Paul Waldman

Weak Weakling Continues Weak Policies of Weakness

Flickr/National Guard
Conservatives are struggling to get over their disappointment that the Obama administration captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, but don't think they can't come up with another way to argue that Barack Obama is screwing everything up. If there's one thing they're certain of, it's that Obama is weak, and while until this weekend he was too weak to nab Khattala, now he's too weak to do what needs to be done with him. I'm pretty sure many on the right really wish we could torture Khattala, even if you can't say that in polite company anymore. In the absence of that, they'll demand that we take Khattala to Guantanamo, where presumably he will spill what he knows forthwith. Marco Rubio demanded that we "immediately" transfer him to Guantanamo. " In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence," said the senator, apparently under the impression that...

Why Are the Democrats So Unified?

This is not a mass movement. (Flickr/cool revolution)
Although you may not have heard about it yet, some people on the left are trying to organize opposition to military action in Iraq. Democracy for America, the group started by Howard Dean, is starting a lobbying campaign against any action. MoveOn has told its members to share a statement saying: "President Obama should reject the use of military force in Iraq, including air strikes. We must not be dragged back into yet another war." CREDO has gathered 80,000 signatures on a "Don't Bomb Iraq" petition . It's safe to say that if the White House is even aware of this organizing, they are utterly unconcerned about it. It's partly the old story of mainstream Democrats paying no attention to their left flank unless it's to dismiss it. (As the aphorism has it, Republicans fear their base while Democrats hate their base.) But it's also an indicator of a phenomenon that hasn't gotten as much attention as it should: the extraordinary unity of the Democratic coalition at this point in history...

Can Hillary Clinton Win the Hearts of Liberals? Does She Need To?

AP Photo/Molly Riley
AP Photo/Molly Riley Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to applause from the audience as she appeared at an event to discuss her new book in Washington, Friday, June 13, 2014. Clinton discussed choices and challenges she faced during her four years as America's 67th Secretary of State, and how these experiences drive her view of the future. F leeting though it is, the flush of infatuation is one of the most powerful emotions any of us experience in our lives. Its power derives in part from the fact that the object of our attention is new and unfamiliar to us; we cast a glow of wonder on every new thing we learn about that person. Now and again, it can happen in politics too. It did in 2008, when the seemingly inevitable nomination of Hillary Clinton was derailed by a charmer from Chicago who sent Democratic voters swooning. Even then, Hillary Clinton was the candidate of liberals' heads, while Barack Obama became the candidate of their hearts. He may not have had a résumé as lengthy as...

Beware Simple Solutions On Iraq

The aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad. (Flickr/Salam Pax)
With the situation in Iraq growing more grave by the hour, we're going to be hearing a lot from the gang of cretins who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who will now be emerging to tell us that it was all a splendid American victory until Barack Obama came along and screwed the whole thing up. (I can't wait to see what Bill Kristol has to say when he appears on ABC's This Week on Sunday.) More than anyone else, we'll be hearing endlessly from President McCain, a man so uninformed he is unaware that ISIS, the group now controlling large parts of the country, is not actually the same thing as Al Qaeda. ("Al Qaeda is now the richest terrorist organization in history," he said after ISIS raided the bank in Mosul.) But reporters and TV bookers are beating a path to his door, so important is it that the American people hear his wise counsel. If there's one thing you should keep in mind as this develops, it's that anyone who says there's a simple solution to the problem of Iraq is...

Back to the Land

Flickr/Michael Wifall
Today the Pew Research Center released a gigantic and fascinating report on increasing levels of political polarization in America, and while many people will be picking over the data, there's one particular thing I want to point to. One of the questions they asked was this: "If you could live anywhere in the United States that you wanted to, would you prefer a city, a suburban area, a small town or a rural area?" The results were stark: Everyone has their preferences, of course. But I find it remarkable that a full 76 percent of consistently conservative respondents say they'd rather live in a rural area or a small town, as do 66 percent of those who are mostly conservative. And only a tiny 4 percent of the consistently conservative said they'd like to live in a city. Among Republicans as a whole , 34 percent said they'd prefer to live in a rural area, and another 31 percent in small towns. So my question is, what's stopping them? If you want to move to someplace in the middle of...

