Visions Of The Modern American Presidency 1945-2000

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Visions Of The Modern American Presidency 1945-2000





Simon Kear





26 Apr 2010


Module Aims and Learning Objectives

Strategic aims of the module

Develop participant’s knowledge of the key approaches to the Presidency: to include Wildavsky’s Two Presidencies thesis, Schlesinger’s Imperial Presidency, and the work of Richard Neustadt and Fred Greenstein.

Provision of an understanding of the foreign policy direction of each presidency under consideration. In other words, to critically analyse different perspectives that address the presidency in the appropriate historical context.

Learning objectives

By the end of the module students will:

- have developed advanced knowledge and understanding of the Modern American President

- have understood different presidencies in a critical, analytical and reflective fashion across a range of issues

- be able to critically evaluate various different approaches to the subject matter

- be able to creatively interpret the key questions at the heart of this topic

- have developed their essay writing skills and their presentation skills via the distance learning format.

Staff Information

Module Convenor:



Associate Tutor:



Module Texts and Reading Suggestions

Students are to balance reading for each week and to draw upon this more extensive bibliography for their essay topics.

Each President since Franklin Roosevelt has his own presidential library (and associated website). This is a useful first port of call in looking at the individual presidencies.

Two straightforward websites which can be consulted for basic facts are:

The American Presidency

Internet Public Library – POTUS

A key journal, published by the Centre for the Study of the President, is

Presidential Studies Quarterly

Key Texts which students should familiarise themselves with:

Greenstein, Fred L. The Presidential Difference – Leadership Style from Roosevelt to George W. Bush (Princeton NJ: PUP, 2004).

Neustadt, Richard E. Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents – The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990).

Rossitor, Clinton E., The American Presidency (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1987).

Schelsinger, Arthur Jr. The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1973).

Wildavsky, Aaron, ‘Two Presidencies’, Transaction 4 (December 1966).


Week 1: President Harry S. Truman

Guiding question:

Why is Harry Truman now regarded as one of the greatest presidents, but left office with approval ratings in the low 20s?

Essential reading :

Lacey. ed., The Truman Presidency

Desirable reading :

Truman, Harry S. Years of Decision Vol. 1 of Memoirs (New York: Doubleday, 1955), and Vol. 2 of Memoirs (New York: Doubleday, 1956)

Donovan, Tumultuous Years: the presidency of Harry S. Truman 1949-1953

Donovan, Conflict and Crisis: the presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948

Ferrell, Harry S. Truman and the modern American Presidency

Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR: from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan

McCoy, The Presidency of Harry S. Truman

Phillips, Truman Presidency

The Presidential Library :

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

Pop quiz:

1. Why was Truman chosen as VP?

2. How many times did Truman (as VP) and FDR meet before the latter's death?

3. Who did Truman defeat in 1948?

Week 2: President Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower

Guiding question:

How far was Ike just a figure head in the Oval Office?

Essential reading:

Peter Boyle, Eisenhower

Desirable reading:

Damms, The Eisenhower Presidency, 1953-1961

Greenstein, The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as leader

Richardson, E. The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Kansas: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1979)

The Presidential Library:

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Pop quiz:

1. Who did Ike defeat in 1952?

2. What was the most notable feature of Ike’s first term?

3. How did Ike respond to the death of Stalin?

Week 3: President John F Kennedy

Guiding question:

Did Camelot's 1000 days exaggerate Kennedy’s achievements?

Essential reading :

Dallek, Robert. JFK An Unfinished Life 1917-1963 (London: Penguin, 2003)

Desirable reading :

Brown, Tomas. JFK : history of an image (London : Tauris, 1988)

Hamilton, Nigel. JFK, reckless youth , (New York : Random House, 1992)

Hellmann,John. The Kennedy Obsession: the American myth of JFK, (New York : Columbia University Press, 1997)

Snyder, Richard. John F. Kennedy : person, policy, presidency, (Wilmington, Del. : SR Books, 1988)

The Presidential Library :

John F Kennedy Presidential Library

Week 4: President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ)

Guiding question:

To what extent is LBJ’s Presidency marked by a domestic or foreign legacy?

Essential reading :

Sidey, A Very Personal Presidency: Lyndon Johnson in the White House

Desirable reading :

Bernstein, Guns or Butter: the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson

Woods, Randall. LBJ Architect of American Ambition)

Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Means of Ascent (New York: Knopf, 1990)

Dallek, Robert. Lyndon B Johnson – Portrait of a President (Oxford, OUP, 2004)

Divine, Robert. The Johnson Years. 3 Separate Volumes (1981, 1987, 1994)

The Presidential Library:

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

Pop quiz :

1. Was Johnson's congressional experience an asset to his presidency?

2. Who was the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Tet Offensive?

3. Was Johnson a broken man when he left office?

Week 5: President Richard M. Nixon

Guiding question:

In what ways did the Nixon Administration challenge the conventions of Presidential policy making?

