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

Spring 2010

GOV 312L • Issues and Policies in American Government

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38730 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
MEZ 1.306
Buchanan, B

Course Description

This course seeks to help you do better the two things citizens must do well if the presidency is to work: choose and judge presidents. It tries to offer useful answers to the question, "Where should I look and what should I look for to better choose and judge?" The concepts and information presented are similar to those found in other presidency courses, but with one important difference. Here they are subordinated to the citizen's-eye-view of the presidency and tested for relevance to the evaluation of presidential performance and presidential candidate qualifications. The course is organized into the following three parts and associated lecture topics A. Presidential Precedents How do past presidents (and national experience, and changing circumstances) influence the way an incumbent chief executive performs and is judged? 1. Introduction: Functions and Values 2. The Presidency Defined and Launched: Washington 3. The Presidency Democratized: Jefferson and Jackson 4. Presidential Morality and Power: Polk and Lincoln 5. The Presidency Modernized: TR, Wilson, FDR 6. Why Reputations Change: Truman, Eisenhower, JFK 7. The Impact of Vietnam and Watergate: Johnson and Nixon 8. Preliminary Appraisals: From Ford to Bush II 9. The Lessons of Presidential History B. Current Presidential Operations What is the president's "job description", and how can we tell if the incumbent is performing well? 1. Introduction: The Grounds for Judgment 2. The Campaign for Office 3. The Domestic Policy Arena 4. Confronting Congress 5. Media: The Classic Dilemma 6. The Budget and Economic Policy 7. Foreign Policy 8. Presidential Competence and the Public Interest C. Evaluating Presidential Candidates. What are the reasons for preferring one presidential candidate to another? 1. Introduction: Five Dimensions of Presidential Leadership 2. Candidate Qualifications 3. Character: Avoiding Troubled Candidates D. Course Conclusion: The Division of Labor

Grading Policy

2 multiple choice mid-term examinations 30% each 1 mixed-mode (multiple choice and essay) final exam, 40%


J.A. Pika, and J.A. Maltese. 2010. The Politics of the Presidency, (8th Edition). M. Nelson, ed. 2008. The Evolving Presidency. (3rd Edition). One "big city" daily newspaper: e.g., The Washington Post, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal.


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