Why Republicans Hate Their Leaders: Eric Cantor Edition

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
T here have been a lot of analyses of What Eric Cantor's Loss Means in the last 36 hours, all of which run the risk of over-generalizing from one off-year primary election in one particular district. But as I've said before, the internal conflict within the Republican Party is the defining political dynamic of this period in history, and it's as good an opportunity as any to assess its latest quivers and quakes. As a liberal, I'm at something of a disadvantage when examining this conflict, because although I can look at what conservatives do and what they say publicly, I don't have access to the things they say when they talk to each other. So it's always good to hear from those who do and can remind the rest of us of what conservatives are actually feeling. Sean Trende offers an important perspective : First, analysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I've...

Should We Be Concerned About Privatization of the V.A.?

Flickr/Coast Guard
Yesterday, the House passed a bill to address problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs on a 421-0 vote, a kind of unanimity usually reserved for resolutions honoring astronauts or declaring Necrotic Hangnail Awareness Week. The Senate's version is likely to be voted on in the next couple of days. It happened because of some features of this particular scandal : that both sides sincerely wanted to fix the problem, and that the opportunities for demagoguery were limited. While the bill has a number of provisions including steps to replace the outdated intake system and to hire more doctors and nurses, the one most directly intended to address the backlog of patients would allow veterans who haven't been able to get an appointment, or who live 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, to get care at private medical providers. Is this something for liberals to be worried about? Since we embrace nuance here at the Prospect , the answer is: maybe. It's important to remember that...

Eric Cantor Defeated and Nothing Changes -- Not Even Prospects for Immigration Reform

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia listens at right as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Cantor lost his congressional primary to David Brat, a political newcomer backed by Tea Party groups, among which Cantor was once popular. J ust a few weeks ago, I described the Tea Party challenge to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as "pesky," because that's what it seemed like—unpleasant for Cantor, but ultimately futile. Well it turned out to be something more, as Cantor lost his primary yesterday to the colorfully named David Brat, a professor at Randolph Macon College. As of their FEC filings in the middle of May , Brat had spent $122,793, while Cantor had spent $5,026,626, or over 40 times as much . Brat won easily, which can happen when you have a low-turnout primary in which angry people are more likely to turn out than contented people. But since the second-highest-...

Republican Rhetoric and Right-Wing Terrorism: 10 Troubling Incidents

Flickr/Andrew Partain
On Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller killed two Las Vegas police officers and a shopper at a nearby Walmart, then took their own lives. When authorities investigated, they found that the two were likely motivated by their hatred of government. " There is no doubt that the suspects have an ideology that's along the lines of militia and white supremacists," said an assistant sheriff on Monday. After shooting the officers, they draped the bodies with Gadsden flags; the Millers had also spent time at the standoff at the Bundy ranch. Yesterday, I asked in a piece at the Washington Post how much the hyperbolic rhetoric of which we've heard so much from so many on the right in recent years contributes to creating an atmosphere in which this kind of violence becomes more likely. After hearing some reactions and having a little more time to think about it, I have some more to add. But first, what I said was that the problem isn't just the violent rhetoric we sometimes hear from the likes of...

Why the GOP Is the Party of Creative Thinking

Flickr/opensource.com
Over the weekend, Republicans in Virginia pulled off an extraordinary feat. Faced with a state senate deadlocked at 20-20 and a battle with Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe over whether to accept the expansion of Medicaid, they apparently persuaded a Democratic senator from a conservative district to retire, thus giving them a majority and making it even less likely that McAuliffe will be able to get 400,000 low-income Virginians health insurance. And all it took was delivering a couple of jobs : RICHMOND — Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy...