Essential reading:

Nixon, Richard Millhouse, The Memoirs of President Nixon (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990)

Desirable reading:

Nathan, The Plot that Failed: Nixon and the administrative presidency

Bundy, A Tangled Web: the making of foreign policy in the Nixon presidency

The Presidential Library :

The Nixon Library and Museum

The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation

Pop quiz :

1. Where did Nixon complete his Bachelors degree?

2. To what extent was Nixon able to resurrect his image after he left office?

3. In his political career, how many elections did Nixon

a) win?


b) lose?

Week 6: President Gerald Ford

Guiding question:

Does Gerald Ford deserve to be remembered for more than merely pardoning his predecessor?

Essential reading:

Ford, Gerald. A Time to Heal: the Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford

Desirable reading :

Greene, J.R. The Presidency of Gerald Ford (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1995)

Greene, The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

Reichley, Conservatives in an age of change: the Nixon and Ford administrations

Terhorst, Gerald Ford

The Presidential Library :

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

Pop quiz :

1. What was Ford famous for before becoming a politician?

2. Was pardoning Nixon a mistake?

Week 7: President Jimmy Carter

Guiding question:

Did Carter’s election in the bicentennial year of 1776, and his subsequent administration, represent a lack of faith in the Presidency?

Essential reading:

Dumbrell, The Carter Presidency: a re-evaluation

Desirable reading :

Congressional Quarterly Inc. President Cater 1980 (Washington, 1981)

Jordan, Crisis: The last year of the Carter Presidency

Fink, Prelude to the Presidency: the political character and legislative leadership style of Governor Jimmy Carter

Rosenbaum, H.D. & Grinsky A., (eds.). Jimmy Carter: Foreign Policy and Post-Presidential Years

The Presidential Library :

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum

Pop quiz :

1. Was Carter a victim of circumstance in a) domestic politics, and b) foreign affairs?

2. Who was Carter's Secretary of State?

Week 8: President Ronald Reagan

Guiding question:

Did the Reagan presidency represent a reaffirmation of Presidential Power?

Essential reading:

Barrett, Gambling with History: Ronald Regan in the White House

Desirable reading :

Bell, The Reagan Paradox: American foreign policy in the 1980s

Dallek, Robert. Ronald Reagan – The Politics of Symbolism (Mass. Harvard University Press, 1999)

Dallek, Ronald Reagan: the politics of symbolism

Hill D. et al. The Reagan Presidency - An Incomplete Revolution? (London: Macmillan,1991). esp. ch. 11

Hogan, J (ed.), The Reagan Years - The Record in Presidential Leadership (Manchester: Manchester university Press, 1990)

Jones, The Reagan Legacy

Lees and Turner eds. Reagan’s First Four Years: a new beginning?

Mayer, Landslide: the unmaking of the president, 1984-1988

Mervin. Ronald Reagan and the American Presidency

Pamer and Sawhill.eds. The Reagan Record

Schaller, Reckoning with Reagan. America and its President in the 1980s

The Presidential Library :

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation

Pop quiz

1. Which party did Reagan campaign for during the 1930s and 1940s?

2. What happened to Reagan in March 1981?

3. Who did Reagan meet in Reykjavik in 1985?

Week 9: President George H.W. Bush

Guiding question:

Was the George H. W. Bush administration anything more than a ‘hangover’ from the Reagan presidency?

Essential reading:

Campbell, C. & Rockman. The Bush Presidency: First Appraisals (London: Chatham House, 1991)

Desirable reading:

Kegley, C.W. ‘Bush Administration and the Future of American Foreign Policy’, Political Science Quarterly 19 Fall 1989 pp.712-32

Thompson, K.W. The Bush Presidency: Ten Intimate Perspectives of George Bush (University Press of America, 1997)

The Presidential Library :

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Pop quiz :

1. How old was George H.W. Bush when he became a Navy pilot?

2. What role did Bush have in Watergate?

3. Where did Bush serve during the 1970s?

Week 10: President Bill Clinton

Guiding question:

Was President Bill Clinton able to cope with the United States position on a global stage between 1992 and 2000?

Essential reading :

Burns, James and Sorenson, Dead Centre: Clinton-Gore Leadership and the Politics of Moderation (1999)

Desirable reading :

Campbell, C. & Rockman. The Clinton Legacy (New York: Seven Bridges, 2000)

Clinton, Bill. My Life (London: Hutchinson, 2004)

Herrnson and Hill, The Clinton Presidency

Hyland, W. Clinton's World: Re-making American Foreign Policy (New York: Praeger. 1999)

Renshon, The Clinton Presidency

Schier, S. The Postmodern Presidency: Bill Clinton's Legacy to US Politics (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000)

The Presidential Library :

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

Pop quiz:

1. Which college did Clinton attend at Oxford and what did he study?

2. How many elections did Clinton win prior to getting to the White House?

3. Who appointed Kenneth Starr to investigate Clinton?


E-tivity 1: Access and socialisation


To introduce yourself to your peers and familiarise yourself with the use of our forums.


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your interests. To help us get to know each other, please tell us the last book you read and film you saw, and what you liked or disliked about them.

'Sign' your message with the name you'd like to be called during this course (e.g. Billy or Catherine), and post it to the E-tivity 1 Forum


Please comment on at least one other person’s description.


