Terence Samuel

Terence Samuel is a Prospect senior correspondent and the author of The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate, published in May by Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Ten Political Lessons for the New Year

This year was full of political scandals, blunders, and miscalculations. Here's what Washington can learn from its mistakes.

President Barack Obama greets Michaele Salahi before the State Dinner Nov. 24, 2009. (White House/Samantha Appleton)
The world at the start of 2010 looks a lot different than it did when it was on the verge of 2009. For one, we have avoided economic collapse. It's also likely that in the new year, President Barack Obama will have delivered on his campaign promise to reform American health care -- somewhat. If he is lucky, we will begin to see an economic resurgence that will steady his job approval rating and calm Democratic fears of a GOP rout in the fall midterm elections. Republicans, looking better now than they did six months ago, will continue to attack Democrats for the exploding deficit and the decision to try to spend America out of the recession. And if Republicans are lucky, the economy will not recover quickly. But we will have to wait to see how all that turns out. We already know how 2009 unfolded, though, and some lessons are worth remembering in the coming year. Here are the top 10: Bipartisanship makes for good rhetoric but bad politics. Health care is the chief victim of this...

It's Not Just About Copenhagen

In Papua New Guinea, the battle between environmental protection and economic development plays out with one controversial gas project.

(Flickr/The Truth About ...)
It's a strategic gamble Barack Obama is making by going to Copenhagen at the end of the U.N. climate-change conference instead of at its start. The president's idea is to close the deal rather than open discussions with a long list of unlikely promises. That leaves Todd Stern, America's lead representative in Denmark, to fight a rearguard action against claims that the United States owes climate-change reparations in the meantime. If our disproportionate emissions levels have caused damage to countries in the developing world, we should have to pay the cost, they argue. It’s a damned mess. The stakes are high for both Obama and the United States -- the crisis is one of credibility, and reputations are on the line. So explain this: In the middle of these heated climate-change discussions, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the federal credit agency tasked with boosting American exports, announces a final agreement on the largest financing project in its 75-year history. The...

Racing the Clock on Jobs

While Afghanistan and health care dominate the news, Obama still needs to address the troubling job market.

President Barack Obama greets business leaders at the close of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum , Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In between this week's Afghanistan speech at West Point and next week's Copenhagen-Oslo double feature, the president fit in a jobs summit at the White House and a symbolic trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania, (where the restlessness was handed down ) to talk about getting Americans back to work. It is a task that will likely dominate the rest of Obama's first term and play a critical role in whether he can convince voters to award him a second. Despite the hoopla that preceded the Afghanistan speech and the second-guessing that followed, the Afghanistan policy will not be nearly as politically consequential in the short term as the president's plan for new job growth. The West Point speech underscored, once again, Obama's superior talents in setting an agenda. As complicated and contradictory as the speech was, one came away thinking that we had a plan in Afghanistan; the discussion about whether it will work will drag on interminably, but at least there is something to debate. So where...

A Devil of a Job for Democrats

Forget making everyone healthy and saving the polar bears. If Democrats can't solve the jobs problem, next year's elections will be an uphill battle.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will win his motion to proceed on a health-care reform package that should shave $127 billion off the federal budget deficit over the next decade -- the legislation will come to the floor of the Senate before Thanksgiving. In practical terms, that means the Obama administration will likely get to mark its first year in office with a remarkable set of legislative triumphs that, in addition to health care, could include some kind of financial reform legislation and maybe even a climate change bill. These are big wins that will change our way of life significantly and constitute an admirable record of campaign promises kept. So it is no small irony that all this success may be of limited political value to Democrats as they go into the next election season: 2010 could be the year of the American job. Democrats should be euphoric about their recent successes, but instead there is a creeping panic that they will face a harsh rebuke from voters next...

That Old Republican Revival

Will the GOP be sufficiently rebuilt to challenge Obama and the Democrats in 2010? Probably not.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (The Republican House Conference)
The GOP has officially declared its 2010 resurgence, and why not? This is as good a time as any. The party won all the big statewide elections last week, and it's pulling ahead in Gallup's generic congressional ballot this week. For the first time this year, more people say they will vote for the Republican candidate in next year's midterm congressional election than for the Democrat. No wonder conservatives are happy. But in so many ways this GOP "resurgence" reminds me of the Democratic resurgence of 1998, when the Democrats needed 12 seats to take control of the House and only got five. Or maybe it's more akin to the resurgence of 2000, when Democrats won the popular vote but lost the White House, and picked up four seats in the Senate but only mustered a split that could be broken by Dick Cheney. Then, of course, there were the 2002 midterms where the Democratic "resurgence" defied expectations and lost two seats in the Senate and eight seats in the House, giving Republicans clear...