Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. 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.

Recent Articles

Chattering Crass

For some D.C. pundits, the worst crime is caring about policy.

(William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire via AP Images)
Last week, A-list pundit Mark Halperin reacted to President Barack Obama's press conference on the budget negotiations with Republicans by saying "I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday" on the MSNBC program Morning Joe . The result was a quick apology, a quick suspension, and lots of silly hand-waving. But no one should really care about what Halperin said. It was certainly juvenile -- to understand that, you only had to look at Halperin smiling gleefully and flushed with the thrill of transgression as he uttered the naughty word. But the republic will survive. Nevertheless, Halperin does represent something important, dirty words or not -- both in terms of his career up until now and what got him in trouble. Americans who are not political junkies probably haven't heard of Halperin, but inside the Beltway, he's an unfortunately influential figure. He made his name more than a decade ago by creating "The Note" for ABC News, an insider's guide to the doings and feelings of the "...

The Ick Factor

Can fear and disgust get more people to quit smoking?

FDA
Imagine that you wanted to lose weight, but you love ice cream. What if every time you reached for that carton of Ben & Jerry's, you had to look at a photo of a morbidly obese man dying from a heart attack? Would that make you less likely to indulge? That's the theory behind the new warning labels on cigarettes that the Food and Drug Administration unveiled this week, devised in part as a result of the increased authority over smoking the FDA was granted by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a law passed in the first months of Barack Obama's presidency. The labels , which will go on cigarette packs starting in 2012, contain large pictures (taking up 50 percent of the space on both the front and back of the pack) showing things like rotting teeth and lips, a horrifyingly diseased lung next to a healthy one, and a man smoking out of a hole in his throat. (There is one positive image among the 10 the FDA will be using: a man with a T-shirt reading "I quit" with...

The God Squad

(Flickr/eschipul)
Four years ago, religion was a hot topic during the Republican presidential primaries. Mike Huckabee practically ran for pastor-in-chief, running ads calling himself a Christian leader and talking about Jesus. Mitt Romney handled questions about his Mormon faith (many evangelicals consider Mormonism a heretical cult) by giving a speech arguing that the real enemy is secularism. In one debate , candidates were compelled to take a position on whether the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Since this year's campaign is just getting underway, unless you're paying close attention you may not have noticed that a similar conversation is taking place, with the Republican candidates working hard to convince conservative Christians that they're right with God. This conversation is profoundly different from the one we will have once a nominee is chosen, and its particular symbols and signals may only occasionally be noticed and understood by people other than the Republican base. Most of the...

Bachmann Goes Lamestream

The Minnesota Republican is a more serious presidential candidate than you think.

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
I'd like to ask you to do something strange, maybe even a little shocking: take Michele Bachmann seriously. If you're like most people, chances are you know Bachmann only as that crazy Tea Party congresswoman who told Chris Matthews, "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?", the one who delivered her own response to the State of the Union, in which she looked into the wrong camera for seven minutes. But she is running for president, and she's not kidding around. Don't get me wrong -- Bachmann is neither a serious legislator nor a serious thinker. Her ideas are radical nearly to the point of being nuts, and the thought of her in the Oval Office is, well, unsettling. As a representative of the extreme right, she'd have almost no chance of beating Barack Obama in a general election. But the other candidates in the race could well find her to be more formidable than they expect. Bachmann...

The Republicans' Panty-Raid

The Republicans' absolutely foolproof plan on Medicare is missing a key step -- how to turn changes to the program into actual savings.

(Flickr/Joelstuff V3)
In a 1998 episode of South Park , the boys learn that their dresser drawers are being raided by a group of Underpants Gnomes, who have a carefully designed business plan to turn their theft into fabulous wealth. The three-phase plan is laid out on a slide projected in the gnomes' lair: "Phase 1: Collect underpants. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Profit." That, in its essence, is how Republicans are proposing to deal with the rising cost of health care and the long-term federal budget deficit. Phase 1: Remove government guarantee of health coverage. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Savings. Republicans seem surprised by the negative reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would turn Medicare from an insurance program into a voucher program. Under this proposal, seniors would have to seek insurance from a private company and the government would reimburse part of their premiums. Republicans knew the plan would meet some opposition but mistakenly thought they could quell much of the resistance by...

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