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

Voting for Strategy Over Policy

Voters can't -- and shouldn't -- judge who has the best health-care plan without hearing a persuasive case for why each candidate can overcome the political obstacles that stand in the way of meaningful reform.

On more than a few occasions in recent years, astute commentators (mostly in the blogosphere) have chastised Democratic politicians for talking strategy in public. To take just one example, instead of demonstrating their strength and principles in national security, the politicians say things like, "We've got to demonstrate our strength and principles in national security." The 2004 campaign showed the danger of integrating political strategy too much from the voter's end: John Kerry became the Democratic nominee in no small part because of the perception that he was "electable," a judgment that turned out to be based on faulty premises both about what makes a winning campaign and what Republicans would or would not stoop to (i.e. having their dynamic duo of draft-dodgers attack the military service of a war hero). So the lesson many reasonably learned is that candidates should talk about substance, not strategy; what they want to do, not how people will perceive what they want to do...


THE BATTLE IS JOINED. For years, I've been arguing that what the left needs to do is wage all-out war not just on particular problems or Republican screw-ups, but on conservatism itself. As I wrote on this very web site way back in 2005: Unlike liberals, conservatives don't simply criticize specific candidates or pieces of legislation, they attack their opponents' entire ideological worldview. Tune into Rush Limbaugh or any of his imitators, and what you'll hear is little more than an extended discourse on the evils of liberalism, in which specific events are merely evidence that the real problem is liberal ideology. Liberals may write best-selling books about why George W. Bush is a terrible president, but conservatives write best-selling books about why liberalism is a pox on our nation (talk radio hate-monger Michael Savage , for instance, titled his latest book Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder ). Indeed, large portions of the conservative movement can be understood as an effort to...


"VERY PROUD OF THE PERSON HE BELIEVES HIMSELF TO BE." On the Daily Show on Wednesday, Jon Stewart interviewed Robert Draper , the author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush . In the course of the interview, Stewart gave what may be the most concise, insightful description of George W. Bush , the man, that has been offered in the last eight years: "After reading this book, I get the sense of a man who is very proud of the person he believes himself to be, but he is in fact the opposite of that person." Hard to say it better than that. As I was watching the president last night, I couldn't help but ask myself: what, as a writer, am I going to do when he's gone? Between a book, a couple of hundred columns, and innumerable blog posts, I'd estimate that I've written somewhere between a quarter million and a half million words about him over the last five years. When his presidency started, I was a graduate student intending to spend my days as an academic, penning articles on...

Why Health Care Is a Losing Issue for the GOP

The Republicans candidates' love affair with free-market fundamentalism has prevented them from addressing the health care crisis. The Democrats should take full advantage of that.

On March 10, 1994, less than four months after Bill Clinton's health care plan was introduced in Congress and half a year before it would die its bitter death without ever coming to a vote, the Wall Street Journal published the results of a poll and focus groups they had conducted on the Clinton plan. The article explained that although only 37 percent of respondents said they supported the Clinton plan, when various health care options were read to them without identifying their sponsors, 76 percent said the Clinton plan had either "a great deal of appeal" or "some appeal," making it more popular than any of the competing proposals. Voters had no idea what was in the Clinton plan, but they knew they didn't like it. Among many of the focus group participants, "the most memorable source [of information on the Clinton plan] has been health-insurance-industry commercials strongly criticizing elements of the Clinton plan, including the famous 'Harry and Louise' ads that depict an '...

Trapped in the Political Closet

Larry Craig may have been guilty of hiding his sexuality, but the demands of public life lead more than a few politicians to carve out a hidden self.

What must have gone through Larry Craig’s mind that day in June, when he looked down to the bottom of the wall separating his stall from the next, expecting to see a reciprocation of his signaled desire, and instead saw that policeman’s badge? “I can get out of this,” he may have said to himself. Or perhaps, “So this is where it ends, finally.” Of course, we can’t say for sure that Craig was in that restroom hoping to get some action, or if he was the victim of one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of western civilization. But whatever lies in the recesses of Craig’s heart, he probably didn’t expect the ferocious speed with which his Republican colleagues would toss him off, shaking frantically to rid themselves of the scent of what many of them no doubt regard as perversion. In a matter of days, a career of decades came to an abrupt end as millions learned of Craig’s intimate secrets both shocking and...