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

Whip Smart

In his third-floor office in the Capitol, Steny Hoyer is plunked down in a big red armchair, his left leg crossed over his right. He is wearing a dazzlingly white shirt and a red patterned tie. There are two pens in his breast pockets and visions of grandeur dancing in his head. Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, the man responsible for keeping tabs on his party in that chamber of Congress -- what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they need, and what it'll take to get their vote when the party needs it. So he is not a bad measure of the Democratic mood. The gist of what he has to say in his weekly meeting with reporters? John Kerry is going to be president, Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker, and Tom DeLay is going to have to deal with a Majority Leader Hoyer. Those are not Hoyer's exact words -- “My own view is that John Kerry is going to win this election” is all he'll say -- but they are the true sentiments among Hill Democrats who are...

Chicken Littles Recant

John Kerry has some bad news days coming. How do I know? Because he is a Democrat, and because the party that is, and has been, so united behind him is also bipolar. Good news makes its members giddy; bad news sends them into paralyzing fits of self-doubt and recrimination. So, at some point, when the news goes south again for Kerry, the sniping will resume. It will turn to concern, then to worry, and eventually to dissension. And then things will be as they should. “You know us -- we're up and down,” confessed one Hill Democrat this week. This is an up moment, but it was only a few weeks ago that some influential but unnamed Democrats were wringing their hands on the front page of The New York Times about how Kerry was blowing their big opportunity to win back the White House. The list of particulars was long and varied: His campaign was stalled; this was a critical political moment, and he was not playing it right or well; he had no war room and no ground game in Ohio; George W...

War Words

After the cascade of inflamed adjectives came tumbling in to express our revulsion with photos from Abu Ghraib -- “disgusting,” “abhorrent”, “brutal,” “sickening”, “inhumane,” “un-American” -- the debate about the causes and consequences of the Iraqi prison abuse is moving into decidedly more complicated territory for the administration. For a White House that hates having to explain itself, these are going to be tough days. And if Congress continues to assert itself, demanding answers and a little respect, the whole thing could get messy. We could end up with a full-blown congressional investigation. The strong, simple language that the president likes so much is suddenly giving way to the kind of ambiguous and measured explanations that the White House often derided as Clintonian. Detainees in the Iraqi War, for example, were treated “consistent with but not pursuant to” the Geneva Conventions, said Donald Rumsfeld. One Pentagon official told Congress this week that Abu Ghraib was...

Rocky Mountain High

Diana DeGette is a true-blue liberal from what in the conventional wisdom has to be considered a solidly red state. And despite her reputation as a legislator who is particularly effective when her party is in the minority, it is easy to view the efforts of the Colorado Democrat as the pointless flailings of a politician with no real leverage. She is, after all, a Democrat in the GOP-led House of Representatives. But DeGette, the four-term Democrat from Denver, is poking and prodding the White House on a couple of politically sensitive issues that could turn Colorado a little purple before the November election -- stem cell research and the environmental stewardship of the Bush Administration. These are the kind of issues that could hurt President Bush with independent voters, and there are a lot of them in Colorado. Ross Perot got 23 percent of the vote in 1992; Ralph Nader won five percent of the vote in 2000, as good a showing as he had anywhere in the country. Thirty-three percent...

Specter Rising

If Arlen Specter wins re-election in November and serves out his full term, he will become the first person in Pennsylvania history to serve five terms in the Senate. Boies Penrose is the only other senator to match the four terms Specter has served so far, but Penrose's tenure was in an age before the 17th Amendment allowed for the direct election of senators. And that is a whole lot different than having to raise and spend $14 million to run television and radio ads and man phone banks from Latrobe to Wilkes Barre and Moyamensing to Erie, which is what Specter had to do to win a tough primary race on Tuesday. Thirty years in the Senate is a long time, and it is a privilege the voters of Pennsylvania have never granted. The bottom line is that Pennsylvanians simply get bored or tired after awhile and then they make a change. So, having triumphed over Pat Toomey on Tuesday, the question for Specter is whether he can beat Democrat Joe Hoeffel and history at the same time. But that is...

Pages