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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2009

GOV 312L • Issues and Policies in American Government

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39070 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
MEZ 1.306
O'Brien, S

Course Description

Fulfills second half of legislative requirement for Government. My specialty area is American Presidency. The American Presidency can be taught in a number of ways. This semester, I have selected to teach the class through a historical approach. The presidency has changed in many dramatic and significant ways since its inception. If Barack Obama (with all his presidential powers) were to suddenly be dropped into 1789, the citizens of the day would be shocked at the amount of presidential power he wields. However, as citizens of the 21st century, most do not consider the size and scope of the presidency to be unreasonable. In fact, though some people think he has too much power, many others would be willing to grant him greater authority. In short, what happened was that the office of the presidency acted and reacted to changes in politics and society. This course will start with George Washington and end with Barack Obama. While I will likely touch on every administration, we can break them into specific eras for study. Often changes in the presidency resulted from tumultuous events (e.g., Garfield's assassination helped spur the creation of the civil service system in federal government) which lead to governmental growth. This is not a history course where we will learn in detail about every administration. However, we can use history to better understand why certain eras of presidency are forgettable and others unforgettable. I do not expect you to be well versed on American history (if you are getting worried) because we are looking at how the presidency drives history. The core point of most topics in this class will revolve around: How was the presidency changed? How did the presidency change society? How did the presidency increase or decrease in power over time?

Grading Policy

Test 1 20% Test 2 20% Test 3 (final exam) 35% Paper Assignments (probably 7 short essays.. still tweaking the number but the percentage won't change) 25%


Nelson, The Evolving Presidency, CQ Press, 3rd ed Nelson, The American Presidency, CQ Press, 5th ed


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