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

Where Is the Left?

So far, Obama has made no cabinet appointments that are intended to appeal to the left wing of the party. Will that change?

Maybe the best way to way to approach an event as momentous and groundbreaking as the Obama presidency, especially for liberals who invested so heavily in it, is to take Alice Walker's advice to "expect nothing and live frugally on surprise." Obama appears to be assembling one of the most talented and experienced cabinets in history, and he's doing it in an extraordinarily effective fashion. A cabinet pick a day keeps the naysayers away. All the picks seem to follow the Biden doctrine, by which Obama chose his vice-president: Pick someone with experience and unassailable professional credentials and leave the critics stuttering or seeming completely deranged . It is hard not to admire the high-octane efficiency of the team Obama -- no missteps, no second guessing, no regrets. Oodles of brain power and steady to the point of dullness . But there is an element of appeasement to the enterprise that seems noteworthy to me, particularly if Obama decides that the only part of the base that...

Don't Be Afraid of Joe the Senator

We shouldn't worry that Joe Lieberman has gained anything by hanging on to his chairmanship. While he will head a powerful and important committee, Lieberman has no margin for error.

"But the fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, 'Why?' And it suggests the difference between these two candidates." -- Joe Lieberman on CNN, May 11, 2008 The regression of Joe Lieberman into an overzealous, indiscriminate attack dog on behalf of John McCain was a tragedy foretold. Right here , in the summer of 2006, we predicted that if he won re-election as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, he would make trouble for Democrats and might even go to the Republican Convention and trash the Democratic nominee in 2008. I worried about "the damage he could visit on the party from his perch on the Sunday morning talk shows and from the elevated moral high-ground. Or from the podium at the GOP convention in 2008." What I could not have anticipated was the slimy sheen he would bring to the effort, because whatever else we thought of Lieberman, slimy was not among the epithets we would...

A Promising Partnership

Previous presidents whose parties enjoyed large majorities in the House and Senate nonetheless had a troubled relationship with legislators. But Democrats have learned their lesson and seem eager to work closely with their new president.

More than anything else, Barack Obama will need grownups to help him govern the country. He is in a position to choose some of them with Cabinet picks and Executive Office staff, but he is constitutionally bound to work with the Congress, which is not a target-rich environment in the area of maturity and reasonableness. But there are some hopeful signs. Obama's daily prayer at this point should be that the Senate -- now solidly Democratic -- begins moving toward the lofty constitutional aspirations present at its founding. A "Great Compromise" from its very beginning, the Senate is where any residual, lingering impulse for compromise and deal-making resides in Washington. The founders tried to build in a certain maturity to the Senate by imposing a higher age requirement on senators than on representatives in the House and by making it impossible for the Senate to act impulsively. In The Federalist Papers, Madison imagines that the job of senator requires "greater extent of...

Nader's Black and White World

Ralph Nader made news last week by accusing Barack Obama of "talking white." But all he really told us is that he's still trapped in the past.

So will we have Ralph Nader to kick around some more after all? Maybe, but some of us were hoping that we could forget, so allow me the conceit. Can I say, "Thanks, but no thanks"? The great American Scold has managed to get the biggest publicity bump of his 2008 presidential campaign by attacking Barack Obama for "talking white." I suspect that, now that Nader has figured out how to get this level of media attention, we will see and hear more of the same from him in the coming months. But what Nader showed with his comments is that he, like many political operatives, activists, pundits, and journalists, fundamentally misunderstands the times that have produced Barack Obama. In the words of the great American philosopher Marvin Gaye, "things ain't what they used to be." Nader, in a single stroke, managed to reveal his own irrelevance and that of a whole generation of people who are arguing about issues that, this election campaign has shown, are not especially important to the vast...

Dodd and the Democrats' Countrywide Problem

The news that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd received a preferential mortgage deal comes right as the Senate gears up to debate a new bill that would bring relief to borrowers.

This week the Senate will continue debating a housing bill intended to bring some relief to the millions of American homeowners facing foreclosure because of the credit crisis that has become the hood ornament on an U.S. economy headed south. More than 1.5 million people have already lost their homes and there are more than 8,000 new foreclosure filings every day. This July, when rates reset on millions of adjustable rate mortgages, the pain is only going to go deeper and spread wider. “Almost one in every eleven homes in our nation with a mortgage in this country is in default or foreclosure at the end of March. That's the highest level since the Mortgage Bankers Association began tracking the foreclosures in 1979,” Dodd said on the Senate floor on Thursday, “By almost any measure, by any measure, Americans are struggling more and more than any point in recent memory.” True enough, but even as they work on providing homeowner relief, Democrats need to very quickly address their...