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The American Presidency  

Midterm Review Sheet

Final Review Sheet

The American Presidency

This course will examine the origins of the president’s domestic and international powers, how those powers have grown and changed over time, and how they are both enhanced and limited by other actors in the political system. We will begin by focusing on the president’s constitutional powers, and how they evolved out of the compromises among founders who had diverse views about executive authority. We will then trace how the tensions voiced in those original debates are echoed in historical and contemporary debates about presidential power. The course will discuss how presidents are both empowered and constrained by elections, public opinion, Congress, the courts, political parties, and the bureaucracy. We will put particular emphasis on understanding how and why presidential powers have changed over time. Requirements will include a research paper, an oral presentation, a short midterm, and a final exam.

Because this is a “W” class, an additional objective of the class is to help improve your writing skills. You will do this primarily by writing one 5-8 page analytical essay and one 12-15 page research paper that are substantively related to the class. For each paper, you will submit outlines and drafts and go through a peer-review writing process. You will also get the opportunity to edit other students’ papers, and learn how the art of editing relates to the art of writing.  We will also do periodic in-class writing assignments to help you come to think of writing as an important step in the critical thinking process.


Required Books:

Louis Fisher, Presidential War Power (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2004)

Joe Klein, The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton (New York: Doubleday, 2003)

Nelson W. Polsby and Aaron Wildavsky, Presidential Elections, Eleventh Edition (New York: Chatham House, 2003)

Richard J. Ellis and Michael Nelson, eds. Debating the Presidency: ConflictingPerspectives on the American Executive. (Washington: CQ Press, 2006)

William Strunk, Jr., E.B. White, and Roger Angell, The Elements of Style (New York: Longman, 2000).

Additional readings on online reserve.


Syllabus and Lecture powerpoints

For each class, I will post the powerpoints that accompany my lectures on the syllabus website. Do not assume that the powerpoints themselves are a substitute for attending lecture or taking notes. They are intended as an outline only.



Course Assignments

The course requires a major research paper on a specific use of presidential authority and a group presentation on that research.

Analytical Essay Assignment

Research paper Assignment

I require that all papers submitted in my classes also be uploaded to turnitin.com. For instructions on how to use turnitin.com, follow this link.

Writing center. I strongly advise all students to visit the writing center and meet with a tutor for advice on paper drafts. The Writing center website also has some helpful advice about writing a strong thesis and citing sources.

More advice on researching and writing a paper for this class.

Other USD and internet resources, click here.




Will be based on a 7-10 page research paper, an oral presentation, a short midterm, and a final exam.  There will be no extensions given on the paper. Grade disputes can be submitted in writing to the instructor 24 hours after the work is handed back. The grade will be computed as follows:

25%         Research paper (to be handed in with outline and drafts)

20%         Final Exam

15%         Midterm

10%         Analytical essay (to be handed in with outline and drafts)

10%         Oral presentation/debates

5%           Class participation and prompt attendance

5%           Pop quizzes

5%           Peer editing

5%           2 one-two page essays


Extra Credit