You will be able to post messages to a forum and post replies, thereby engaging with your fellow students.

(We recommend you spend a minimum of 30 minutes on this e-tivity, although you are encouraged to continue to converse with your peers.)

E-tivity 2: Information retrieval at the Library


To access e-resources and use a bibliographic database to find an article from an academic journal.


1. Watch the tutorial on the Expanded Academic ASAP database. (The tutorial will last approximately 7 minutes 30 seconds and will open a new window.)

2. Discover how to access e-resources off campus (opens in a new window).

3. Go to your subject room. Choose an appropriate database to find an article from any academic journal on: Security in International Affairs (opens in a new window).

4. Go to the E-tivity 2 Forum and post the full bibliographic details by Sunday 10pm of Week 2. Remember, be precise and accurate, as your colleagues will need to find the article through Leicester E-link.

These instructions and the tutorials mentioned are specific to the University of Leicester, other tutorials may be available in similar databases at other Universities.


After this, return to the forum and please provide a brief analysis (400 words maximum) of the major argument in an article someone else has posted, before partaking in any subsequent discussion in the relevant forum.


You will be able to search the University’s databases, identify and access an article, and post the required bibliographic information, as well as begin to analyse its content and share your thoughts.

E-tivity 3: Text Critique I (5%)


To analyse a well-known article and identify its major attributes:

a. Fred L. Greetstein “The Presidential Difference in the Early Republic: The Highly Disparate Leadership Styles of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, 36 (September 2006), 373-390.


b. Wildavsky, Aaron, ‘Two Presidencies’, Transaction 4 (December 1966).


This e-tivity is in TWO parts.

First, please follow the link above and read one of the articles. Then provide a brief analysis of it (maximum 400 words) to the E-tivity 3 Forum by Monday of Week 4.


Second, in the E-tivity 3 Forum please post comments on your peer’s assessments by way of sharing your own articulation on the article, between Monday of Week 4 and Sunday of Week 4.


You will be able to analyse the content of a scholarly article and share your thoughts on it.

(We recommend you spend as much time as is necessary to read the article; up to 2 hours composing your analysis; and as much time as you are able participating in the forum).

E-tivity 4: Essay plan (15%)


To provide you with bespoke guidance to complete your module essay.


Please compose an essay plan of between 800-1000 words (not including suggested bibliography of a minimum of 10 sources) for an essay chosen from the list of module essay questions.

Examples of essay plans can be found on the distance learning site. This will also provide you with broader guidance ahead of the essay.

Please submit your plan by the date above as an attachment in an email to your Associate Tutor.

Where relevant be aware of the sources identified in the weekly readings.


Mindful of the need to avoid plagiarism, and that everybody will have their own take on this, please feel free to spend as much time as you are able discussing your approach in the E-tivity 4 forum.


You will have a clear idea as to the strengths and weakness of the approach you intend to undertake for your essay. Further you will have been notified of a particular source that you should consult for E-tivity 5.

(We recommend you spend a minimum of 6 hours researching amongst sources relevant to your essay topic; up to 2 hours composing your plan.)

E-tivity 5: Text critique II (5%)


To analyse a well-known article and identify its major attributes to aid the preparation of your e-tivity 6 essay.


This e-tivity has two parts.

First, please read one of the suggested sources below, then post a brief analysis of it (maximum 400 words) in the E-tivity 5 forum as soon as you are able.

G.Lundestad, "Uniqueness and Pendulum swings in US foreign policy," International Affairs 62:3, (summer, 1986), pp.405-421

Eland, Ivan. "Back to the Future: Rediscovering America's Foreign Policy Traditions." Mediterranean Quarterly. 19(3) (Summer 2008): 88-98.

Buzan, Barry (2006) “Will the 'global war on terrorism' be the new Cold War?” International Affairs, 82 (6). pp. 1101-1118.

Tharoor, S. ‘Why America Still Needs the United Nations’, Foreign Affairs, Sep-Oct 2003


Second, please post comments on how you think your reading of this article informs your essay. Of course your wider reading will also be relevant here, especially if the source that has been recommended represented a different school of thought from your initial reading.


You will be able to analyse the content of a scholarly article in relation to your own essay and share your thoughts on it.

(We recommend you spend as much time as is necessary to read the article; up to 2 hours composing your analysis; and as much time as you are able participating in the forum).

E-tivity 6: Module Essay (70%)


Capstone exercise bringing together elements of the weekly readings, and building upon the e-tivities to illustrate you have understood key aspects of the field of The American Presidency.


Write a 5000 word essay at the MA level illustrating your analytical abilities from a list of questions below.

Your essay questions:

Who was the first Imperial President and why? On what basis did the ‘imperial presidency’ so quickly become the ‘imperilled presidency?’

Is Presidential power simply the ‘power to persuade’? Answer with reference to more than one president.

Why and to whom does Wildavsky’s thesis apply most appropriately?

In the period under discussion (1945-2000) has presidential power grown or decayed?


You will have met the learning objectives of the module in completing this aspect of the module.

Further details on the essay requirements for this module can be found under Module Information.

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