Sam Rosenfeld

Sam Rosenfeld is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University and a former web editor at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

Travelin' Blues

The Republican two-step on ethics reform has proven an amusing spectacle this season. First come panicked promises of reform from GOP congressional leaders; then come rank-and-file pushback and a hasty public retreat. A typical case presented itself when Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Rules Committee baron David Dreier proposed a blanket ban on all privately funded congressional travel. Mere days later, newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner took the occasion of a February Meet the Press appearance to tell Tim Russert, “I have my doubts about that.” Boehner's insouciance reflects the majority view of his rank and file. Proponents of such a ban, meanwhile, count among their ranks not only the spooked House speaker, but also virtually every major watchdog group, high-profile outside experts like ex-congressman and 9-11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, and the Senate's leading goo-goo gadfly, Russ Feingold, who scolded his colleagues at a February hearing, “If members of...

Meet the New Boss

"What, is Katherine Harris counting the ballots in there?" Several journalists shot out the same joke after flak emerged from the closed-door House Republican conference meeting to announce that more ballots than actual voters had been tallied in the February 2 election for majority leader. The snafu resonated uncomfortably in the air of corruption and disarray that had initially set the context for this heated race to replace disgraced party leader Tom DeLay. So Republicans were relieved when they discovered that the counting disparity stemmed from an innocent clerical error and would not, in fact, produce a Florida-style donnybrook. A run-off ballot was in order, however, and when word of the final tally leaked to the journalists and staffers shuffling distractedly outside the caucus room in the Cannon Office Building, the shock was palpable. By a vote of 122-109 on the second ballot, establishment favorite and DeLay protégé Roy Blunt of Missouri was bested by John Boehner (BAY-ner...

Calendar Whirl

They may be a bit rusty at winning presidential elections, but Democrats haven't lost an ounce of their storied devotion to mucking with party procedures. On December 10, assorted party bigwigs assembled in a cavernous ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill for the fifth and final meeting of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling. Co-chaired by North Carolina Congressman David Price and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, it marked the latest in a seemingly endless line of blue-ribbon Democratic reform commissions tasked over the last 35 years with forging a more democratic and desirable primary process: McGovern-Fraser, Winograd, Hart, the “Fairness Commission” -- the list goes on. For two middle-aged audience members chatting behind me, it was déjà vu all over again. “I feel like Peter Pan at something like this -- like I never grew up,” said one. His friend corrected him: “It's more like Groundhog...

The Truth About The Senate

The Most Exclusive Club: A History of the Modern United States Senate by Lewis L. Gould ( Basic Books, 416 pages, $27.50 ) During last spring's fight over the proposed “nuclear option” banning judicial filibusters, it was slightly troubling to hear the Democrats' repeated paeans to the sacred majesty of the Senate and its anti-majoritarian features such as the filibuster. On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the filibuster for “preserv[ing] our limited government” -- an accurate claim that could be extended to the whole institution. After all, the procedures and structures that make the upper chamber “the world's greatest deliberative body” render it a forbiddingly sluggish lawmaking body. But that sluggishness has hardly been an entirely positive force, especially for the progress of American liberalism. In the introduction to his new history of the modern Senate, Lewis L. Gould describes having begun his research “with the belief that the upper house had compiled...

How He Got Over

A curious American cultural moment occurred immediately after Cassius Clay's upset TKO of heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964, one that occasionally pops up in ESPN Classic rebroadcasts. Sports announcer Steve Ellis is conducting a post-match interview with Clay in the ring when the new champ starts calling over a friend to appear on camera with him. "Let Sam in!" Clay demands, as a handsome, beaming soul crooner is thrust onto the screen. "This is Sam Cooke -- the world's greatest rock and roll singer!" One can hardly expect Ellis to have been aware of the significance, but at that moment Sam Cooke and soon-to-be Muhammad Ali symbolized one of the key cultural developments accompanying the civil rights movement's full flowering -- a new kind of black presence in American public life that carried with it an assertion of unapologetic force and confidence. The dapper pop star and the fast-talking champ cut public figures that were witty, caustic, sexy, dangerously charming, and...

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