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

Ringside Seat: Braaaaaaains for Freedom

As big-government liberals, we're always heartened when the federal government undertakes ambitious projects to solve fundamental problems and better Americans' lives. Today, President Obama announced the BRAIN initiative, and no, it doesn't have anything to do with preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, during which our precious gray matter will become food for the undead. It stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, and it's a proposed $100 million project, funded through DARPA, the NIH, and the National Science Foundation, in partnership with a number of private foundations. We actually know very little about how the brain works, and the goal of the project is to fund basic science and help foster new discoveries that will lead to new therapies for diseases and applications no one has even thought of yet. In the context of a federal budget that runs into the trillions, this is a small amount of money. But it could have a large impact. As...

The AP Gives Up "Illegal Immigrant"

Flickr/Emilio Labrador
The Associated Press, whose stylebook is used by lots of different publications, has announced that it will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant." This essentially accepts the argument that advocates for immigrants have been making for some time, namely that the fact that someone immigrated illegally doesn't make them an illegal person, any more than the fact that you got a speeding ticket means you should be labelled an "illegal driver," despite your violation of the law. Unsurprisingly, conservatives were contemptuous of the AP. On the right, however (and in the conservative media), even the term "illegal immigrants" is considered unduly generous, the preferred terms being "illegal aliens" or just "illegals." The AP also doesn't like "undocumented immigrant," which is preferred by immigration activists, "because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence." That seems kind of silly; if you refer to someone as an...

The Pointlessness of Contrarianism for Its Own Sake

Contrarianism!
When you write for a magazine with a particular ideological bent, it's natural to wonder whether you're being too soft on "your" side. This question comes up more when your side is in power, since they're the ones who are implementing policies and making decisions; when the other side is in charge, most of your time is spent documenting and analyzing all the harmful and dangerous things they're doing, and your side is occupied with fighting the ruling party and waiting for its turn. Obviously, politics is a neverending conflict, and that conflict can produce a certain siege mentality. For instance, when a Democratic president proposes a plan for universal health coverage and Republicans attack it with a campaign of mind-boggling hysteria and dishonesty (death panels!), it's natural to spend a good deal of time correcting the record and defending it, even if you think that plan is less than ideal. There are some people (like Glenn Greenwald) who write largely about one set of issues,...

Ringside Seat: April Fools

Imagine if you visited a foreign country, and the people there told you that on one day every year, everyone tried to expose one another as gullible half-wits. Other holidays might honor historical figures or encourage love and fellowship, but on "You're An Idiot On October 12 th Day," the celebration was all about mean-spirited cons and contempt for your intellectual lessers. Victory goes to those best able to subject others to the humiliation of being exposed as a buffoon. "But it's all in good fun!" the people would tell you, and you'd remind yourself to move your wallet from your back pocket to your front pocket whenever you left the hotel. April Fool's Day, however, seems to be celebrated all over the world. Be careful that your bed has not been short-sheeted today, or cellophane placed carefully under your toilet seat. In politics it was no different than anywhere else: Barack Obama tried to fool the press corps into thinking that he stinks at basketball, Rick Perry tried to...

Smart People Believing Stupid Things

So after a brief moment in the spotlight, it appears that Ben Carson will not be this week's Savior of the Republican Party after all. But his quick rise and fall raise an interesting question: Why are some people incredibly smart when it comes to some topics, and incredibly stupid when it comes to others? To bring you up to speed, Carson is a noted neurosurgeon who, among other things, was the first to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. He's also extremely politically conservative (and African-American), which made him a popular, though by no means nationally famous, figure in some conservative circles. Then in February, he gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, in which he took the occasion to sharply criticize President Obama (who was sitting right there) and advocate for a flat tax, which as everyone knows is pleasing unto the Lord. The Wall Street Journal then ran an editorial titled "Ben Carson for President," and he was off to the races, making...

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