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

Terrorism Truths No Politician Will Admit

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Sunday night, December 6, 2016. H ere's a truth that no politician, Democrat or Republican, is going to tell you: There is absolutely nothing that our government could have done to prevent the attack that took 14 lives in San Bernardino last week. If you're looking for a lesson we can learn from it, that's the one you ought to take. Universal background checks for gun purchases is a good idea, but it wouldn't have stopped that couple from killing those people. Starting a new war in the Middle East is a terrible idea, but it also wouldn't have stopped it. We can't stop an attack like the one in San Bernardino before it happens because our ability to do that is dependent on the plot coming to the government's attention. In order for that to happen, knowledge of the plan has to leak out in some way—to someone who overhears the planning and tells the authorities, to...

Fear Wins, Obama Loses

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on Monday, November 30, 2015. B arack Obama's critics—a bit on the left, some on the right, but mostly in the press—often say that he's too cerebral, has too much faith in reason and logic, and fails to tap into the public's emotions when trying to convince them of something. He may have rode into office on a wave of hope and inspiration, but he sometimes seems to lack a feel for the more negative emotions, or at least the desire to exploit them. Anger, fear, outrage—these are not for him. So it was that Obama has failed to convince the public that taking 10,000 refugees from Syria would be part of a long American tradition of aiding those in need. Depending on how you ask the question, between 50 and 60 percent of Americans will tell pollsters that we shouldn't accept the refugees, and the House in its wisdom already passed a bill to...

It's Beginning to Feel Like 2002 All Over Again

(Photo: AP/Rachel La Corte)
(Photo: AP/Rachel La Corte) Protesters on opposing sides of the refugee issue rally in front of the state capitol in Olympia, Washington, after Governor Jay Inslee said the state would welcome refugees. A t the end of last week, the liberal group Media Matters noted that in the wake of the Madrid bombings in March 2004, Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly asserted that "If al-Qaeda attacks here, President Bush is re-elected in a heartbeat," since "unlike the Spanish," who are passive sheep (or something), the strong American public "won't surrender, they'll get angry." But after the recent attacks in Paris, O'Reilly sang a different tune: "We get hit, [Obama] goes down as the worst president in U.S. history. No doubt." While Media Matters's purpose in juxtaposing these two quotes was surely to mock O'Reilly for his partisan hypocrisy, you can look at it another, much more depressing way: O'Reilly was probably right both times. Not about history's judgment of Obama, obviously. But given...

Will the GOP Candidates Try to Reignite Voters' Fears?

(Photo: AP/Morry Gash)
(Photo: AP/Morry Gash) Republican presidential candidates take the state during the November 11 GOP Debate in Milwaukee. I t's easy to believe that the way things are today is the way they're going to stay, to be be swayed by the momentary intensity of a situation into thinking its effects will be longer-lasting than they are. So it might be that a few months from now, the attacks that took place in Paris on Friday will have exerted no meaningful pull on American policy and American politics. But a few days out, it sure feels familiar. Fear—its presence among the people, but even more so its exploitation by politicians—is back. No one was more energized by the news from France than the Republicans running for president, who fell all over each other trying to see who could sound the toughest. Marco Rubio declared , "This is a clash of civilizations," as though ISIS were in fact its own civilization. Ben Carson, displaying his usual commitment to factual accuracy, attacked the Obama...

What the Right Still Doesn't Get About the Media

(Photo: AP/Alan Diaz)
(Photo: AP/Alan Diaz) GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a new conference in Florida on November 6. B en Carson now faces the intense scrutiny every front-running presidential candidate gets, and he doesn't like it one bit. Carson is now facing allegations that he has exaggerated, embellished, or even made up parts of his oft-told life story, not to mention extended discussion of his more outlandish statements. But to all this, Carson has a ready answer, one he knows will send conservative heads nodding in agreement: The liberal media is out to get me. In an unusually combative (for him) press conference on Friday, Carson charged the media not only with being unfair to him, but also of giving Barack Obama a free ride in 2008. "I do not remember this level of scrutiny for one President Barack Obama when he was running," he said. "In fact, I remember just the opposite." This is a longstanding belief in conservative circles, but if you pay close attention you'll notice that...

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