No Comment: How the Office of the White House Press Secretary Has Changed Since its Establishment.

Hello! My name is Davis Thompson, and I am a Political Science and Journalism major in my third year at Middle Tennessee State University. My CSPC paper will focus on examining and comparing the role of the various individuals who have served as the White House Press Secretary.

I first became interested in the press secretary when I discovered the West Wing in middle school and fell in love with CJ Cregg. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to intern in the State Senate in Nashville and work on a daily basis with the Senate Press Secretary there. This opportunity only piqued my interest and I’m looking forward to exploring the roles of the White House Press Secretary in more detail.

            Each day, the White House press corps files into the pressroom and takes their assigned seat before bombarding the White House Press Secretary with questions. In an environment that is rife with tradition, yet laid-back at the same time, the press secretary will spend an hour or so defending the president and highlighting his accomplishments while managing to downplay his scandals and controversies. The role of the press secretary changes with each administration and the incorporation of new technologies.  From Dana Perino to George Stephanopoulos the individuals who have filled the office have each interpreted and performed their duties in a different manner. By using a case study method, I plan to compare the methods of various press secretaries across party and demographic lines.


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The Effects of the CEQ within Presidential Environmental Politics

Hi all!

While I’m majoring in Government, my studies at Smith College, where I am currently in my senior year, have tended to come back again and again to the intersection at critical junctures of larger-scale politics and environmental policy making. Albeit it there is probably no subject federal and local policy free from the pull of outside political considerations, the political aspect of decision-making is deeply engrained in US environmental policy process. The passage of several packages of far reaching environmental legislation decades ago created a path dependency regulatory structure that empowered the Executive branch in both rulemaking and setting the tone for federal environmental protection priorities.

While there is significant focus on the role and power of the EPA and other executive agencies in Presidential environmentalism, there is less written on the impact of the organization meant to ensure an effective long-term national environmental plan, and act as the voice of each individual President in the public environmental discourse.

Can the achievements and general level of influence of the Council on Environmental Quality been seen as an accurate measure of the prioritization of environmental protection in, environmental policy goals of the President it serves? What can be seen as the ramifications of the growing (or at times lessening) influence of the CEQ on each administration’s long-term environmental goals?

I’m excited to discuss this topic with y’all in October, and get feedback. 

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Battle over the Budget

Hey everyone!  My name is Kent Toland, and I am a senior studying government at Harvard University.  For my paper, I will examine presidential-congressional relations through the lens of the budget.  In particular, I will use case studies of the landmark budget agreements of the past 30-35 years (for instance, the Bush and Reagan tax cuts) and consider how various structural factors affect the President’s negotiation strategy.  By doing so, I hope to not only gain a better understanding of the strategy a President adopts, but also why some Presidents have failed to successfully impose their will upon the budget process.

The budget is a critical battleground for the President and each member of Congress, and I hope that my analysis will provide insight into the dynamics of the continuous power struggle between the legislative and executive branches, as well as the most effective strategies the President can use in various contexts to negotiate his policy successfully with Congress and maintain a good working relationship with Congress going forward.

Over the course of this year, I’m looking forward to seeing how my research develops and learning from all of you during our time together in DC.  Hope you are all having a great start to the academic year!

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Examining the Presidential-Congressional Relationship in the Context of Presidential Reelection

My name is Graham Goldberg, and I am a Business Administration + Public Policy major in my fourth year at Georgia Tech.  My CSPC paper will examine a President’s effectiveness in years three and four of his first term, as well as in years one and two of his second term if reelected. Specifically, my research seeks to determine if there is an association between a President’s reelection campaign and his relationship with Congress.

I chose my topic after reflecting on President Obama’s recent reelection campaign. While long, drawn-out reelection campaigns are inevitable given a President’s ability to run for a second term, noting the costs and benefits of campaigning in regards to the President’s effectiveness in running the country are important to understand. Results from this study will aid future administrations and Congress in agenda-setting. My paper should also aid future presidents and his/her advisors regarding decisions on reelection, how to balance campaigns and presidential responsibilities, and which types of policies to advocate for at the start of the second term.

While research and measures currently exist that attempt to evaluate Congresses and Presidents on “effectiveness”, I do not know of any studies that have linked a President’s reelection efforts to his relationship with Congress. Also, much attention has been given to the “honeymoon period” at the start of a President’s first term in office, but not as much has been studied regarding the start of a President’s second term.

