With a joint appointment in History and at Wagner, Timothy Naftali, a Clinical Associate Professor of Public Service and a Clinical Associate Professor of History, is director of NYU's undergraduate Public Policy Major. A native of Montreal and a graduate of Yale with a doctorate in history from Harvard, Naftali writes on national security and intelligence policy, international history and presidential history. Using Soviet-era documents, he and Russian academic Aleksandr Fursenko wrote the prize-winning One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964 and Khrushchev’s Cold War, the latter winning the Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature in 2007 and inclusion on Foreign Affairs’ 2014 list of the ten best books on the Cold War. As a consultant to the 9/11 Commission, Naftali wrote a history of US counterterrorism policy, published as Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism. Most recently, with Peter Baker, Jeffrey Engel and Jon Meacham, he wrote Impeachment: An American History.
Naftali came to NYU Wagner after serving as the founding director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, where he authored the Library's nationally acclaimed exhibit on Watergate and oversaw the release of 1.3 million pages of presidential documents and nearly 700 hours of the infamous Nixon tapes. Naftali, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN.com, The Los Angeles Times, Slate and Foreign Affairs, is a CNN presidential historian. Most recently, he was featured in CNN’s The 2000s, Presidents Under Fire: The History of Impeachment and The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power. In addition, he served as historical consultant to the CNN Original Series "Tricky Dick" and the NETFLIX series, Designated Survivor.
The Trump presidency has forced a reexamination of the institution of the American presidency by both allies and critics of the current President. Allies of the President celebrate the disruption of presidential “norms” in support of populist ideals. Critics of the President bemoan the disappearance of those “norms” and warn of the threat that a resurgent “Imperial Presidency” poses to American democracy and its constitutional system. This course will introduce students to the evolution of the modern presidency, how it functioned before Trump and what is different about the current era. This course combines historical perspective and analysis with first-person accounts of what it is like to work in and for the White House. Are there any limits on presidential power at home and abroad? How were these limits established and, under our constitutional system, can they be undone? How have the nuclear and digital ages affected those powers? What role does the character or personality of the incumbent play in the functioning or effectiveness of a presidency? The core objectives of this course are to enable students to acquire the knowledge and analytical skills to assess any American presidency and understand its role in shaping the United States and the world.