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

The Odd Couple

How to explain the odd dynamics that turn a vice-presidential pick intended to add energy and excitement to the ticket into a yawn of a story? The answer, of course, is that it was obvious, safe, and terribly predictable. And while I'm not saying those are bad things, I'm curious to see if John Kerry's pick of John Edwards will provide the same kind of bounce that vice-presidential selections usually produce. I'm guessing not. A lot of people were already trading on the assumption of a Kerry-Edwards ticket, so there was no surprising, unexpected arc to the story. Kerry-Edwards -- this is a T-shirt you could have bought a year ago, before our brief Howard Dean interlude. And in picking Edwards, Kerry reinforces things both good and bad that we already know about him. Good: He's cautious, but will take advice sometimes. Bad: He's cautious and will take advice sometimes. The best thing about having John Edwards on the ticket is that John Kerry, Mr. Steady, picked him. Kerry, who has...

Ready to Rumble

John Lewis got up and proclaimed, “I don't want to preach.” But Lewis hails from Troy, Alabama, and graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1961. He walked with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, and so when he says he doesn't want to preach, it just means that he's going to have to. That's why Nancy Pelosi's weekly lunch for members of the Democratic caucus turned into a revival meeting recently when Lewis began beseeching members who are defending safe seats to give money from to help fund the campaign of Democrats in tough races. Lewis himself promised to pony up $100,000. By the end of the lunch, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had pledges of nearly $400,000. “You've got to come to the table with more than just your appetite,” Lewis said. Lewis, who had been in the House for almost 18 years, is a leader of the civil-rights movement and a safe choice to include on your list of political heroes. He is also an unfailingly...

Bell's Curveball

Chris Bell will tell you frankly that one term in Congress has hardened his politics. “I am a more partisan Democrat that I was,” he says. “The place makes you more partisan.” But he will also tell you that this deepened sense of partisanship is not what caused him to file an ethics complaint against his fellow Texan, Majority Leader Tom DeLay. And he laughs at the assertion that his charges will make the House a nastier, more uncomfortable place to work. “There could not be a more caustic partisan atmosphere than what exists in the House of Representatives right now,” he says, “and much of it is caused by the individual who is the subject of this complaint.” Bell may have started something he won't have to finish. When the lame-duck freshman filed his complaint against DeLay with the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct last week, he ended a seven-year détente between the two political parties on Capitol Hill that had involved an unspoken agreement not to file such complaints...

The Anti-Reagan

Candidate George W. Bush promised to be a uniter, not a divider, and it's hard to dispute the notion that as president he has botched that pledge. Indeed, Dick Gephardt's “miserable failure” refrain may have been invented for Bush's performance in bringing the country together. Still, in time, Democrats may look back fondly and remember Bush as the great unifier. That's because, in at least one respect, he has kept his promise to bring people closer. The downside for him is that they are all Democrats and “anybody but Bush” voters who want to see him defeated in November. And, if you believe the poll numbers, their numbers are growing. Bush, whether he wins re-election or not, will leave the Democratic Party more unified than he found it, and maybe more unified than at any time in the last generation. He has given the party life, and in that way he is the anti-Reagan. Reagan, with his warmth and charm, crushed Democrats; he sat on their ambitions like an elephant on a seedless grape...

Making Nice

We live in an age of extreme contrariness and unintended consequences, so it is hardly a surprise to hear Democrats on Capitol Hill praising Ronald Reagan for his leadership and his commitment to restoring America's greatness. While the aspiration to a certain graciousness and respect at a time like this is understandable, one must be willfully forgetful not to understand the undercurrents of ambivalence and reticence that attend the Democratic accolades. Ronald Reagan, after all, was the person who did the most to dismember and demoralize the Democratic Party in the 1980s, putting in place a conservatism so attractive to many Americans that Democrats still have not found a comfortable way to counterpunch against it. Mario Cuomo tried in his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic Convention. "In order to succeed, we must answer our opponent's polished and appealing rhetoric with a more telling reasonableness and rationality," he said. "We must win this case on the merits. We must get...

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