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Human Rights in Foreign Policy: Rhetoric and Reality

My name is Erica Willis and I am a senior at the University of North Georgia.  My research topic pertains to the role of human rights within foreign policy and the way in which rhetoric and policy differ.  I am taking a historical approach to my research, first looking examining Jimmy Carter’s human rights policy throughout his presidency, then looking at the way the Obama Administration approaches the subject of human rights within its foreign policy.


I first became interested in this topic while taking a foreign policy and Jimmy Carter class.  As Carter’s legacy and one of the cohesive threads running throughout his presidency, I decided to research the application of his human rights policy.  I became especially interested in the lack of interest and policy concerning the blatant human rights abuses within Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime.  Throughout my research at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library I began to see a correlation between the normalization of relations with China and this violation of human rights rhetoric.  I then explored the idea of the function of human rights within foreign policy and the manner in which it is employed.  When President Obama entered office, his rhetoric on human rights greatly mirrored those idealistic goals of Carter.  I intend to examine and analyze the way in which both administrations have tended to sacrifice their idealistic commitment to human rights in favor of national interest, in some instances blatantly overlooking human rights violations in consideration of what they have viewed as more consequential or stable foreign policy goals.  I intend to analyze and more fully understand the function of human rights policy within foreign policy, and the reasons the rhetoric and the reality are often times in conflict


As a history major, my approach is concerned with the historical aspects of human rights rhetoric- beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- and the way that this has been violated based on the realities consequences of certain situations.  I think that it is important to understand how human rights policies have been used in the past- or the lack thereof- to understand the way in which foreign policy relates to national interest.  I am really excited to explore this topic more fully, as well learning more about the research you all are conducting.

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The Presidency and Military Aid

My name is David Glickstein – I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and I am studying Political Science, Music Performance, and Latin.

Since the Truman administration, presidents have used military aid to achieve American interests abroad, acting as a critical foreign policy tool during the Cold War. Most scholarship before the dissolution of the Soviet Union attributed efforts to fight communism as the best indicator of which countries receive military aid, and how much. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the post-Cold War presidents and congresses have continued and even increased military aid, challenging the link between aid and containment.

Surprisingly, there is little scholarship on predictors of U.S. military aid allocation. Of existing scholarship, researchers focus on qualities of the recipient countries, examining traits such as human rights, regime or government type, relationships with terrorist organizations, or population size. To the contrary, I will examine the degree to which domestic politics impacts allocation of military aid and will specifically examine the influence of presidents’ foreign policy agendas on allocation.

Generally speaking, presidents (particularly modern presidents) have broad powers when it comes to foreign policy, as they are even allowed to use force without immediate congressional approval under the War Powers Act. When it comes to foreign aid, however, budgets must still go through Congress, meaning presidents have limited powers over this particular component of foreign policy. Accordingly, this is certainly a field that merits scholarly attention with regard to presidential powers.

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Friends of the Court: The Presidency, Congress, and Political Participation in the Judicial Process

As a Constitutional enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the power dynamic that defines the relationship between institutionally separate branches of government. Through my formal education I learned of the logic behind such idioms as “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” However, it was through my experience working in all three branches of government that allowed me to see this interplay between institutions as the dynamic, complex, often convoluted relationship that it is. Separate in some instances, but very much entangled in others, the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court interact in a number of ways that have bearing on the political culture of the United States.

A lesser-known example of this entanglement, and one on which I have chosen to focus my research is role of the amicus participation by members of Congress and the Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court. Through the age-old practice of filing briefs on behalf of parties to the case as amicus curiae, or “friends of the Court,” voices of Congress and the Presidency manifest themselves in the independent judiciary.

My research will study how influential these voices are, under what conditions they are exercised, and how their prevalence and influence has changed over time. Using quantitative analysis, I seek to measure the extent to which members of Congress and the presidentially appointed Solicitor General see success in amicus filing. It is my anticipation that this research will yield a more complete understanding of the formal channels through which the Presidency and Congress interact with the politically isolated Supreme Court, and exercise power beyond their formal dictates. I expect that my internships in the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Office of the Solicitor General will inform this research.

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A Well-Behaved Government: Obama’s Use of Behavioral Science to Improve Policymaking

Hello fellow Fellows and readers! My name is Rachel O’Connor and I am starting my fourth year of doctoral studies in Social/Personality Psychology at Michigan State University.

