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

Losing Faith in Obama

Has the president finally gone a step too far in compromising with Republicans?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
November 29, 2010, may be remembered as the moment when progressives stopped giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. Some had long before, of course, whether because of compromises during the health-care reform debate, his continuation of Bush-era policies on civil liberties, or what some see as his obeisance toward Wall Street. But his announcement of a pay freeze on federal workers -- a move that managed to simultaneously validate a half-dozen disingenuous conservative arguments, make government service less attractive, harm the economy, undermine the progressive vision of government, and give Republicans a concession without getting anything in return, all while doing virtually nothing to address the problem Obama claimed to be attacking (the deficit) -- feels like a tipping point. Every president disappoints his supporters eventually, but it's hard to recall one who went through such dramatic swings so quickly. From the moment Obama emerged on the national scene, his ability...

Symbols Are for the Little People.

Both of our two great political parties are coalitions of groups with different priorities. Some of those priorities can be addressed in specific ways, while others are more amenable to gestures and symbols. Jonathan Bernstein argues that conservative demands tend not only to be more symbolic but also more all-or-nothing: ...most Democratic constituency groups have real policy demands, and that they’re very eager to have those demands fulfilled. My sense is that a lot of Republican constituency groups have more symbolic demands. Therefore, at the end of the day, a lot of Republican constituency groups are willing to go along with an all-or-nothing strategy on most issues, while Democratic constituency groups are perfectly willing to bargain for as much as they can get. Look: if you want universal health care, you are probably willing to settle for moving from 80% coverage to 95% coverage (or whatever the actual numbers are). If you believe that government involvement in health care is...

100 Percent Republicans.

Over at Slate , John Dickerson gets a pretty amazing statement out of Rep. Paul Ryan , the Republicans' supposed budget expert: Obama had said he could have done more to work with Republicans. Did the GOP share any of the blame? "No, it's all the Democrats' fault," Ryan said. "We're great. We have halos over our heads," he added sarcastically. "How do you want me to answer that?" he asked. I told him that truthfully would be fine. He seemed boxed-in. Even if he believed Republicans shared some blame, he couldn't admit it. "They had to make a decision," he said, referring to the president and Democratic leaders. "Do we work with these Republicans and do we meet in the middle? But we don't have to because we have all the votes. They made a choice to go it on their own, and that's when we had to protect ourselves." He said he tried to reach out to the White House early in the administration on a health care plan. "We sent a plan to the president, we sent them letters, we called people,...

The Fall of John McCain.

Not too long ago, John McCain was one of the most admired people in Washington. He was held in esteem by both Republicans and Democrats. His legion of admirers in the press painted a picture of a heroic figure working to clean up the political system, fighting against overwhelming odds, pushed on by courage and principle. But there was always another side to McCain. On a personal level, he was actually an enormous jerk, who could be petty, rude, and even cruel to those who got in his way (not for nothing was he once known as "Senator Hothead" ). He didn't really care much about policy. He was always more concerned with personal ambition and preening for the cameras than accomplishing anything. And over the last few years, McCain has fallen further than most politicians ever imagine they could. He ran an abysmal, losing campaign for president. He delivered Sarah Palin to the country. His sole meaningful legislative accomplishment in three decades in Congress -- the Bipartisan Campaign...

Piling On Palin.

In the 1997 sci-fi film "The Fifth Element," Earth is being approached by some menacing blob of evil, and the planet's military (brief digression: Have you ever noticed how sci-fi writers all seem to believe our future involves one world government?) decides, naturally, to fire some missiles at it. The blob not only absorbs the missiles but gets bigger, as though the puny earthlings' attempts to kill it have only made it stronger. Something similar may be happening with the Republican establishment and Sarah Palin , sort of anyway. Though her fellow candidates are all tiptoeing around her, probably because they want someday to gain her supporters, bigshot Republicans have been lining up to tell her not to run for president. You've got Ed Rollins , who ran Ronald Reagan 's 1984 re-election campaign, writing a piece headlined "Palin, I Knew Reagan. You're No Reagan," , in which he writes, "If you want to be an imitator of Ronald Reagan, go learn something about him and respect his...

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