Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Does Fact-Checking Work?

Politico 's Ben Smith wrote a long article about America's fact-checking industry ( PolitiFact , FactCheck , etc.), and he does a good job of describing the tug-of-war between these sites and political spin-meisters, as well as addressing some of the inherent weaknesses in the criteria they use to find the line between truth and falsehood. But there's one very important question missing from the article: Does fact-checking work? By "work," I mean a couple of things. The first is, does it change politicians' behavior? Is a candidate who gets called out for a lie in a fact check going to stop saying it? I posed that question to Bill Adair, who runs PolitiFact, when I interviewed him for a story about this topic that never actually found its way into print (long story). Adair's response was that changing politicians' behavior isn't his job; he and his organization put their best assessment of the facts on the record, and then whatever happens next is basically out of their hands. One...

A Most Happy Fella

Here's Rick Perry's new ad in Iowa. Watch, and then we'll discuss: The first thing you notice is that he's wearing a dress shirt, but no jacket or tie. I think this is the first time I've seen him dressed this way. There's also something odd about the lighting and makeup—I can't quite put my finger on what it is that's producing the effect, but the best way to describe it is that he looks like a person who normally wears glasses but has taken them off. There is something kind of dark about Perry's looks —Joshua Green described him perfectly as having "the dark, slightly exaggerated good looks of the villain in a daytime soap opera"—and this washed-out look may be an effort to mitigate that. But he's also displaying a kind of happy-go-lucky affect that is at odds with most of what we've seen of him so far. Even when Rick Perry is smiling, there's usually something kind of sinister underneath. But everything in this ad is bright—the background, the music, and Perry himself. Finally, his...

Believing Cain

The talk of the town today is of course Politico's story detailing how two women who worked for Herman Cain at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990's accused him of sexual harassment, and were then given payouts to leave the organization (and made to sign non-disclosure agreements, of course). Although Politico relied extensively on anonymous sources for their story and obtained only some details about the alleged harassment, it does appear that they worked it pretty hard and didn't publish until they were confident about the facts they had. There are two possibilities here when it comes to the allegations. The first is that the women's allegations are true, which would mean Herman Cain is a pig who preys on women who work for him. The second is that the allegations are false, which would mean Herman Cain is an innocent man besmirched by allegations he can't escape. At the moment, we have no basis on which to determine which of those two is more likely to be true. When...

The Trouble With Iowa

I long ago went on record as a critic of the early election contests in Iowa and particularly New Hampshire, which produce all kinds of distortions in our national politics (take, for instance, the persistence of ethanol subsidies). But there's one I forgot to mention: the inordinate influence given to politicians who would otherwise be regarded as nutballs, simply because they happen to come from an early state. Case in point: an article in today's Politico, "Steve King Not Ready to Crown a 2012er," about how King, an Iowa congressman, has yet to make his much sought-after endorsement. You may not know King, but he is without question one of Congress' most ridiculous characters. He's the kind of guy who goes into an auditorium of schoolchildren and asks them where they stand on abortion. The kind of guy who, after a deranged terrorist flew a plane into an IRS building, killing a US government employee, responded by saying the incident was "sad," but the guy basically was right to...

The GOP's New Latino Friend, Or Maybe Not

For some time now, everyone has assumed that whoever the Republican nominee for president turns out to be, Florida senator Marco Rubio will be that person's choice for vice president. Rubio is young, handsome, charismatic, articulate, good at raising money (he pulled in $21 million for his Senate race last year), and as an added bonus, he's Latino in a party dominated by old, boring white guys. But is the bloom coming off Rubio's rose? In the last week there's been some controversy over the story of Rubio's parents; briefly, he's always referred to them as "exiles" from Cuba and stated before that they fled the Castro regime, but it now turns out that they left Cuba a few years before the revolution. In Florida's Cuban community, this matters, because being an exile or the child of exiles gives you extra status. But as the Washington Post reports today, "Democrats had already questioned whether a Cuban American who has voiced conservative views on immigration and opposed the historic...

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