About this Blog

During the semester, I shall post course material and students will comment on it. Students are also free to comment on any aspect of the presidency, either current or historical. There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

The course syllabus is at

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

King & Gruber v. Burwell

Our favorite ACA adviser is back in the news. Jonathan Gruber went before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday and apologized for his comments about the "stupidity" of the American people in videos continue to serve as an anti-Obamacare wellspring. As the Democrats distanced themselves from Gruber's remarks, Elijah Cummings ended up on an unlikely tag team with Darrell Issa to berate Gruber. Although Issa denied this, you can be the judge.

A recent Vox article argues that the most substantive aspect of Gruber's comments could be his implication that subsidies were only supposed to be given in state run marketplaces. This seems to support the plaintiff's case in King v. Burwell. This case, which, on November 7th, the Supreme Court decided to review, threatens the subsidies of thirty-six states.

Odds and Ends and the Wrapup

Per your request:

CIA v. Castro's beard (no kidding)

  • The Vice President Joseph Biden
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner
  • President pro tempore of the Senate1 Patrick Leahy
  • Secretary of State John Kerry
  • Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew
  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
  • Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
  • Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
  • Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Juli├ín Castro
  • Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx
  • Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz
  • Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

The Politics of Executive Action

Professor Pitney noted in class that any future administration could undo Obama's executive action on immigration. Many, knowing that reality, express concern about the action's potential rollback.

Here's Obama's response: “It’s true, theoretically, a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging. It’s not likely, politically, that they reverse everything we've done.”

Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. interrogation

Yesterday the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report indicting the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques (i.e. torture) in the wake of 9/11 and the agencies subsequent practice of misleading the White House and Congress.

Recently, Dick Cheney and other leaders have argued that the government’s interrogation program was essential for finding Osama bin Laden. However, the report contends that these methods “played no role in disrupting terrorism plots, capturing terrorist leaders, or even finding Bin Laden.”

Responses to the report have been mixed. For more on the story visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/world/senate-intelligence-committee-cia-torture-report.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=span-ab-top-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Obama on the Colbert Report

Everyone believes they can be president. Can anyone be Stephen Colbert? Watch President Obama fill in for Colbert in last night's show (I found it absolutely hilarious).


Practice Final

The following should give you an idea of the exam format. As you prepare, also take a look at the air midterm.

I. Briefly identify 12 of 14 items (4 points each). Explain each item's meaning and significance.
  • War Powers Resolution
  • NSC
  • "Game-changers" in campaigns
  • Executive agreements
  • The Russo-Japanese War
  • The Reagan Doctrine
  • Solicitor General
  • Policy streams
  • US v. Curtiss-Wright
  • Election of 1876
  • The 25th Amendment
  • Abe Fortas
  • Budget resolutions
  • The Little Rock executive order
II. Short essays. Answer three of four. Each answer should take about half a page. (6 points each).
  • Explain: "But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have been called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans, we are all federalists."
  • Why did William Daley have such a short tenure at the White House?
  • Explain: "The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization.We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."
  • Tell how Twitter has changed the job of the White House press operation.

III.Answer two of three essay questions (17 points each). Each answer should take about 2-3 large bluebook pages or 3-4 small bluebook pages
  • In Federalist 8, Hamilton wrote: “It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.” Have the past two decades confirmed or disconfirmed this observation? Explain, with examples.
  • Could Rick Santorum have won the 2012 Republican nomination? If not, why not? If so, how? 
  • See the excerpt below. Do you agree or disagree? Explain with reference to course materials.
A Democratic president, you'd think, would stick to Franklin D. Roosevelt or Jack Kennedy as role models. Not Barack Obama. As he faces tough times—economically and politically—I am told that he and his advisers are turning to an unusual source for inspiration: Ronald Reagan. Looking back, it shouldn't be a total surprise. On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama said nice things about the Gipper. Reagan, Obama said, "tapped into what people were already feeling, which was: we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to a sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." (At the time, Obama's ode to Ronald seemed nothing more than a jab at the Clintons (who were infuriated), and a bid for Republican votes. But now I see that it was Obama's tell: the clue to how he views himself, politics, and the presidency. He thinks he is Reagan in reverse—a patient, genial game changer for the ages—and his confidence helped soothe the economic panic of a year ago. But it isn't clear whether the president really understands the causes of the Old Man's successes, or the sobering lessons of his failures.

Bonus questions (one point each)
  • Larry O'Brien
  • Bud McFarlane
  • Ike Skelton
  • Peter Muldowney
  • Mike Mullen

Monday, December 8, 2014

Presidential overreach or a go for it push that fits the times?

Two RCP articles today discussed President Obama's recent actions and their legitimacy. The first one (here) looks at the unilateral actions taken by the White House as possibly the only realistic ones, while acknowledging that these sorts of decisions are far less successful during implementation than thorough legislation passed through Congress. The second (here) discusses the constitutional legitimacy of Obamas's executive action regarding immigration, or rather, the lack of legitimacy.

Obama's course of action seems to be a refusal to accept some of the difficulties of being a second term president. His actions, while largely unpopular and lacking support, may in fact have been the only way for him to implement any sort of change. With this in mind, what would be the most successful way to address the adversity of being a second term president without overstepping perceived jurisdiction? Is there potential for domestic reform, or is the president too often forced to focus on foreign policy issues if he wants to do anything of significant value?