Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

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Photo of the Day, Not Buying It Edition

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer listening to Benjamin Netanyahu's speech today. They don't look particularly impressed.

Inane Budget Mini-Crisis Comes to Predictable End

While everyone was getting ready for Benjamin Netanyahu's speech (you can read my thoughts on that here), John Boehner took the opportunity to capitulate to Democrats:

It was all but inevitable, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) finally cut his losses on Tuesday, telling House Republicans he will allow a vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security without any immigration restrictions.

The "clean" DHS funding bill could come up as early as Tuesday. It is expected to pass with overwhelming support from Democrats and enough House Republicans.

Boehner laid out three paths to his members in a weekly meeting, according to a source in the room: shutting down DHS, another short-term stopgap bill, or the Senate-passed clean DHS bill. He said the first two weren't good options.

"With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don't believe that's an option," Boehner said of a shutdown. "Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States."

It effectively ends the Republican threat to use a potential shutdown of DHS to overturn President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, which Boehner promised to fight "tooth and nail" last year with the new GOP majorities in both chambers.

I am so surprised that it ended this way. Who could have predicted? Well, I and a dozen other people predicted exactly this, but anyway, I'm sure the House conservatives feel terribly betrayed.

Some time ago, I heard someone on the radio say that every time she sees "Romeo and Juliet," even though she knows how it ends, she finds herself hoping that Juliet will wake up in time to stop Romeo from drinking the poison, and they'll all live happily ever after. Which is understandable—despite what you know to be true, it's easy to get caught up in the drama. And today, conservatives in the House are kind of like that play-goer, except that they're leaving the theater all angry about how things ended, despite the fact that they've seen the play multiple times already.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. One is that, as I've argued before, Boehner has taken a nearly impossible task and made it even harder through incompetence. Another is that, as Jonathan Bernstein argues today, Boehner is actually being quite clever; these mini-crises pass without much public notice, he gives the crazies a chance to vent with a vote or two, and everything works out fine in the end. Maybe. But I still don't think history will be very kind to this speakership.

The Latest Clinton Story: Scandal, Nothingburger, Or Something In Between?

Before we get into the details of the Hillary Clinton email story, note that I'm writing this on Tuesday morning, and with each passing hour the story seems to be getting a little clearer. It may turn out to be significant, or it may turn out to be a big nothing; at the moment things seem to be moving in the latter direction, but that could change. Last night, when The New York Times published this story revealing that when she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton did not have an official email address but instead used her personal email account for official business, people were reacting as though it was a blockbuster, a new scandal in the making. As everyone noted, it plays right into concerns about the Clintons' penchant for secrecy, and the poor staff work that so plagued her 2008 campaign (the assumption being that if her staff were more on the ball, they wouldn't have allowed her to use a private email for official correspondence).

But what a story "plays into" tells us nothing about what's there and what isn't. So was there any actual wrongdoing? According to Anne Gearan of The Washington Post, John Kerry was the first secretary of state to use a .gov email address. That wasn't made clear in the Times story, and it would certainly seem like a mitigating factor; if Clinton wasn't doing anything different from her predecessors, then this looks less like a conspiracy to conceal something.

The State Department says that last year they requested that former secretaries of state give them any work-related emails from their private accounts for preservation; in response, Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails. Three hundred of those pages were relevant to requests that the special congressional committee on Benghazi had made, so they were passed along to the committee. This morning, Elijah Cummings, the ranking minority member on that committee, issued a statement saying the committee should release those emails to the public. Of course, if they do release them and they don't contain anything incriminating, some people will say that proves that the real emails detailing nefarious behavior are being hidden.

There's no question that government officials, especially those at the highest levels, should have a .gov email address through which all official business is conducted. Since she used a personal account, we have to rely on Clinton's word that what she passed along to the State Department is complete. While I'm not an expert on these regulations, according to Josh Gerstein of Politico, it wasn't until last year, after Clinton had left the government, that a law was passed requiring officials to forward any official business conducted on personal email accounts. If she wasn't breaking any laws or even breaking with previous practice, it still might not have been the right thing to do, but it wouldn't be scandalous either.

Now let me be clear about one thing, because we have a long campaign ahead of us. My personal feelings about Clinton are complicated, to say the least. Defending her from legitimate criticism is about the last thing I have any enthusiasm for, and there are plenty of people who actually get paid to do that.

If Clinton ends up being the Democratic nominee, there will be about a hundred short-term controversies over things she did or said, whether allegedly or actually. Many of these will be ridiculous. There will be faux outrage over statements on the campaign trail, and enthusiastic conspiracy theorizing over Benghazi and who knows what else. She'll also get some criticism she deserves, whether it's about her tenure at the State Department, her activities outside government, or her policy positions.

This will not be the last time that a story breaks, and in the first few hours people start shouting "Major Clinton scandal!" Then it will turn out that when all the facts are in, it's something else: maybe nothing, or maybe something questionable or even problematic in some way, but not really scandalous. Whether you're disappointed or relieved with the way this story is turning out, don't worry. There will be plenty more.

Photo of the Day, Special Relationship Edition

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before the Likud lobby, aka AIPAC. Unfortunately, he didn't bring his cartoon bomb

Mikulski Retiring; Could Donna Edwards Be Her Replacement?


Senator Barbara Mikulski announced today that she will not be running for re-election next year, bringing her 30-year tenure in the Senate to an end. This sets up what could be an interesting race to succeed her. The natural candidate might be Chris Van Hollen, the most high-profile of the state's House members. But keep your eye on Donna Edwards, who represents a district centered in Prince George's County (inevitably described as "vote-rich").

The latest Voteview rankings put Edwards as the 11th-most liberal member of the House, but unlike your average passionate liberal, she's also an extremely shrewd politician. In 2006, having spent her career in nonprofit advocacy, she challenged Al Wynn, the Democrat who had been cruising to easy re-elections for years, but had become increasingly conservative. Wynn won by a hair, but two years later Edwards ran again and obliterated him in the primary.

I have no idea if Edwards is interested in running, but she's always had big fans in the progressive community nationwide. If she ran, she'd be able to raise a lot of money from the netroots, and the fact that she'd be only the second black woman ever elected to the Senate means her election would be a pretty big deal.

There's no shortage of ambitious Democrats in Maryland, and I'm sure that at least a half-dozen are gazing out the windows of their offices today, contemplating what it would be like to be a United States senator. Could be a very interesting primary.