Shortly after the last presidential election, reports emerged describing President Obama’s “dream team” of social scientists that advised the president and his team on how to scientifically target messages to voters. Then, at the beginning of this summer, the White announced the creation of a Behavioral Insights Team that would use strategies gleaned from behavioral science, such as those described in Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s bestselling book, “Nudge,” to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of social policies. Perhaps more so than any other president, President Obama has embraced behavioral science and its potential power for public policy.

When I heard about these initiatives my nerd-excitement levels went through the roof. I have long believed that science has the potential for creating smarter and simpler solutions to social problems. One of the main reasons I chose to go to graduate school for Social Psychology was because I believe social change requires a basic understanding of human nature and that science might hold answers to contentious political issues. Fields like social psychology, economics, and sociology are focused on explaining what people do and why, and identifying methods and interventions that work; yet, historically, there has been limited communication between researchers and public policymakers. Finally, it seemed there was a president who not only shared my views but was actually willing to begin forging these connections.

However, in just the three years that I’ve been in graduate school a lot has happened in the social science community that has curbed my initial naïve excitement. Highly publicized incidents of data fraud have been uncovered and there has been much greater scrutiny into the replicability (or lack thereof) of popular findings in the field. These types of incidents point to problems in the validity and rigor of social scientific research, and make me wonder if the field is ready for its moment in the policy spotlight.

In my project, I hope to explore both this excitement and wariness. First, I want to more thoroughly explore President Obama’s vision of the interplay of behavioral science and public policy, and examine examples of applications of behavioral science by other presidents and countries. In doing so, I hope to uncover some of the political, ethical, or practical concerns that have heretofore prevented the systematic incorporation of behavioral science in public policy, and how these new initiatives address those concerns. Second, drawing on the social science literature, I would also like to identify potential obstacles to the success of these initiatives, predict how successful these interventions are likely to be, and possibly identify policy areas where these types of interventions are more or less likely to be effective.  Ultimately, I hope to suggest things that both President Obama and his advisers and social scientists can do to ensure the Behavioral Insights Team is successful, and how they can pave the way for even greater implementation of behavioral science in public policy.

I’m excited to learn more about your projects and hear your thoughts on mine!

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Congressional Economic Policy: A Model

Greeting from the University of the South! My name is Nicholas Pusateri, and I am a Senior Political Science and Economics double major at Sewanee. For my paper, I have chosen a research topic that allows me to combine my interest in Congress as well as my passion for economics. I am looking forward to discussing my research with you all in greater detail soon.

The goal of my paper is to analyze congressional economic policy from 1971 to 2011 in order to create a model for Congressional economic policymaking. By first coding Congressional economic policies, then, correlating those policies with both political and economic factors, this paper creates a model for understanding the economic policies of the post Nixonian gold standard era and potentially Congressional economic policy in the future. Specifically, by creating a model to explain and predict Congressional economic action, this paper explores the question: What type of Congressional economic policy can be expected under different economic and political conditions?

One of the main features of my study is that it is an inductive study rather than a deductive study. First, I code every economic policy contained in proposed bills that passed the House and Senate into a type of economic policy. Then, I analyze the conditions of which different policies were able to be passed.

Explicitly, Congress is given the power to raise and spend from the Constitution. Congress also uses its power to regulate. By breaking down these three sections into subcategories such as tax increases, tax decreases, stimulus, wage policies, and a breakdown on appropriations, I am creating a much needed typology for Congressional economic policymaking.

My hope is, by correlating major political and economic data with Congressional economic policies, I will be able to observe a trend and construct a model. By explaining the economic policy making power of Congress, the conditions under which certain policies are likely to occur, and the future of Congressional economic policy, my research will be a much needed addition to political science research in the field of Congressional economic policymaking.

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Gun Control Laws: Obama’s Struggle to Pass Gun Control Legislation Twenty Years After Clinton’s Brady Bill

Hi! My name is Rejena Carmichael and I am a senior at Hofstra University majoring in English and Political Science.

My research will compare the legislative processes of the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act passed in 1993 to the difficulties the country faces passing gun control laws today, twenty years later. I plan to study how Bill Clinton and the 103rd Congress rallied support to pass the Brady Bill and how recent violent shootings create a different and more difficult political culture for President Obama to pass gun control laws now.

I will outline the historical events in between Clinton’s presidency and Obama’s presidency, I will include the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, the 2011 Tuscon, Arizona shooting, the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting, and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

I am looking forward to meeting you all soon!

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