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Political Science Department

Government 334 The United States Presidency

Ron Seyb Office Hours:
Ladd 310 M & W, 2-4
Ext. 5248 Fall 2003

Course Description

This course focuses on the development and properties of the "modern" or post-FDR presidency. The first 1/3 of the course will trace the evolution of the modern presidency, paying particular attention to the roles Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt played in creating a presidency responsible for managing a large administrative state, initiating domestic legislation, setting foreign and national security policy, and communicating with the public. The second 1/3 of the course will examine how some important features of the presidency (i.e., the presidential election process, the White House staff, and relations with Congress) have been affected by the demands of the modern presidency. The last 1/3 of the course will take-up a series of case studies of presidential leadership, focusing on how six different presidents (Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush) sought to use the resources of the modern presidency to place their stamp on public policy and the consequences of their efforts.

Course Requirements

40% of your final grade will be determined by your performance in a presidential campaign simulation. The simulation will consist of a series of campaign events and writing assignments connected with each event.

30% of your final grade will be determined by your performance on a 10-15 page term paper that compares and contrasts two modern presidents' leadership styles. This paper will be due at the beginning of class on Friday, November 1

30% of your final grade will be determined by your performance on a final examination.


You must show-up at both class sessions and simulation events to succeed in the course. I will allow you three excused absences from class (tardies will be counted as absences). You must provide me with your excuse by noon on the day you are absent. Every additional absence after you have exhausted your two excused absences, and any unexcused absences will result in a 2% reduction in your final grade (e.g., a "90" or "A-" will become an "88" or "B+").

You are not allowed to miss any of the simulation events. Failure to attend and participate in a campaign event will result in a 10% reduction in your grade for the simulation (in addition to the reduction in the "performance" component of your simulation grade).

You should also keep in mind that according to the Academic Information Guide, "any students who miss more than a third of the (class) sessions may expect to be barred from (the final examination). In such cases, the course grade will be recorded as F."


The following books are available at The Skidmore Shop for less than the cost of a pair of tickets to the "Kucinich Campaign Kick-Off Concert" featuring John Tesch and the Ohio Valley Chorus:

George Edwards and Stephen Wayne, Presidential Leadership
Sidney Milkis and Michael Nelson, The American Presidency
Jeffrey Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency
Stephen Wayne, The Road to the White House, 2000

Weekly Topics and Reading Assignments

(an asterisk (*) denotes a photocopied reading that will be handed-out in class)

Week 1 (September 3-5): The Constitutional Presidency
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, Chapters 2 and 6

Week 2 (September 8-12): Character and the Presidency
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, Chapters 3 and 4

Week 3 (September 15-19): The Rhetorical Presidency
Readings: Tulis, Chapters 1 and 2

Week 4 (September 22-26): A Pre-Modern Presidency?
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, pp. 193-212 and Chapter 9
Tulis, Chapters 4 and 5

Week 5 (September 29-October 3): FDR and the Making of the Modern Presidency
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, Chapter 10 and pp. 278-294


Week 6 (October 8-10): Electoral Politics
Readings: Edwards and Wayne, Chapter 3

Week 7 (October 13-17): Managing the White House and the Bureaucracy
Readings: Edwards and Wayne, Chapters 6 and 9

Week 8 (October 20-22): The Two Presidencies
Readings: Edwards and Wayne, Chapters 10 and 14

Week 9 (October 27-31): Presidential Leadership I: Eisenhower's Hidden-Hand
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, pp. 277-293

Week 10 (November 3-7): Presidential Leadership II: LBJ and the Brokering of the Great Society
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, pp. 299-313


Week 11 (November 10-14): Presidential Leadership III: Richard Nixon's Corporate Presidency
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, pp. 316-327

Week 12 (November 17-21): Presidential Leadership IV: Ronald Reagan as "The Great Communicator
Readings: Milkis and Nelson, Chapter 13

Week 13 (November 24): Catch-Up
Readings: No Reading

Week 14 (December 1-5): Clinton, Bush, and the Modern Presidency
Reading: Milkis and Nelson, Chapter 14
*Richard Brookhiser, "The Mind of George W. Bush," The Atlantic Monthly (April 2003)

Week 15 (December 8-10): Review for the Final Examination
Readings: No Reading