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 Republican Repeal Paradox.

All pundits -- even those of us who foresaw that the strength of the Obama administration would be its capacity for patience -- should be hesitant about predictions after the latest round of sharp turns in American politics. But it seems likely that Republicans will have a bit of a scramble over the next few months in deciding what their stance toward the health-reform law should be. “Repeal and Replace” seemed to be the slogan of choice on Sunday night, but by Monday, a proclamation from Eric Erickson of warned that "any Republican who says we will repeal and replace will themselves be replaced. We want repeal, period." On Tuesday, William Kristol , in a “Special Editorial” in the Weekly Standard, tried to split the difference: "The message will have to be not just repeal but also replace -- replace Obamacare with sensible reforms. … But the details of the replacing and reforming are secondary. Repeal is the heart of the matter.” (He...

In Search of Arrogance

The legislative giants of past decades were not smarter or better people -- they simply had no hesitation about their entitlement to rule.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
It's starting to look like there's a pattern when a Democrat becomes president: The president's party starts with huge majorities in Congress. He puts forward an agenda, one that seems modest by progressive standards. Nonetheless, the agenda meets endless trouble, much of it from the president's own party, and he bleeds momentum and political capital. It's the story of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, it seems likely, of Barack Obama. And yet, while the pattern looks identical from a distance, up close the three presidencies are actually very different. The details tell the story of a transformation in American politics and society since the 1970s, one that is still unresolved. Carter and Clinton were both outsiders who ran against Washington, staffed their administrations with newcomers, and stumbled in trying to maneuver through the privileges, protocols, and personalities of the permanent government -- which includes not just the grandees of Congress but lobbyists, executive-branch...

Everything's Going Exactly According to My Plan.

As the Senate begins debate over the reconciliation bill that will improve the health bill, I feel compelled to point out that as a TAPPED reader, you probably saw this coming. Back on July 29 of last year, when progressives were getting impatient with the dead-end negotiations with Republicans on the Finance Committee, and pushing to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a reform with 50 votes, I pointed out the limitations to that approach, and suggested an alternative : Some have suggested using reconciliation to install the rough skeleton of reform, and then fixing it later. ... But what if Congress did it in reverse? Use the 60-vote Senate to pass whatever they can pass now -- we liberals will grumble but live with it -- and then use reconciliation next year to fix it. I'm sure I wasn't the first person to think of this option, although I hadn't heard about it. Some of the sharper strategists on the Hill had this approach in their back pocket for many months, and good for...

Adjusting Our Unhealthy Attitude

The health-care reform's benefits go beyond expanding coverage and lowering costs. The legislation should also help bring peace of mind to an increasingly anxious citizenry.

Audience members attend President Barack Obama's speech on Medicare fraud and health-care insurance reform in St. Charles, Missouri, March 10, 2010. (White House/Pete Souza)
Some years ago, while working on a doomed presidential campaign that staked too much on a detailed, flawed health-reform proposal, I organized a meeting of the policy and communications staff tasked with explaining the plan. The hardest thing for young, healthy, insured policy wonks like us to keep in mind, I recall saying, is that the place in our brain where we think about health and security is close to the brain's locus of anxiety. And the voters most interested in health policy are also most likely to be anxious about their health or insurance coverage. And so, as frustrated as these voters may be with their current health insurance or lack thereof, they will be the least receptive to wonky explanations about how a complicated health proposal will improve the system for everyone. A standard lesson of behavioral economics is that people weigh the risk of losing something they have more heavily than the chance of gaining something better. That's even before coming to any question...

The Case Against the Case Against Rahm

Conservative Democrats are not his invention.

Rahm Emanuel at an election-night rally at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 7, 2006. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A surprising number of people seem to have strong opinions about whether Rahm Emanuel should stay or go as White House chief of staff. It's surprising because chief of staff is kind of a black-box job -- or should be, anyway -- not a public performance. To find another chief of staff who evoked such strong opinions, one would have to go back 20 years, to the imperious John H. Sununu in the George H.W. Bush White House. In part, the case against Emanuel can be based on trace evidence of his performance on the job. There are the reports that Emanuel and Sen. Lindsay Graham have been working together on the effort to switch the administration's position on civilian trials for terrorist defendants. And the transparently planted defenses of Emanuel, notably Dana Milbank's in The Washington Post , are littered with disparagements of his intramural rivals, and even of the president, that are disconcerting coming from someone whose primary obligation is to maintain order. But for the...