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The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate 1st Edition

2.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 000-0230623611
ISBN-10: 0230623611
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Editorial Reviews


“Samuel has produced a concise, engaging and readable take on the subject…eminently worthwhile.” ―The Washington Times

“The U.S. Senate today has become a pressure-cooker, a place of combat, hardball politics and raw ambition. The Upper House pulls back the curtain and shows it all: the brawling, the deal-making, and sometimes even the hilarity, of the U.S. Senate in action. With rare access, Terence Samuel presents a dramatic and intense look at life in the august halls of power as it really is and what it really means, for better or worse, for our democracy.” ―Roger Simon, author of Divided We Stand

“Veteran D.C. journalist Terence Samuel deftly guides us through the hallways and back rooms of one of Washington's most peculiar centers of power: the U.S. Senate. With a gripping narrative focusing on the ongoing political wars, Samuel shows how America's top lawmakers--a curious collection of egos and oddballs--make the sausage, or, too often, don't. This ain't the Senate you read about in civics class.” ―David Corn, author of The Lies of George W. Bush

“Terence Samuel's fascinating book provides an engaging and lively look at the troubled institution of the Senate over the past decade. His thoughtful narrative, based on perceptive sketches of several senators, shows why the institution has become mired in a chronic crisis. Readers will be grateful to Samuel for his informed guidance about the causes of the Senate's current malaise.” ―Lewis L. Gould, author of The Modern American Presidency and Grand Old Party

“Terence Samuel opens a window, one that is usually slammed tight, on the United States Senate's bizarre customs and folkways, and he shows us these usually carefully scripted and packaged people in a candid light. A highly edifying and important book.” ―Michael Tomasky, author of Hillary's Turn

About the Author

Terence Samuel was the chief congressional correspondent for U.S. News & World Report from 2000 to 2005. Previously, he was a reporter and New York bureau chief at The Philadelphia Inquirer, a director of news programming at America Online and a political columnist for The American Prospect. Formerly, he was deputy editor of The Root, The Washington Post's online magazine of opinion and analysis aimed at African American readers. He is currently editor-at-large at The Root and senior correspondent for The American Prospect.He has appeared on PBS's Washington Week, CNN, CNN International, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as on international media outlets BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230623611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230623613
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,516,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel Feuer on August 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I try not to write negative comments about other people's work, because a book is an exceptional effort, and I commend people for making the effort. Look at the bookstore, it's so devoid of materials these days, so why discourage someone from making an effort to create a piece of work? I commend the writer for examining the Senate, and I enjoyed his choices of subjects: Senators who are not well known in the national spotlight and individuals whose views may not shine brightest in a crowded political environment. Here in New York City, I've never read about Montana Senator John Tester, yet he may wind up being an important legislator on issues in the future- this book provided me an insight into his background and where he stands on issues.
However I had great difficulty with the book. It was published in the late spring of 2010, yet it is all about political activities that occurred before 2008. And so the book becomes almost divided into 2 parts: a book about new Senate members, and a book expressing hatred towards the Iraq war. But this is 2010. The Iraq war has faded from the public mindset. I don't remember the blow-by-blow debates in late 2007 about the war and I did not learn much about it from this book. Nor is it reasonable to expect freshmen members of the Senate to suddenly alter the entire war debate. Yet the book plays out in such a manner that left me waiting for Senator Tester to stop the debate and change history immediately. Understandably, that wasn't happening. But there was one issue where a freshman Senator within the past 2 years had an enormous impact publically and legislatively, but it is completely left out of the book!
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, it's nice to see somebody writing about something other than the presidency or the Supreme Court. The Senate in particular has proved a breeding ground for some of America's most interesting politicians, as Terrence Samuel's The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate makes clear.

Samuel's book focuses less on the Senate as an institution and more on the persons and personality in the chamber. In other words, this isn't a dry political science account. He seems particularly interested in those men who joined the "most exclusive club" full of ambition, but who failed to win the presidency. Some of these men are more interesting than most presidents and Samuel gives them their due.

Unfortunately, like Lewis Gould's more scholarly The Most Exclusive Club: A History of the Modern United States Senate, it seems intent on portraying the Senate as ineffective. Here is a typical line from the book: "In a very basic way, the real value of the U.S. Senate is its ability to produce failure and frustration in the guise of good and prudent government." This isn't necessarily wrong, but I suspect this view stems largely from the author's reflection on current events (which take up a good portion of this book).

If you're curious about this book, Samuel published a brief excerpt in the magazine "The Root" (I've attached the URL to the excerpt in the comments section below).
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't like Terence Samuel's "The Upper House" at all. It is a love letter to the 2006 class of freshmen Senate Democrats, and their efforts to prematurely end the war in Iraq. Samuel's anti-war, anti-Bush missive will either preach to a like-minded choir or offend people who view the war in Iraq as an ultimate success.

The book is filled with factual errors, of which I will detail some of the most major:

1) p. 222: "...the Democrat who had replaced Republican Wayne Allard of New Mexico, sat with his cousin, Mark,the newly elected Senator from Colorado." Wayne Allard was a Republican from Colorado, not New Mexico. Mark Udall, not Tom, replaced him.

2) p. 132: "The senator in question happened to be the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, James Inhofe..." Inhofe is the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Lisa Murkowski is the ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The Energy Committee and the Environment Committee are two different entities, with different portfolios that operate independently. Inhofe has been the ranking member of the Environment Committee for several Congresses.

3) p. 80: "...the junior Senator from Hawaii, who was beginning his fourth term." Dan Akaka was beginning his third term that day in January '07. He was appointed to the Senate in 1990 after the death of Spark Matsunaga. He was elected in his own right to full terms in 1994, 2000, and 2006.

4) p. 46: "passed the Senate unanimously by 3 -0." The Schiavo bill passed by unanimous consent, which is typical of legislation in the Senate. Any single one of the Democrats that Samuel so reveres could have shown up to stop it, by objecting to the UC request. Again, this happens a lot. Democrats do it too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A nice book about some nice people, but no real behind the scenes information. I am glad the author had a nice relationship with the candidates, and eventually elected officials, but I did not find that the book lived up to its title.
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