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Dr. Vincent McGuire
Political Science 3011-300
Ketchum 120  
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University of Colorado
The American Presidency
MW 6.00-8.30
E-Mail Dr. McGuire


Class Orientation: This course introduces students to the study of the American Presidency. The power of the office of President has increased dramatically over the last 200 years. However, the president remains remarkably weak. In this sense the office is a paradox. Additionally, the perceived or actual success or failure of a president is inextricably caught up with the bureaucracy and other institutions of the American national government.
    The primary focus of the class is on issues of theoretical and substantive importance to the study of the presidency. More specifically, the course focuses on the tension between the individual president, the ideological character of the institution and the office that person occupies as well as the historical development of the office.
    Given the theoretical and substantive focus of this class, students should be made aware that this is not a course on current affairs nor history. It is a course in ideas. Nevertheless, current events will be incorporated in to the class to illustrate theoretical points. Therefore, I strongly encourage students to keep up with current affairs through the newspaper, the radio, and/or the television news. By remaining current, students will be able to make substantive contributions to class discussion, and aid themselves in concretizing concepts that, at times, may seem abstract.
 The Ethics of the Course: What are our aims, and how are we going to achieve them? The central value of all education should be truth seeking. Truth cannot be acquired if we do not eschew nihilism (saying ‘there’s no such thing’), emotivism (believing what makes you feel good), or populism (to avoid “weird” beliefs). The main constraints on how we pursue truth are a limited rationality, mutual respect and civility. Limited rationality is being prepared to give reasons and evidence for what you believe, reasons that are at least understandable to your audience and do not pursue ends at all costs, ad nauseam. Mutual respect is that each of us as human beings has a natural aptitude for truth-seeking. Moreover, we are naturally social beings -- we need each other in order to fully realize this truth-seeking aptitude. This does not require us to blunt the edge of disagreement, or lapse into an easygoing relativism. Lastly, civility is a mutual respect. It expresses itself in deference and humility. Criticize the ideas, not the person! We will not accuse each other of evil (e.g., racism, sexism, etc.) on the basis of sincere expressions of ideas. [thanks to Robert C. Koons for this construction].
 Course Requirements: Attendance is mandatory. All students are required to complete the assigned reading before class, and contribute to class discussion. There is a substantial amount of reading since the reason you are here is to learn. Legitimate concerns will not be the amount of reading, the heat, the hard chairs, skiing, etc. Please adapt to the situation.
Grading:
 The class grade will be determined by three in class essay exams (30% @), and participation (10%). N.B. All material handed in for a grade must be identified only by the student’s ID#; no names shall be placed on the paper. All exams must be taken to achieve a passing grade. Bring an 8 x 11  “Blue Book” to all of the in-class exams.

 Required Readings: Students are required to purchase four books for this course. These books are available in the UMC bookstore and the Colorado Bookstore on the Hill:

Theodore J. Lowi, The Personal Presidency: Power Invested, Promise Unfulfilled Cornell University Press 1985, ISBN 0-8014-9426-5 This study analyzes the modern presidency and finds that while the American people’s expectations of presidential success have increased drastically, the ability of any president to fulfill those expectations has diminished.
Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-68937-2 Skowronek posits the theory that the politics of any given presidency are determined by the presidents’ place in the ‘regime cycle.’ The cycle is begun by a regime originator, an articulator of the public philosophy, and the regime deteriorates as a function of normal politics. Places the chronology of the presidency within a theoretical framework.
Stephen Mayer, With a Stroke of the Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power Princeton University Press, ISBN0-691-01204-0 Mayer offers an alternate view to the weak presidency thesis. The use of executive orders, outside the separation of powers scheme, has become a major managerial tool of modern presidents.
Michael Nelson, The Presidency and the Political System, 7th ed., Washington, D.C. CQ Press 1998, ISBN 1-56802-496-7 A ‘reader’ with contributions from experts in various fields including: approaches to studying the presidency, presidential power, the presidency and Congress, the bureaucracy and government.
Recommended, not required
Gary L. Gregg II The Presidential Republic, Executive Representation and Deliberative Democracy, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Boulder, New York, London, 1997. ISBN 0-8476-8378-8
Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan revised edition, New York: Free Press, 1990. ISBN 0-02-922796-8 Neustadt’s look at the American President focuses not on the office, but on the individual as one among many in a set of institutions. Employing a series of case studies, he shows how presidents actually use the resources of their office to exercise power.
Tara Ross, (2004) Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, World Ahead Publishing ISBN: 0974670154
Gary L. Gregg II, Ed., Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College Intercollegiate Studies Institute ISBN: 1-882926-65-x A series of readings from a variety of experts on why the Electoral college is not outdated but a brilliant concept and crucial to the workings of the constitutional system but necessary in securing representative democracy.
James Taranto and Leonard Leo, Eds., Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House, Free Press; 2004, ISBN: 0743254333
Martin Fausold & Alan Shank, Eds., The Constitution and the American Presidency State University of New York Press, 1991 ISBN 0-7914-0468-4. Fausold & Shank show the development of both the presidency an the constitution via the way in which various presidents have viewed and altered the document.
Richard J. Ellis, Ed., Founding the American Presidency, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Boulder, New York, London, 1999 ISBN 0-8476-9499-2
 

The Web: I have set up various hyperlink to web sites which will greatly enhance your understanding of American government and the presidency. My web page is listed above. Log on and go to your syllabus. From there you can navigate to numerous sites which relate to the topics we are discussing. In addition, there are links to more esoteric topics.
Also of importance is subscribing to the class E-mail roster. This allows me to contact you quickly and easily as well as helping you communicate with the entire class for assistance with, e.g. notes, discussions, exam study groups.
For more info visit: http://www.colorado.edu/ITS/emaillists/faq.html

 Policies: All University policies are in effect for this course. The University Honor Code (http://www.colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/Home.html) is the most important policy in this class. It is taken, by me, with the utmost seriousness. Familiarize yourself with these policies especially in regards to incompletes, drops/add, withdrawal, etc. Students are expected to attend all classes, do all reading prior to the class and take all exams at the appointed times. No make-up exams will be given. No ‘extra credit’ is ever given.
If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to the Disability Services Office in Willard 322 (phone 303-492-8671).
If you have any problems with the college, the course, the material or me, please come see me. If there is anything I can help you with please come see me. I am here to help.


  Page last updated: 05/31/05

  visitors since August 27, 1999