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

Why Are We Talking About 2010?

While the urge to read the political tea leaves is strong, Tuesday's results say little about next year's elections.

Given the orgy of gloating on the right and the hand-wringing on the left that followed this week's elections, it would not seem unreasonable to conclude that next year's midterm elections have already been decided via Tuesday's results. The parties -- and their associated franchises in the punditocracy -- have split in predictable ways. Progressives see the two congressional special elections, which Democrats won in New York and California, as way more predictive of the national political mood than the two governor's races, which they lost in Virginia and New Jersey. Meanwhile, Republicans are ecstatic about their high-profile gubernatorial victories and what the results portend for 2010. The truth is that Tuesday's wins and losses tell us next to nothing about next year's elections. Here is what they do reveal: The GOP won in Virginia because it had a better candidate and ran a better campaign. In New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine was so damaged that all Republican...

High-Stakes Health Reform

Senate Democrats finally seem willing to take risks to ensure the public option's survival.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid grew up 50 miles outside the gaming capital of the world and sparred as an amateur boxer during his teen years. Perhaps this upbringing explains the Nevada politician's urge to take up the risky fight for a public option in the health-care reform bill that will soon come to the Senate floor. In some ways, Reid's willingness to play hardball is a new development for timid, risk-averse Senate Democrats, who have been caught playing defense on an issue that they should own. Meanwhile, House Democrats unveiled their own bill on Thursday, which includes a public health-insurance option that allows states to opt out and generally matches Reid's promised legislation. What comes next is a new round of attacks from opponents about how "ObamaCare" will ruin the American way of life. That strategy hasn't worked yet, and it's unlikely to succeed at this late stage -- more and more Americans support the idea of a public option, and they're increasingly aware that...

Obama's Foxhole

The White House is fighting back against Fox News, and journalistic objectivity is at risk of becoming collateral damage in this war.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly (Fox News Channel)
In normal times, it would make no sense for the White House to engage Fox News Channel in battle. That tactical decision would make as much sense as a dog chasing a crocodile into a swamp -- the White House is on Fox's turf, and the cable network has all the advantages. But these are not normal times, and the White House is not dealing with a typical media outlet. Fox News is everything that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says it is: It's an arm of the conservative movement and an opposition research shop for the GOP. And now, the Fox affair is a test case about the future of American political journalism. Set aside the immediate question of whether the Obama administration stands to gain or lose by engaging an outlet that has positioned itself as a Republican clearinghouse. The larger issue at play is whether the public will ever again seriously differentiate between newsgathering that serves the public good and information-gathering that serves a specific cause. Fox is not The New...

All These Governors

Do the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey say anything about the Democratic Party's future?

Jon Corzine, governor of New Jersey. (Center for American Progress/Ralph Alswang)
Current political weather reports forecast gloom and doom for Democrats come election time. The predictions are of severe changes in the climate from the triumphs of 2006 and 2008, when they took control of the Congress and won back the White House, to something considerably less favorable in 2009 and 2010. The anticipated result could be anything from a few lost Senate seats to a huge Republican comeback built on the decline in President Barack Obama's popularity. The president is now less likeable than Hillary Clinton, we're told. Some even suggest that it is in anticipation of this defeat that the White House is moving so urgently on so many fronts, from health-care to financial-services reform. According to this line of thinking, the reconfigured Congress, with shrunken or erased Democratic majorities, will severely restrict the president's ability to advance his agenda. This week, conservative columnist George Will ran down a list of Senate races where Democrats could come up...

Southern Baggage

As long as racism is tolerated within their party, Southern Republicans shouldn't act too surprised when they get pushed on the issue.

In an outburst during the president's address on health care, Rep. Joe Wilson accused Barack Obama of lying on the issue of immigration. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
There must be some powerful atmospheric agents shaping the politics of South Carolina. How else can the Palmetto State's tendency to repeatedly produce odd and bombastic figures be explained? Here, I'm not talking about the increasingly infamous and boorish Rep. Joe Wilson, who interrupted the president's health-care speech by shouting, "You lie." Nor am I even talking about the similarly infamous and boorish incumbent Gov. Mark Sanford, whose affair with an Argentine woman fueled a summer spectacle. No, I'm thinking of the reformed segregationists like retired Sen. Ernest Hollings and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, who turned out to have fathered a black child. These gigantic personalities possessed boundless political skill but ultimately had a difficult time with their aspirations. They were hampered by a political age defined by the debate over civil rights -- a debate in which they were compromised. I'm also thinking specifically of Lindsay Graham, the senior senator who replaced...

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