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

Obama's Honeymoon Nears Its End

With a Supreme Court nomination in process and midterm fundraising already underway, Obama is about to learn that politics isn't just about being popular.

This week, Barack Obama named his first nominee to the Supreme Court, then headed west to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to raise money for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Taken together, these two seemingly disparate acts mark the end of a certain period of innocence in the Obama administration: The "blame Bush" phase of the Obama administration is over, and the prolonged honeymoon that the president has enjoyed with the country and the media will soon come to an end as well. Obama is no longer just the inheritor of Bush's mess. This is now his presidency in his own right. The chance to choose a Supreme Court justice is such a sui generis exercise of executive power -- it so powerfully underscores the vast and unique powers of a president -- that blame-shifting has become a less effective political strategy, and less becoming as well. Obama's political maturation will be hastened by the impending ideological fight that is now virtually a guarantee for Supreme Court nominations. Old wounds...

Obama, Your Party Isn't Behind You (And That's OK)

Senate Democrats' rejection of Obama's plan to close Guantanamo shouldn't be cause for worry.

Senate Democrats' overwhelming rejection of the White House plan to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay marks the official beginning of the 2010 election season, in which some Democrats will find it necessary to separate themselves from the popular president. Terrified of looking weak to the electorate, Democrats reverted to their natural state of panicked defensiveness when confronted with GOP criticism on issues of national security. There is much to lament in this development. The 90-to-6 rejection of the president's request for $80 million to close Gitmo by next January has all the hallmarks of the nervous, small-bore, cover-your-ass politics that will come to dominate the national debate as we get closer to the 2010 midterms -- and pandering is never pretty. But the vote may reveal a certain salutary independence from the White House among congressional Democrats that will, in the end, serve the country and the Obama administration well. The rejection made the president justify...

Dick Cheney Just Wants To Be Loved

Dick Cheney's attempts at public redemption have a logical root in his Cold War experience.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney recently appeared on the CBS news show Face the Nation, where he discussed his legacy. (AP Photo/CBS, Karin Cooper)
Before Dick Cheney was Dick Cheney -- the horns, the tail, the breath on fire and all that -- he was just another Washington inside player who had mastered all the important aspects of the capital city game. He made friends in the right places; he schmoozed the right reporters. He struck most people as a respectable conservative who respected the processes and institutions of American government -- people found him funny, and they liked him. It's almost impossible to imagine now, but Cheney the congressman once chastised Army colonel and conservative hero Oliver North for trying to stiff-arm Congress during its probe of President Ronald Reagan's Iran Contra scandal. In 1987, as North tried to circumvent congressional subpoenas requiring him to testify on the scandal, Cheney, then the ranking Republican on the House Iran Contra Committee, declared: ''If the ultimate objection is to avoid any testimony to the Congress then it seems to me that the colonel would move in the eyes of many...

Obama v. the Republican Party

The president can name the most agreeable of moderates as his Supreme Court nominee, and Senate Republicans will still put up a fight.

Somewhere deep in the psyche of Washington, hope exists that Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nomination will not return us to the rancor and bitterness unleashed by past judicial-appointment processes. It is a foolish and futile hope, but it speaks to the depth of the idealism inspired by Obama in a very fundamental way. And, frankly, there are logical reasons to be hopeful. But logic is not the currency of Supreme Court nomination fights, and this appointment process will not provide an exception. But let's deal with why some are inclined to be optimistic. First, the president has shown no inclination to be politically confrontational. In keeping with the Obama brand, his pick is likely to be someone with impeccable legal and academic credentials and defensible moderate bona fides. Second, the right is not in danger of losing a friendly seat. One moderate-to-left justice will be replaced by a justice of a similar stripe, so conservatives may be tempted to hold their fire. Finally...

Specter's Epilogue

Arlen Specter's move to the left isn't a chapter in the Republican Party's decline -- the story has already played itself out.

The dramatic party-switch by Pennsylvania bulldog Sen. Arlen Specter can be read as a final denouement in the slow, steady collapse of the Republican Party. Though the decline was triggered by the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, it was the decision by congressional Republicans to so fully and uncritically embrace the Bush agenda and the president's arrogance that cost the GOP so dearly. In retrospect, it is interesting to note how early the signs of the implosion began to appear: The seeds of the GOP's current demise were sown in the triumphal moments following Bush's victory in 2000. Had they heeded the warning signs, Republicans could have saved themselves a lot of trouble -- and maybe even a few congressional seats. Specter's reasons for leaving are the same as Republican-turned-Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords' were eight years ago. Perhaps more importantly, they were the same reasons that drove so many Americans into the arms of the Democrats over the last four years of the...

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