Political Science | The American Presidency
Y318 | 4562 | Wolf
On the National Mall in Washington, D.C. stand the Lincoln Memorial,
Jefferson Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial and the Washington Monument. Across
the Potomac River is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove which is
down-river from the Thoedore Roosevelt Island. One would search in vain to
find any such grand memorial for important congressional leaders or Supreme
Court Justices in our nation's capital. Indeed, it would be unimaginable
that any non-president would have even been considered for Mt. Rushmore.
Why has American culture seized presidents as such a symbol of our nation?
Why do we pay so much attention to one leader in a complicated federal
system with intricate separations of power? Clearly our presidents hold an
important place in our understanding of who we are as Americans.
The importance of the presidency has not been lost on scholars of
politics either. It is, however, a difficult subject to fully grasp because
we have had only 42 presidents. Furthermore, the challenges facing John
Adams differ greatly from those the 43rd president will face upon taking
office next January. The demands facing the presidency make the subject
both exciting and challenging, and the course attempts to take advantage of
that by studying many components of the office. Concentrating only upon
particular presidents is insufficient. Having said that, students will look
at individual presidents and judge what type of president American seek, but
will also focus on the role of the Executive Branch among the other
institution of American politics, and the presidency's relationship with the
public. Additionally, special attention will be paid to the ways in which
we select presidents. Do the nomination and electoral procedures in place
today really provide for the best person for this great office? This is
specifically timely given the 2000 elections.
In order to help students of politics hone skills they will need as
graduates, the course provides a mixture of lectures, discussion, and
outside materials. Specifically, the student will take two to three smaller
exams throughout the term and critique different scholarly approaches in a
brief report. The political debate, lively topics, and timely events will
challenge and entertain both the students and the instructor.