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Debating the Presidency

Debating the Presidency
Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive

Fourth Edition
Edited by:

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January 2017 | 312 pages | CQ Press
Editors Richard J. Ellis and Michael Nelson have once again assembled a cadre of top presidential scholars in the new Fourth Edition of Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive. Each essay offers a compelling yet concise view of topics relevant to the American executive. Ellis and Nelson offer brief chapter introductions that provide context for each debate-resolution style essay to prepare students to read each argument critically and decide which side of the debate they find most persuasive.

Contributions are written specifically for this volume, and give students the opportunity to grapple with contemporary pivotal issues through conflicting perspectives facing the modern presidency. Several new arguments are offered in this new edition, including:
  • Executive orders and other unilateral presidential directives undermine democracy Pro: Gene Healy, Con: Andrew Rudalevige;
  • The vice presidency should be abolished Pro: Douglas L. Kriner, Con: Joel K. Goldstein; and
  • The new media have brought the president closer to the people. Pro: Matthew R. Kerbel, Con: Jeffrey E. Cohen.
1. Resolved, The framers of the Constitution would approve of the modern presidency
Pro: David Nichols
Con: Terri Bimes
2. Resolved, The unitary executive is a myth
Pro: Richard J. Ellis
Con: Saikrishna Prakash
3. Resolved, Political parties should nominate candidates for the presidency through a national primary
Pro: Michael Nelson
Con: Andrew E. Busch
4. Resolved, The president should be elected directly by the people
Pro: Burdett Loomis
Con: Byron E. Shafer
5. Resolved, The Twenty-second Amendment should be repealed
Pro: David Karol
Con: Thomas E. Cronin
6. Resolved, The new media have brought the president closer to the people
Pro: Matthew R. Kerbel
Con: Jeffrey E. Cohen
7. Resolved, Presidential success and failure have more to do with political time than with a president's character and leadership qualities
Pro: Stephen Skowronek
Con: Fred I. Greenstein
8. Resolved, Presidential power is (still) the power to persuade
Pro: Matthew J. Dickinson
Con: George C. Edwards III
9. Resolved, Congress should be required to vote up or down on legislation proposed by the president
Pro: William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe
Con: B. Dan Wood
10. Resolved, Presidents have usurped the war power that rightfully belongs to Congress
Pro: Nancy Kassop
Con: Richard M. Pious
11. Resolved, Presidential signing statements threaten the rule of law and the separation of powers
Pro: Peter M. Shane
Con: Nelson Lund
12. Resolved, Executive orders and other unilateral presidential directives undermine democracy
Pro: Gene Healy
Con: Andrew Rudalevige
13. Resolved, The president has too much power in the selection of judges
Pro: David A. Yalof
Con: John Anthony Maltese
14. Resolved, The vice presidency should be abolished
Pro: Douglas L. Kriner
Con: Joel K. Goldstein

“Among the books I use for this course, Debating the Presidency is the students’ favorite...There is no alternative that I have found to be worth substituting.”

Barry L. Tadlock
Ohio University

“Richard J. Ellis and Michael Nelson’s edited volume, Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the Presidency, is a tour de force. It mightily enhanced my 2015 course on the executive process. Political science students engaged in spirited arguments over topics as classic as the direct election of the president and as prescient as whether the president has too much power in the selection of judges. Particularly given the plethora of U.S. presidential debates in 2016, such a volume promises to be even more pedagogically powerful in coming years.”  

Henry Sirgo
McNeese State University

“A tried and true teaching tool, provocative topics, and an outstanding group of scholars. Debating the Presidency delivers it all. Discussing critical issues helps people to learn different angles and how to construct winning arguments. This useful supplement is easy to read and useful in the classroom. It contains historical and current events, giving readers a broad range of information about the presidency, American politics, and global affairs.”

Sean Foreman
Barry University

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 6

Chapter 12

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Richard J. Ellis

Richard J. Ellis is Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics at Willamette University. His books include The Development of the American Presidency (2015; 2nd ed.); Debating Reform: Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System (with Michael Nelson, 3nd ed., 2016); Judging the Boy Scouts of America: Gay Rights, Freedom of Association, and the Dale Case (2014); Judging Executive Power: Sixteen Supreme Court Cases That Have Shaped the American Presidency (2009); and Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush (2008). In 2008 he was named the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of... More About Author

Michael C. Nelson

Michael Nelson is Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College and a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. A former editor of the Washington Monthly, his most recent books include Trump’s First Year (2018); The Elections of 2016 (2018); The Evolving Presidency: Landmark Documents (2019); The American Presidency: Origins and Development (with Sidney M. Milkis, 2011); and Governing at Home: The White House and Domestic Policymaking (with Russell B. Riley, 2011). Nelson has contributed to numerous journals, including the Journal of Policy History, Journal of Politics, and Political Science Quarterly. He also... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781506344485