Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Something New Under the Sun

Berkeley's innovative new plan for putting solar power in all of the city's homes and businesses offers a vivid illustration of progressive government in action.

We sometimes think of local governments in strongly progressive communities as ineffective nearly to the point of being comical. While potholes go unfilled, the collection of aging hippies on the town council debates passionately how they're going to respond to the crises in Darfur or Burma, and whether the town should retain a chakra consultant. This is a caricature, sure, but it contains more than a little truth. But the city council of Berkeley, California -- where run-of-the-mill leftists are considered positively conservative -- just did something extraordinary. Under a plan they unanimously approved yesterday, Berkeley will become the first city in the country to pay to install a solar power system for any homeowner or business who wants it. In the process, the city is demonstrating how creative thinking and public-private partnerships can offer benefits to citizens, business, and the environment that the free market simply can't accomplish on its own. Given ever-increasing...

Tim Russert: Stop the Inanity

Russert passes for a "tough" interviewer by adopting a confrontational pose rather than asking genuinely challenging questions. Which is why he's a terrible moderator for our presidential debates.

MSNBC debate moderator Tim Russert speaks to the audience before the Democratic debate on Sept. 26 in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama: "There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?" When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?" Indeed it is, because the process is controlled by Tim Russert and people like him. Russert's Bible question encapsulates everything...

Haunted by the Hippie

Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative Democrat running for president, the right makes her out to be a radical. Perhaps this is because the right still fears the social change hippies represented.

A specter is haunting the 2008 presidential campaign. It is a terrifying beast that walks through mud, dances to eerie music, wears strange garments, and copulates wantonly. It smells vaguely of patchouli. I speak, of course, of the hippie. Or rather, the conservative image of the hippie, grafted onto a woman who could barely have been less countercultural back in the times when the actual species roamed the Earth: Hillary Clinton. If you thought we'd get through this campaign without the people who were too square to be down with the scene in the 1960s once again venting their resentment at their cooler peers, think again. But this time around, it's even less likely to work than it has in the past. Not that they won't be trying. Imagine the quivers of delight over at RNC headquarters when they learned last week that back in June, senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton inserted a $1 million earmark into the health and education appropriations bill for the Museum at Bethel Woods in...


Last night, Mike Huckabee was interviewed on ABC News, and he gave this standard-issue tribute to our nation's uniqueness: I still remember my father taking me to meet the governor of Arkansas when I was eight years old. And he said, "Son, you may live your whole life, and you may never get to meet a governor in person." And to think that, you know, his son could become one. Only in America." It's a wonderful thing that in our country, a person born to modest circumstances can rise to become a political leader, governor of a state and perhaps even president. But the idea that this is possible "only in America" is just ridiculous. Using the repository of all human knowledge , I was able within a few minutes to come up with a bunch of world leaders whose parents were not earls or dukes. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark 's father was a farmer, and her mother was a schoolteacher. German Chancellor Angela Merkel 's father was a Lutheran pastor. Say what you will about Mahmoud...

Al Gore and the Gaffe Wars

Gore's Nobel Prize win was a well-deserved honor for one of our finest politicians. It's also a stark reminder of how far into trivia the race to the presidency has fallen.

When Al Gore finished his brief statement to the press upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, he walked from the lectern, ignoring the shouted questions from reporters about whether he would now make another run at the White House. Given how he was treated by the press eight years ago, it would be shocking if Gore had the stomach for another run. What the press has been up to lately demonstrates exactly why, and makes each new accolade Gore receives all the more poignant. Distracted for a moment, the pundits soon turned their attention back to the tool with which they had made such mincemeat out of Gore -- the search for the latest campaign "gaffe," those moments in which a candidate violates the rules the press has established to separate acceptable from unacceptable behavior. This week's perpetrator was Mitt Romney, who when asked in a debate whether military action against Iran's nuclear facilities would require authorization from Congress, quite sensibly said, "You sit...