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

What Will Actually Happen at the SOTU

As you well know by now, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight. In case you plan to be busy giving the dog a bath or getting a jump on your taxes, here's what will happen: 1. The speech won't be the longest in history, but it'll probably still be a little long for your taste. 2. Democrats will interrupt Obama with applause approximately four-thousand times, including 850 standing ovations, which will stretch out the speech far beyond the length it needs to be (see number 1). 3. Knowing that this is one of the only times he has something close to the whole nation's attention all year, the President will briefly mention a wide variety of policy issues. After the speech is over, commentators will complain that this was a "laundry list" that they found boring. The viewing public, on the other hand, will be perfectly fine with hearing it. 4. Most of the speech will be taken up with arguing for the same policies Obama has advocated for years. But there will be...

If He's For It, I'm Against It

(AP Photo/Tim Sloan, Pool)
Over the past few years, folks like me have pointed out many times that Republicans have, almost as one, changed their minds on the wisdom of a number of important policies, for no apparent reason other than the fact that Barack Obama embraced them. The most notable ones are "cap and trade," which used to be a conservative way to harness the power of markets to address climate change, but then became a sinister government power grab to force everyone to huddle in the cold as the useless solar panels on their roofs provided only enough power to run a tiny hotplate; and the individual health insurance mandate, which used to be a Heritage Foundation-crafted idea to use the power of markets to achieve universal private insurance coverage and avoid single-payer health care, then became the greatest threat to freedom the world has seen since Joseph Stalin was laid to rest. Yet for all the (deserved) ridicule, there's something almost rational lying underneath these changes in position...

State of the Nugent

During his 1982 State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan did something unusual. In keeping with his preference for locating heroism in ordinary Americans, he told the story of one Lenny Skutnik, an employee of the Congressional Budget Office who two weeks earlier leaped into the Potomac River to save a drowning woman in the wake of a plane crash. As Reagan described the event, the cameras swiveled to the gallery, where Skutnik was seated next to the First Lady. People loved it so much that it became a tradition, and every subsequent State of the Union address has featured a presidential shout-out to a regular American in the audience who has done something extraordinary. But what if you're the opposition party? Telling your own story during the SOTU isn't easy, with all eyes on the president. Sure, you can shout "You lie!" as the president talks, but that's been done. You can bring an American hero with you to the speech, but unless he or she is recognizable, no one will even realize...

Still Waiting for That GOP Fever to Break

Photo of Bay Bridge construction courtesy of Caltrans
Word is that in tomorrow's State of the Union address, Barack Obama is going to propose some new infrastructure spending. Not only as a way of boosting the economy in the short term by creating jobs in areas like construction, steel, concrete, those little plastic anchors you put around screws when you're putting them in brick, and so on, but also as an investment that pays long-term dividends in the form of bridges that work and sewer pipes that don't burst. As Neil Irwin points out , given the large number of construction workers sitting idle and the incredible fact that the United States can now borrow money at negative interest—something that won't be true forever—it would be crazy for us not to take advantage of this moment and start doing some long-overdue repairs. "One can easily imagine a deal," Irwin writes. "Democrats get their new infrastructure spending, and Republicans insist on a structure that requires private sector lenders to be co-investors in any projects, deploying...

Tomorrow's Republican Post-SOTU Whining Today

Here's a heads-up: After President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tomorrow, Republicans will wave their hands in front of their faces and whine that it was viciously, horribly, frighteningly "partisan." And what will this partisanship consist of? Hold on to your hat here. He's expected to argue for the same policies he has been arguing for and pursuing for the last four years . If the Republican members of Congress restrain themselves from shouting "You lie!" during the speech, it'll only be because of their superior breeding and manners. This, of course, is a follow-up to Obama's inauguration speech, which was condemned by Republicans not because he said anything mean about them, but because he talked about some of the policies he prefers. That, you see, is "partisanship," and when the other side does it, it's beyond the pale. So in today's Politico , under the headline "Obama's State of the Union: Aggressive," we read , without any particular evidence for the...

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