Twelve Years Later, Hillary Clinton Still Struggles to Explain Her Iraq War Vote

Flickr/Marc Nozell
Back in 2002, many liberals (myself included) thought that all the Democrats who voted for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq did so out of a simple craven fear of being tarred as soft on terror, not because they actually believed Iraq was a terrible threat to the United States. Whether that is true of Hillary Clinton is something we'll never know, but when she ran for president in 2008, she struggled mightily to explain her vote in favor of the war. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was pure in voters' eyes on this question—not only hadn't he been in Congress to vote on it, he had opposed it as a state senator. I'm guessing that Clinton didn't expect she'd have to revisit this question over and over as she approached a 2016 presidential run, but with Iraq now mired in a new civil war (can we call it that yet?), it's coming up again. And yesterday, she gave this answer to a question about when she decided to finally declare her vote for the war to be a mistake: I...

Have Republicans Moved So Far Right They Left Their Own Voters Behind?

This chart could blow your mind.
It's been true for many years that Democrats have an advantage among the electorate on most issues. Whether it's economics, or health care, or foreign policy, the position held by elected Democrats is usually (though not always) more popular than the one held by Republicans — sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. It's a tribute to Republicans' political dexterity that they've managed to win lots of elections despite this fact, in part because they've always understood that issues are only a part of how voters decide for whom to cast their votes. But a new Washington Post poll shows something qualitatively different. Instead of what we've come to expect—Republicans have the support of their voters, Democrats have the support of their voters, and they fight over the few independents in between—on a couple of extremely important issues, elected Republicans have gone so far to the right that they've left their own voters behind. With the important caveat that this is only one poll, I...

Bring On the Stupid

The offending fowl from Bruce Braley's TV ad.
If you ask any candidate how they plan to win, they'll respond: "I'm just going to talk about the issues and how we can make Washington work for us instead of the special interests. This election is about the future of our state and our country, and I firmly believe that when voters hear my vision for the future, we'll be successful." Here's what they don't say: "Well, eventually my opponent or his campaign will say or do something dumb, at which point I'll pretend I'm super-mad about it and we'll get a whole bunch of press coverage of him trying to defend it, and that's how I'll win." The latter more closely resembles how campaigns actually proceed, shuffling from one inane made-up controversy to the next. And the last couple of days have given us two of the dumbest in recent memory. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is on the defensive after her campaign sent out to reporters a preview version of a newspaper ad it was planning to run,...

The Inexorable March of Big Government Health Care

Click inside to behold this chart in all its glory.
According to data released yesterday by the federal government , due to the Affordable Care Act, 6 million more Americans now have insurance through Medicaid. That's a victory for the law and for the Obama administration, and it's also a victory for our national soul, despite the fact that we still have some distance to go before we reach the goal of universal coverage. I want to elaborate on something I discussed this morning at the Washington Post with regard to these and other numbers: The conservative nightmare of a nation of moochers suckling at government's teat for health insurance has, to a substantial degree, come true. As you might expect, I have a chart. But first, let's go over a few numbers. With these six million new members, enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program) is now at 64 million. Add in the 52 million seniors on Medicare and the 9 million veterans in the Veterans Health Administration, and 125 million Americans, or 39 percent of...

Maureen Dowd Gets Way Too High

Do NOT let Maureen near that—she'll eat the whole thing! (Flickr/animakitty)
While I usually try to abstain from writing posts about how something an op-ed columnist wrote was stupid—not an unworthy endeavor, but if I don't do it many other people will be there to pick up the slack—today I'm going to make an exception for Maureen Dowd. That's not only because her column in today's New York Times is particularly inane , but because there's a lesson hidden there, really there is. So stick with me. But first, on to Dowd's glorious tale. Seems she was in Denver and decided to sample some of this "marijuana" she's been hearing so much about. Like any sensible person trying a drug for the first time, she made no attempt whatsoever to determine how much of it she should consume to reach her desired state of consciousness. Instead, she bought a cannabis candy bar and ate the whole thing. The results were unsurprising: But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state...

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