Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect



Recent Articles

The Next Phase

Presidents build their ability to govern by governing, and now is the moment when policy smarts pay off.

(White House/Pete Souza)
New political eras have a kind of Robert's Rules of Order rhythm to them. First on the agenda: old business. Then on to the new. And that's the point at which we find ourselves in the Obama era -- we are about to bring the unfinished business to a close and move on to the new stuff. After the low-hanging fruit, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the three economic emergencies (banks, cars, and recession), health reform was the great task left incomplete by the previous Democratic administration and its predecessors. The policy structure and political strategy for health reform had also been put in place well before the 2008 election, by think tanks and advocacy coalitions and by the lessons of previous failures. Reform of the student-loan system, which brought an 18-year battle to a surprisingly quiet end, was also enacted in the safe shadow of health reform. Disappointment in the administration has been driven by the momentum theory of the presidency -- the widely held...

Philanthropy is My Co-Pilot

Pete Peterson, Michelle Rhee, and the dilemma of private foundations setting the public agenda.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Yesterday in Washington, D.C., the Peter G. Peterson Foundation convened the 2010 Fiscal Summit: America's Crisis and A Way Forward to, in its words, "launch a national bipartisan dialogue on America's fiscal challenges." Top billing as participants in the six-and-a-half-hour session on reducing long-term budget deficits went to former President Bill Clinton and then to the two men whom President Barack Obama appointed to chair the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. Three other members of that same federal commission are also participating in the summit, at which the foundation also released the results of a survey of former government officials, who unsurprisingly agreed that the deficit is a big problem. And on Tuesday, the commission itself held its first meeting. The double hit of meetings, on consecutive days, is likely to echo and reinforce media and public focus on the issue of...

The New Money Party

As the GOP gives up on Michael Steele, the real impact of the Citizens United decision will be felt.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Saturday, April 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Editors' Note: This piece has been corrected . It turns out banks aren't the only things that can be too big to fail. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, seems securely ensconced in his position despite his frequent off-message remarks, massive overspending on travel and luxury items, and his invocation of the race card at the oddest moments. Sure, race will protect him somewhat -- he won the chairmanship because the party elders liked the idea of an African American chair more than the reality of Steele -- but he's hardly the first high-ranking executive to have "failed upward" -- a phenomenon white men have been taking advantage of for decades. Often it's easier to work around such people than to remove them. And work around him is exactly what the Republican Party seems prepared to do. At least one "shadow RNC" is being formed, under the name American Crossroads, with a virtual Social Register of GOP names, including Karl Rove and former RNC Chair Ed...

Some of My Best Friends are Tea Partiers

Why some liberals can't seem to resist the new bad boys of American politics.

During the ugly late days of the debate on health reform, a minor skirmish broke out when a savvy journalist-of-the-right, David Weigel, got an organizer of a Tea Party event protesting the legislation to acknowledge that she'd been working with Jane Hamsher, who through her blog Firedoglake had become one of the sharpest critics of the legislation from the left. Hamsher objected that, while she knew the right-wing activist and they had planned to work together on other issues, such as drug legalization (supported by some of the libertarian elements of the movement), they had not actually joined forces around their shared opposition to health reform. Hamsher is far from alone among progressives in actively trying to forge alliances with the Tea Party movement. I recently attended a progressive policy conference at which the goal "Find Allies Among Tea-Partiers" remained on the whiteboard at the end, despite a few quietly expressed doubts about whether it was realistic. Naomi Wolf, the...

The High Cost of Conservative Intellectual Bankruptcy

You don't have to like David Frum to think his firing is bad news.

(National Speakers Bureau)
I hold no particular brief for David Frum, the conservative writer who was abruptly ousted as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute last week. I've participated on panel discussions and debates with him (including at AEI) but wouldn't consider him a personal friend. He once accused me of becoming like Charles Lindbergh (I'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to my aviation heroics). I consider "axis of evil," his best-known construction as a Bush speechwriter, one of the most irresponsible phrases ever put in a president's mouth. And with 15 million people unemployed, the last person who needs my sympathy is one who's had seven years in one of the sweetest deals imaginable, a well-paid think-tank fellowship with few institutional responsibilities. And yet, Frum's ouster is a sad day not only for conservatism but for political discourse generally. I don't say that because Frum and I agree on anything. I don't say it because I think he's a nice guy to have a beer with -- I'...