents, the Presidency, and the Political Environment.
        • Michael A. Genovese, The Presidential Dilemma.

    • Week 7, October 8
      • The Use and Abuse of Presidential War Powers
      • reading: Schwarz and Huq, Introduction and Ch.1-3; Wildavsky (handout).
      • Watch video "Eisenhower's Farewell Address"

      • Additional readings:
        • Louis Fisher, Presidential War Power.
        • Louis Fisher, Constitutional Conflicts between Congress and the President.
        • Robert M. Pallitto and William G. Weaver. Presidential Secrecy and the Law.
        • Robert A. Strong, Decisions and Dilemmas.
        • Theodore C. Sorensen, Decision-Making in the White House.
        • Supreme CourtEx parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866), Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952).
        • Peake, Jeffrey S.  2001.  "Presidential Agenda Setting in Foreign Policy."  Political Research Quarterly, 54 (1): 69-86.
        • Robert Jervis. 2003.  "Understanding the Bush Doctrine." Political Science Quarterly, 118 (3): 365-388.

      • Additional readings:
        • Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman, The George W. Bush Presidency.
        • Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack.
        • Justin Frank, Bush on the Couch.
        • Bill Sammon, Misunderestimated.
        • John Podhoretz, Bush Country.
        • John W. Dean, Worse Than Watergate.
        • Louis Fisher. 2003.  "Deciding on War Against Iraq: Institutional Failures." Political Science Quarterly, 118 (3): 389-410.


  • Part 3: Studying the Presidency: patterns and problems

o       Week 9, October 22

      • Predicting Presidencies: The study of institutions and behavior
      • reading: Skowronek, Ch. 3-end.

      • Additional readings:
        • Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make.
        • Marc Landy and Sidney M. Milkis, Presidential Greatness.
        • Mordecai Lee, Institutionalizing Congress and the Presidency.
        • Hult, Karen M., Charles E. Walcott, and Thomas Weko.  1999.  "Qualitative Research and the Study of the U.S. Presidency."  Congress & The Presidency, 26 (2): 133-152.

    • Week 10, October 29
      • Presidential Elections
      • reading: Schumaker and Loomis, all.
      • we will discuss the upcoming presidential election.

·         Additional readings:

o        James W. Ceaser, Presidential Selection.

o        James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch, The Perfect Tie.

o        Rhodes Cook, The Presidential Nominating Process.

o        Bruce Buchanan, Presidential Campaign Quality.

o        William G. Mayer, ed., The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2004.

o        Garvin Karunaratne, The Administrative Bungling that Hijacked the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election.

o        Jack N. Rakove.  2004. "Presidential Selection:  Electoral Fallacies." Political Science Quarterly, 119(1):  21-37.

o        Judith A. Best. 2004. "Presidential Selection:  Complex Problems and Simple Solutions." Political Science Quarterly, 119(1): 39-59.

o        John R. Petrocik, William L. Benoit, and Glenn J. Hansen, 2003-04.  "Issue Ownership and Presidential Campaigning, 1952-2000."  Political Science Quarterly, 118 (4): 599-626.

o        Robert S. Erikson.  2001. "The 2000 Presidential Election in Historical Perspective."  Political Science Quarterly, 116 (1): 29-52.

    • Week 11, November 5
      • The Big Event: Reflecting on a Presidential Election
      • Reading: newspapers, television, radio, and internet coverage of the election. Bring the most insightful or interesting thing you find to class.

      • Additional readings:
        • Graham T. Allison, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis.
        • Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Gregory A. Raymond, After Iraq.
        • Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President's Men.
        • Clement Fatovic.  2004.  "Constitutionalism and Presidential Prerogative:  Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Perspectives." American Journal of Political Science, 48(3): 429-444.
        • Pious, Richard M.  2001.  "The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Limits of Crisis Management." Political Science Quarterly, 116 (1): 81-106.

    • Week 13, November 19
      • The Presidency, Media, and the Public
      • reading: Kernell, all.
      • watch video:  State of the Union Address, 2007.
      • We will also discuss progress on research papers during this session, so come prepared to give the class an update.

      • Additional readings:
        • Jeffrey K. Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency.
        • Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Mediated Presidency.
        • Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Nightly News Nightmare.
        • Colleen J. Shogan, The Moral Rhetoric of American Presidents.
        • Brandice Canes-Wrone, Who Leads Whom?
        • Byron W. Daynes and Glen Sussman, The American Presidency and the Social Agenda.
        • Canes-Wrone, Brandice, and Kenneth W. Shotts. 2004. "The Conditional Nature of Presidential Responsiveness to Public Opinion." American Journal of Political Science, 48(4): 690-706.
        • Canes-Wrone, Brandice, Michael C. Herron, and Kenneth W. Shotts. 2001.  "Leadership and Pandering: A Theory of Executive Policymaking."  American Journal of Political Science, 45(3): 532-550.

    • Week 14, November 24-28—Thanksgiving Holiday. No classes held.

    • Week 15, December 3
      • Race, Gender and the Presidency
      • reading: Han and Heldman, all; various polling data to be distributed in class.
      • Discussion of the comprehensive exams.

      • Additional readings:
        • Robert P. Watson and Ann Gordon, Anticipating Madam President.
        • Vanessa B. Beasley, Who Belongs in America?
        • Mary E. Stuckey, Defining Americans.
        • Gil Troy, Mr. and Mrs. President.
        • Lois Beachy Underhill, The Woman Who Ran for President.
        • Sue Thomas and Clyde Wilcox, Women and Elective Office.
        • Stephen M. Nichols and Staci L. Beavers. 2002.  "Revisiting Prospects for an Unconventional Presidency."  Politics & Policy, 30(1): 114-139.
        • Noelle Norton and Barbara Morris. 2003.  "Feminist Organizational Structure in the White House: The Office of Women's Initiatives and Outreach." Political Research Quarterly, 56(4):  477-488.

o       Week 16, December 10

§         Researching the Presidency

§         Your final research paper is due in class on December 10.

§         New Scholarship:  this week we will be sharing the results of our semester-long research projects.


§         Additional readings:

·        Fred I. Greenstein, The Reagan Presidency.

·        Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman, eds., The Clinton Legacy.

·        Todd G. Shields and Jeannie M. Whayne, The Clinton Riddle.

·        Fred I. Greenstein, The George W. Bush Presidency.

·        Gary L. Gregg II and Mark J. Rozell, Considering the Bush Presidency.


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page last updated 1 September 2008.