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

Barack Obama, Student of Power

EPA/Pool/Sipa USA/dapd
EPA/Pool/Sipa USA/dapd E very time during his first term that Barack Obama stumbled, had difficulty getting a piece of legislation passed, or got mired in the ugly realities of contemporary politics, conservatives could be counted on to say, "Ha! Where's your hope and change now, huh? Huh?" It's true that his 2008 campaign was an unusually idealistic one, both in its lofty rhetoric and in what it inspired in his supporters, so much so that the mundane realities of governing were bound to be disillusioning for many. As his second term begins, there's no question that Obama has learned a great deal. He understands Washington better, he understands Congress better, and he certainly understands the Republican party better. And that may just make for a more effective second term, despite all the obstacles in front of him. Before we get to why and how, let's take a moment to remind ourselves that for all its drama and all its compromises, Obama's first term was one of remarkable...

Hardball Works

It would be easy to gloat over the fact that Republicans backed down (sort of) from their threat to cripple the American economy by destroying the full faith and credit of the United States government if they don't get everything they want. True, they didn't withdraw their debt-ceiling threat, they just said they're going to put it off for three months. But we can give them a bit of credit for stepping back and realizing that they were acting like a bunch of crazy people. It's a sign of the times that when congressional Republicans announce that they'll put off intentionally tanking the American economy for an entire 90 days, we react as though reason and sanity have finally returned to Washington. The bill that Speaker Boehner will allow to the floor of the House for a vote will also include a provision withholding pay for members of Congress unless the Senate passes a budget in that time. Gimmicky? Sure? Unconstitutional? Yep. (The 27 th Amendment mandates that changes to Congress'...

Here a Gun, There a Gun, Everywhere a Gun

A gentleman exercising his rights in a way that won't make anyone else uncomfortable. (Flickr/Teknorat)
As Jaime and I noted yesterday, many Democratic politicians feel the need to preface any discussion of guns with an assurance that they, too, own guns and love to shoot, as though that were the price of admission to a debate on the topic. But what you seldom hear is anyone, politician or otherwise, say, "I don't own a gun and I don't ever intend to" as a statement of identity, defining a perspective that carries moral weight equal to that of gun owners. So it was good to see Josh Marshall, in a thoughtful post , say, "Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I'm not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren't gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me." Let me tell you my perspective on this, and offer some thoughts on the question of what sort of a society we want to have when it comes to the question of guns. Because there are two...

The 13-Year War

Press Association via AP Images
In October 2001, George W. Bush told the country he was sending the American military to Afghanistan in order to "bring justice to our enemies." It's safe to say support for the war would not have been as nearly unanimous as it was had he said, "Oh, and by the way, our troops are going to be fighting there for the next 13 years." But if all goes according to plan and Barack Obama follows up on his pledge to bring them home by the end of 2014, that's how long the Afghanistan war will have lasted. We thought it would be useful to take a brief look at some of the basic facts of our involvement there. Last spring, Afghanistan passed Vietnam (measured by the time between the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 and the departure of the last Americans from Saigon in 1975) to become America's longest war. To date, we've spent over half a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, a figure that includes only the direct yearly costs for both military expenditures and civilian aid. It doesn't include the...

Don't Worry, We Love Guns

In case you were wondering how many shotguns Joe Biden has, the answer is two, a 20-gauge and a 12-gauge. That's what he told the U.S. Conference of Mayors today, though his audience was that larger group of Americans looking for reassurance that the Vice President is indeed a gun-totin' man. Or perhaps no one was looking for such reassurance, but he gave it to them anyway. The administration's plan to contain gun violence now moves toward the legislative arena, where its prospects are uncertain at best. The emerging consensus has it that the component of the plan with the greatest chance of making it through Congress is the expansion of the FBI background-check system. Today, background checks are only required for purchases at licensed gun dealers (of which there are 130,000 in America; compare that to the nation's 144,000 gas stations). As Biden said, requiring you to "take another 20 minutes and go to Dick's Sporting Goods" if you want to buy a gun from your neighbor strikes most...