Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Harvey Starr

Second Advisor

Lee D Walker


When presidents are clearly aware of their exact end in tenure, they succumb to what I call in this research, Terminal Logic Behavior (TLB). I hypothesize that an executive term structure that sets a fixed number of allowable terms generates a policy continuity problem. More precisely, a term structure that bans reelection causes presidents to be inconsistent in their valuation of time, which causes inconsistency in the ranking of their objectives and in turn, inconsistency in the decisions they make throughout the course of their tenure. Using a cyclical model of presidential tenure, I test hypotheses linking presidential periods to presidents' use of decrees. I test for TLB using increased decree issuance as its proxy. In the case of the United States, I use event count models and find TLB has its strongest effect on presidents when they are in the final weeks of their term, particularly when their successor has been named and that successor is from the opposing party. Presidents experience a sort of pure cognitive clarity that discounts, even disregards the game of politics - the partisanship, the honed relationships, the horse trading tactics that all goes with the game of statecraft. It is then that presidents turn toward their vision of legacy and issue foreign, domestic, and environmental decrees - even emergency power decrees at increased rates. I then supplement these findings with presidential cases from Argentina and Brazil. Here I illustrate how TLB works 'on the ground' in specific contexts and in contexts outside of the United States.